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Is Butter Healthy or Unhealthy?

Updated on July 31, 2012

Over 70 years ago butter became known as an unhealthy food choice because it was believed to be a cause of heart disease and many other health conditions. In fact, this belief has continued right up to the present day. Many attempts have been made to find a healthy butter alternative. Margarine has become the popular, healthy replacement for butter.

Unfortunately, nearly all margarines available on the market today contain hydrogenated vegetable oils. Hydrogenation is a chemical process that damages the natural form of the oil and creates trans-fats. Trans-fats are the most dangerous types of fat that can be consumed. Studies show that if your daily food intake contains as little as one percent tran-fats you are at high risk for heart disease and many other serious health conditions.

As more people are becoming aware of the dangerous of trans-fats, companies have rushed to produced non-hydrogenated butter replacements. However, these spreads are now coming under fire because they have been refined and contain artificial additives and preservatives.

Now, many people are beginning to wonder if it is possible to find a spread that will not have serious health effects. Butter is not an option because everybody knows it’s bad for your health. Or is it? Although the belief that butter is unhealthy has been a popular one for many years there is no concrete scientific evidence to support it.

In fact, statistics reveal that as the rate of butter consumption has decreased, the rate of heart disease has increased. Before food processing, refining and fat manipulation brought about by food technology, heart disease was rare. In those days, the only kind of food spread available was butter.

How did the rumor that butter is unhealthy get started in the first place? History reveals that after World War 2 women returned to being full time homemakers and corporations were looking for something to sell to these women. Food technology was the answer. Finding a butter replacement would bring in huge profits.

Campaigns were launched against butter claiming it contained unhealthy fats that would lead to disease. The idea was sold to physicians who, in their ignorance, told patience to stop eating butter and begin eating margarine. It wasn’t long before everybody believed that margarine was much healthier than butter. The truth is that there have been hundreds of motivated studies performed, which have failed to show any link between butter and disease.

Butter is loaded with nutrients. It contains many essential vitamins and antioxidants which come in their most absorbable form. It is a better source of vitamin A than carrots, particularly for individuals who have difficulty transforming beta carotene into vitamin A.

Vitamin A is known to be a key factor in maintaining the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. Butter contains vitamin E and selenium, which together with Vitamin A protect the heart from free radical damage known to weaken arteries. It also contains lecithin, essential for proper usage and metabolism of cholesterol in the body. Cholesterol is considered to be our enemy, but the fact is cholesterol is essential to human health. Without it, cells could not function properly.

The health concern with butter has been it’s fat content. Butter contains mostly medium and short chain fatty acids which are known to boost immunity and protect against cancer. In contrast, hydrogenated margarine contains long chain fatty acids which suppress the immune system.

Medium and short chain fatty acids also have anti-fungal properties. When consumed in proper quantities, medium and short chain fatty acids are broken down for energy rather than stored as fat in the body. In contrast, long chain damaged fats found in margarine are difficult to break down and easily store as fat causing rapid weight gain.

Can butter consumption lead to cancer? The medium and short chain acids found in butter have strong anti-tumor properties and reduced levels of inflammation associated with a decreased risk of cancer.

Other health benefits of butter include prevention of tooth decay, promotion of healthy thyroid function, helps treat candida overgrowth, protective against gastrointestinal infection, helps protects children against diarrhea, promotion of proper bone structure and optimal growth in children.

When choosing butter, organic butter is the only healthy choice. Organic butter is free from antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, chemicals and solvents which are found in conventional butter. Organic butter comes from cows that are fed one hundred percent organic feed.

Farming techniques are practiced that insures that soil is rich in nutrients. Butter is particularly susceptible to pesticide which is another big reason to choose organic. When looking at all the facts, the choice is simple. It’s time to go back to butter.

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    • Turtlewoman profile image

      Kim Lam 

      6 years ago from California

      I agree with this article. I love organic butter. I recently discovered how to make my own butter from organic cream and was surprised at how easy and simple it was. You can even see the difference in color and taste...yum...

      Butter gets such a bad rap, but people don't eat real butter so of course it's considered "unhealthy!" And don't even get me started with margarine...it's not even made from cream! Voted up and useful. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Butteritup 

      6 years ago

      Beginning to believe that it is only the ill who can NOT eat a normal take of any food. Body organs like pluming one holes or blockage in them, they need to be repaired BUT it isn't the things going down causing the problem. The problem was already there.

    • vwriter profile image

      vwriter 

      6 years ago from US

      Great article. And from a look back at when my mother was on the farm, where her family made milk, butter and their own soap, she was healthy, athletic and not overweight. She moved to the city, and things changed, as did the processed food choices.

    • quester.ltd profile image

      quester.ltd 

      7 years ago

      I have never known a dairy farmer that used anything other than butter - and they seem to be very healthy. Perhaps it is being in the barn working those many hours every day - but their hearts are healthy.

      Thanks for the second look at butter - that is all you will find in our home

      vote up and interesting!

      q

    • randslam profile image

      Rand Zacharias 

      7 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia

      I've never used margarine, when given a choice, as butter is a natural product. Marketing in a mad world does show how easily people are tossed to insane cooking and dietary habits when Nature usually has the right product.

      Thanks for dispelling some myths about on of my favourite spreads---mmmm, buttteerrrrrrr.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Butter has always been my choice over margarine although these days I don't eat either. Its not that I don't like butter anymore its that I have cut out dairy in my diet due to a stomach problem. I now stick with soy products. I have butter in the fridge to use is some recipes and my children prefer it to margarine.

      Thanks for an informative article steve, it is amazing what the food industry will spin to increase profits. What happened to marketing what is good for the consumer?

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR

      stevemark122000 

      7 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for your comment eventsyoudesign!

      I agree, eggs are great... I wrote an article about them too.

    • eventsyoudesign profile image

      eventsyoudesign 

      7 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      Thank God you wrote this article. Butter is better. The food industry, being sneaky and conniving will stop at nothing to promote what they want to sell such as margarine. They were totally against eggs and promoted meat products above them and look at what that has done to us. Eggs have enough protein to last the day not to mention other important nutrients. The yolk in specific contains all of the good stuff and yes even cholesterol which our bodies need a certain amount to be healthy. I will always stand by butter. Good article. I for one will always eat butter.

    • eatingright profile image

      eatingright 

      8 years ago

      Interesting article, well-written! I do "indulge" in a little butter - slap it on my favorite toast - occasionally.

    • adonia profile image

      adonia 

      8 years ago

      nice HUb......

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 

      8 years ago

      As in many other cases, also whit the butter is important to be moderated. I personally do not use it , but I can not deny its benefits and its good taste!!

    • stevemark122000 profile imageAUTHOR

      stevemark122000 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks everyone for your comments!

      mtsi1098, I mention products like Smart Balance in the article. I do not recommend them.

    • profile image

      mtsi1098 

      8 years ago

      I agree and have stopped using margarine many years ago in favor of a low-saturated fat, trans-fat free, no cholesterol substitute - what are your thoughts on smart balance (Olive Oil) light? thanks for this compare...

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I love butter. It made me happy to read this hub containing all of your wonderful information. Thanks so much, it seems like everything you eat is bad for you. I'm so glad butter is not one of those things.

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 

      8 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      you're right. since margarine cannot be organic use something pure, natural and healthier, butter

    • profile image

      steve rensch 

      8 years ago

      Thank you! I LOVE butter!! This article is going to my wife.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      I have never cared for margarine -- just didn't seem right. Besides, butter just tastes so much better. I've used it on my family without them knowing I was using, sneaking a little jigger of butter into certain dishes-- like a butterholic.

      Olive oil works in a lot of recipes and that's good too. But butter is just right in many cases. Moderation in all things is advisable.

    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 

      8 years ago from hub

      I heard how bad margarine was a long time ago, and switched to real butter. Then they were saying real butter was bad, I kept on with the real thing...because I also heard that some natural fat is good to have in your system. Just tried not to overdo the butter, savor it with small quanities. Great Hub! I learned some great things about butter today:)

    • thefount profile image

      thefount 

      8 years ago from North Central Louisiana

      Loved this article, Whoever woulda thought butter has BOTH anti-fungal and anti-tumor properties! This corresponds with a school of thought out there that cancer is caused by fungus.... THANKS for this eye-opening hub!

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      8 years ago from Great Britain

      Having just polished off a dish of garlic mushrooms, cooked in plenty of garlic butter, I was indeed very happy to read this article.

      Thank you for all your research.

      take care

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