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What’s Special About Grass-fed Butter?

Butter

Are you still eating butter and feeling guilty about it? What if there’s a type of butter that’s actually healthy for you? Yeap, that’s called grass-fed butter. In this article, I talk about the health benefits of grass-fed butter, how to use it, and where to find it.

What is Grass-fed Butter

Grass-fed butter is exactly what it sounds like. It’s butter made from milk from cows that graze on grass. Sometimes, it’s referred to as pasture butter. On the other hand, conventional butter comes from cows that eat conventional feed like corn and soy grains.

Why is Grass-fed Butter Healthier?

Grass-fed butter is better for your health for several reasons.

1. Better Omega-3 vs Omega-6 Fatty Acids Ratio

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, protect from heart disease, and reduce high triglyceride level. Omega-6 fatty acids and a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids promote inflammation.

Grass-fed butter is good source of omega-3 fatty acids but regular butter isn’t. One study found that the concentrations of linolenic acid (LA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)–both omega-3’s–were significantly higher in grass-fed milk compared to regular milk. Grass-fed milk also had a higher ratio of EPA to AA (Arachidonic acid), leading to production of eicosaoids (or signaling molecules) derived from omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, when these eicosaoids are derived from omega-6’s, they promote inflammation.

Why does grass-fed butter have more omega-3 fatty acids? Green plants on land make omega-3 fatty acids just like algae in water do. When cows graze on grass, they ingest those healthy fatty acids and they show up in the milk and butter they produce.

Butter helps lower the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in another way. Since it’s mostly made of saturated fats, it doesn’t add to the load of omega-6 fatty acids your body can handle. This makes butter superior to omega-6 rich vegetable oils like corn, soybeans, or cottons seed.

2. Contains More Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid found in dairy and beef. It’s an omega-6 naturally occurring trans fatty acid, but it’s NOT detrimental to health like the other omega-6’s and man-made trans fats.

Studies show that CLA helps promote weight loss by improving body composition. CLA supplements reduce body fat tissue and build muscle tissue. CLA is also used as an anti-cancer agent. Other studies show that CLA helps boost immunity.

Since our bodies can’t make CLA, we have to get it from food. Grass-fed dairy contains up to 500% more CLA compared to convectional dairy.

3. Contains Butyrate (or Butyeric Acid)

Butyeric acid is a short chain fatty acid made of 4 carbon atoms. It’s one of the main sources of energy for intestinal cells, keeping colon cells healthy. It reduces inflammation and can protect against cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Adequate butyrate also protects against inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), colitis and Chron’s disease.

In normal situations, gut bacteria produce butyric acid from fiber from vegetables and fruits. However, in leaky gut situations, where the intestinal cells are damaged and dysbiosis (imbalance of healthy bacteria) occurs, there may be an inadequate production of of butyric acid. Symptoms of leaky gut include digestive pain, diarrhea, constipation, eczema, headaches, pain, fatigue and others.

Grass-fed butter contains the highest amount of butyric acid in food and a part of a complete gut healing protocol. For people with digestive issues like gas, bloating, and diarrhea, vegetable and fruit fibers that help produce butyric acids may be difficult to tolerate. Being a shorter fatty acid, it’s easier to digest and absorb than longer fatty acid (like those in olive oil or avcaodo), which makes it an ideal source of nutrition for people with IBD and people with nutrient deficiencies.

4. Contains the Missing Vitamin: Vitamin K2

There are 2 types of vitamin K. Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is found in leafy greens like kale and spinach. It’s responsible for healthy clotting. If you’ve ever taken blood thinners, you may have been warned about this type of vitamin K.

Vitamin K2 (menaquinone), found in animal foods, is the type that prevents calcification of the arteries. Without adequate vitamin K2, calcium leaches out of your bone (causing osteoporosis) and precipitates in the arteries (causing atherosclerosis). That’s why new bone support vitamin formulas all contain vitamin K2. Some studies show that higher intake of vitamin K2 was associated with more protection against cardiovascular disease, while vitamin K1 had no benefit.

Grass-fed butter is one source of vitamin K2. Other sources include egg yolk, liver, natto, and hard cheese.

5. Butter Contains Vitamins

Butter contains vitamin A in its active form as well as the antioxidant vitamin E. It has some vitamin B12 and choline as well.

Benefits to eating fat in general:

To keep the bigger picture in mind, I wanted to remind you why eating fats is healthy in the first place:

  • Fats help you feel full and satiated
  • Fats make up the walls of your cells and needed for cell integrity
  • Fats help your body absorb vitamins and antioxidants
  • Fats help lubricate your joints
  • Fats help with proper bowel function and prevent constipation

But, Isn’t Saturated Fat ‘Bad’ us?

The myth that saturated fats are bad for our health has been debunked. High intake of saturated fats does not lead to increased level of saturated fat in blood. On a side note, high intake of carbohydrate will raise cholesterol and triglycerides.

Inflammation is what causes heart disease, not cholesterol or saturated fats. Eating anti-inflammatory grass-fed butter as part of a nutrient-rich anti-inflammatory diet is what protects from heart disease.

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How to use Grass-fed Butter

Use grass-fed butter for sauteing, roasting, or baking. Drizzle some melted butter on steamed vegetables or cooked chicken breast. Avoid deep fat frying regardless of the oil or butter you use.

Butter is not meant to make up the bulk of your meal. Instead use a small amount to boost the flavor of your food, improve your satisfaction (which will help prevent mindless eating), and reap up the health benefits.

In general, I alternate between grass-fed butter, olive oil, coconut butter, and avocado oil in cooking.

You can also add grass-fed butter to coffee if you’re into Bulletproof coffee, which can help with weight and fat mass loss.

Where to Find Grass-fed Butter

Grass-fed butter is becoming more popular and can be found in many regular grocery stores. I’ve bought it from Safeway and Harris Teeter before Stores that sell health foods, like Whole Foods and Wegmans, also carry it.

There are two brands of grass-fed butter that I found locally on the market. You may also find them and others online. Read the specific comments about each one.

find-grass-fed-butter-organic-valley-pasture

This butter is only available in the market from May through September when the weather permits the cows to graze outside. You can buy it in bulk and store in your freezer to have enough to last through the winter. It’s also organic, so it’s produced without antibiotics or synthetic hormones or pesticides.

 

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Kerrygold is Irish pasture/grass-fed butter. However, the company admits that for 2 months of the year in winter, the cows are fed grains due to inadequate vegetation. While this is not be ideal, it’s still a much better butter than conventional. It’s also the most common brand I’ve seen in my local stores.

How Does ‘Organic’ Butter Relate to All this?

Organic butter is something completely different than grass-fed butter. Organic butter comes from milk from cows not given hormones or antibiotics, but the cows may still be eating organic grains. Since the cows are not grazing on grass, which is where the health benefits of grass-fed butter come from, organic butter is inferior to grass-fed butter. If you want to rank your options, grass-fed AND organic butter comes first (like Organic Valley), then grass-fed, and then organic.

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