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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Is butter a health food?


I have a little secret to let you in on. Well, it's not really a secret, it's more of a little known fact. Our bodies need fat. God made them that way. He also, conveniently, gave us several good dietary sources of that fat through many animal products and a few plants. For some reason, we all now believe that we should eat as little fat as possible or replace it with a man-made form of "heathier" fat. I'm not buying it.

When I was in high school, I read the book "The Maker's Diet: The 40-day health experience that will change your life forever" by Jordan Rubin. This was the first time that I had been introduced to the idea that our bodies were created to work best with foods the way God originally designed them. This means eating foods that are minimally processed and as close to the way they're found in nature as possible.

More recently, I discovered a book called Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats ". This book really changed the way I looked at food. Especially fats.

If you've got a minute, curl up with a nice stick of butter as I share with you some of the facts I've found on my journey.

Just kidding about the stick of butter part... maybe just a nice cup of tea.

The Studies:
Before 1920, heart disease was so rare in America that when a man by the name of Paul Dudley white tried to introduce the electrocardiograph in Harvard University, he was told that the arena of heart health was not profitable enough to invest in. Fast forward to today, heart disease causes 40 percent of all U.S. deaths. You would think that if animal fats were to blame for heart disease, rates of heart disease would have declined as animal fats fell out of favor. Instead the opposite has shown to be true.

Breast milk contains more cholesterol than any other food, yet it is considered nature's perfect health food for an infant's first year of life. Cholesterol and saturated fat are essential for growth and especially for brain development in babies and children.

Studies of traditional populations with diets rich in animal fats show very little sign of the heart disease and high cholesterol issues that are supposedly caused my consuming animal fats such as whole milk, butter and fatty meats.

It has been suggested that elevated triglycerides in the blood are not actually brought on by dietary fats, but are actually produced in the liver from excess sugar and carbohydrate consumption. (Which goes along with my long time suspicion that processed foods are to blame for a lot of America's health problems.)

The Bad News:
Commercial vegetable oils (canola, corn, vegetable oil) tend to become rancid very quickly without ever showing signs of rancidity (smelling or tasting "off"). This "off" oil is loaded with free radicals that can wreak havoc on the body, causing a laundry list of issues. Premature aging, digestive disorders, immune dysfunction and cancer are just a few of the illnesses caused or worsened by free radical damage. It's just too bad that these oils have been pushed as a healthy alternative for so long.

The Good News:
Don't baked goods just taste better when made with real butter? Well, now we have an excuse to start using it again! Saturated fats, like those found in animal products and some tropical oils, are so important to many of the things that go on in our bodies.

  • Saturated fatty acids make up at least 50 percent of the cell membranes, giving them the structural integrity they need to function properly.
  • Saturated fats help our bodies properly process calcium.
  • They help protect the liver from toxins.
  • Certain saturated fats are the preferred food for the heart muscle, which is why the fat around the heart is highly saturated.
  • Many saturated fats have antimicrobial properties, such as that in coconut oil.
And now for that "demon" cholesterol, who seems to get a bad rap -
  • Cholesterol also gives our cell membranes stability
  • Cholesterol is a precursor to vital hormones that help us deal with stress and protect the immune system
  • Cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D
  • Bile salts, necessary in digestion, are made from cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol is needed for proper function of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is an important mood regulator in our bodies. People who suffer from depression are usually low in this vital chemical. Serotonin is also important to healthy digestion.
Now, I'm not recommending that you down a glass of bacon grease with your daily multivitamin (eww). I'm just sharing with you what I've found through my research to be good and bad options for fat in our diet.

 I'm also NOT a doctor. This is not the kind of situation where you go out and change your way of life because of something you read on the internet. (Are there any situations like that? I can't think of any...) I just want to introduce you to the idea and get those gears turning. Do some research. I recommend you check out the two books I mentioned earlier, as well as the Weston A. Price foundation.

Now that you've finished you stick of, cup of tea, mull over what we've talked about and get ready for Friday's post. I'll be writing about my absolute least favorite food ingredient. It's a dirty word at our house, and you'll be surprised where all it's found!

So, I know some of you disagree. I'm cool with that. Any questions?

*I gleaned my info from the sources cited above. For a great, in depth study on cholesterol and saturated fats, check out "Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats" pages 4-20.

This post was shared at Simple Lives Thursdays.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! I always use real butter, because I just can't stand to use anything else. I have always thought it best. Love this!