Butter has merited a great deal of adverse publicity over the years (most recently from the BBC), principally because it is rich in saturated fat and the inclusion of saturated fats in our diet has long been deemed ‘one to watch’ and associated with raising levels of ‘bad’ and health-disrupting cholesterol, prompting high blood pressure, heart disease and all manner of other debilitating health conditions. But…. there is no proven relationship between saturated fat intake and heart disease and no research into reducing saturated fat in the diet has found that it reduces death rates. So where did it all go so horribly wrong and why are the diet police now, ever so quietly and almost imperceptibly backing down and beginning to hint that perhaps a little saturated fat in our diets isn’t the big, bad monster they had us believing for the past 20 years or so?
Here are a few biochemical facts which I urge you to take on board:
- Saturated fat forms around 50% of the membranes (protective coats) of our body cells and gives them the necessary strength and health to ensure vital nutrients enter and waste exits.
- Saturated fat plays a vital role in the health of our bones by ensuring bone-building calcium is properly absorbed.
- Saturated fat helps the body reduce levels of lipoprotein (a), a risk factor for heart disease.
- Saturated fat protects the liver from alcohol, toxins and the damage caused by the regular use of medicinal drugs.
- Saturated fat is needed for the efficient function and repair of brain cells; the brain is made up of fats (mainly saturated) and cholesterol.
- Saturated fat enhances the immune system. When white blood cells are deficient, it hampers their ability to recognise and destroy foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria.
- Saturated fat is needed for the proper utilisation of essential fatty acids. Health-enhancing omega-3 fats are better retained in our tissues when our diet includes saturated fats.
- Saturated fat has important antimicrobial properties; it protects us against harmful micro-organisms in the digestive tract.
- Saturated fat is essential for the production of important hormones.
- Saturated fat acts as a carrier for certain vitamins and is vital for mineral absorption.
It is the unhealthy chemically-altered fats that are found in margarines, hydrogenated vegetable oils and processed foods that cause significant health problems plus an over-abundance of sugar and refined carbohydrates which disrupt blood sugar and insulin levels that encourage fat production and storage in the body.
Processed foods are the ‘ones to watch’, not top-dollar butter. I am not recommending you slather it on everything but as the saying goes; a little of what you fancy... Other sources of saturated fats I include in all my diets - in respectable but not copious amounts - are meats and dairy products from grass/pasture-fed animals and coconut oil.
Do yourself a huge favour - wherever possible, eat fats (be they saturated, mono-unsaturated or poly-unsaturated) that haven’t been messed around with to give them a longer shelf life, regard ready meals as an emergency option, steer well clear of junk food and body swerve any spreads that use phrases like “I can’t believe it’s not butter” - it’s not!
Do you use butter in your diet? Tell us your thoughts using the hashtag #ButterIsBack