Butter—in its most traditional form—is essentially milk fat with smaller amounts of protein. But choosing the right one, the right type of butter, is what's most important.
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Consider these facts the next time you're debating your butter choice at your grocery store's dairy section:
1. Consider allergies.
Butter does still contain allergy-causing proteins, so if you have a milk allergy or sensitivity, you may want to steer clear. In such cases, choose healthy coconut oil or even clarified butter.
2. Go for ghee.
Clarified butter (also known as ghee), most commonly used in Indian cuisine, is produced by melting butter and allowing the components to separate. The water evaporates, some solids float to the surface and are skimmed off, and the remaining milk solids sink to the bottom and are left behind when the butter fat (then on top) is poured off. Because of this, ghee has negligible amounts of lactose and casein, making it a better butter option for most people.
3. Don't let the fat count scare you.
First, you shouldn't be eating buckets of the stuff on a weekly basis but instead using it (optionally) in some recipes, like Bulletproof coffee. You can also use it for general cooking purposes since it’s very stable under heat.
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4. Read the right science.
A study performed more than 50 years ago by American scientist Ancel Keys triggered the low-fat craze and gave butter and fats a bad rep. The "Seven Countries Study" showed that the risk and rates of heart attack and stroke were directly and independently related to the level of total serum cholesterol, which was, according to Keys, largely caused by saturated fat and cholesterol from the diet. The study was so popular that his findings and suggestions were adopted by the American Heart Association and even the American government.
However, Keys failed to include other important cardiovascular enemies, like sugar, and only included data from six out of the available 21 countries of the study. Then, in a 2014 review of his studies, scientists found that "current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats." The new science proved that fat isn't the problem. The wrong kind of fat is.
Butter isn't the bad guy when it comes to heart disease. Trans fats and rancid vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean, etc.) are the true culprits because of the inflammation they create inside the body, which leads to elevated levels of dangerous LDL cholesterol. In fact, butter is actually good for you.
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5. Grass-fed is best.
As with anything, the source is most important. Whether choosing regular or clarified butter, please do your best to find a grass-fed and organic source. After all, the butter is a reflection of what the cow ate. You certainly don't want to be ingesting years' worth of pesticide residues and hormone injections.
Butter, especially from grass-fed cows, is a significant source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a special type of fat shown to have powerful anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and weight-loss-promoting benefits. Butter is also the highest source of butyric acid, or butyrate (from the Greek word for butter, boutyron), a very short-chain fatty acid that gets fermented in the small intestine and feeds your healthy gut bacteria, reducing inflammation and doing wonders for the health of your gut.
The key to your best butter choices, then, lies in the quality of the production. So the next time you're thinking about nixing butter from your diet altogether, remember that it could actually do wonders for your health.
Adapted from The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet