In Praise of Butter
7 June 2017
Name a natural fat source and tell me what sorts of fats are in it: saturated or unsaturated? Broadly-speaking, if you said sat-fats are solid, and unsat-fats liquid, at room temperature, you’d be right – but all fats and oils contain a mix of both. There are many types of each and we need them; for example, the saturated fat caprylic acid is antiviral and the unsaturated fat DHA helps build the brain.
And then there are transfats (TFs): natural TFs, found in butter, are fine, but 99% of TFs in our diets are from processed foods or by cooking with unsaturated oils (such as sunflower) at too high a heat. TFs contribute to inflammation and poor health. This leads us on nicely to the question of margarine-like spreads (MLSs), which are always promoted as healthy.
Most of these spreads are hydrogenated pretenders which abound with toxic effects. While butter is made from natural ingredients and is processed through churning, MLSs use cheap, low quality oils (extracted with solvents) that are turned into solid fats with processes such as heating and pressurising, catalysing with nickel. Feeling sick yet? There’s more: the grey, lumpy and smelly result is then bleached, emulsified, deodorised and coloured. Then, to be able to say ‘healthy’, manufacturers add vitamins and maybe even some ‘cholesterol-lowering’ plant stanols esters. They further insult us by giving it a name like ‘Tastes Just Like Butter’.
Butter is about 60% saturated fat and 23% unsaturated and helps decrease appetite for sugary foods. Our golden yellow Jersey butter is packed full of goodness: it naturally contains vitamins A, D, E and K and a range of fats that are good for us; for example, butyric acid has anti-inflammatory properties, helps to maintain a healthy intestinal lining and is being studied for its use in helping combat insulin resistance and diabetes. (And did you know that your good gut bacteria even make butyric acid from the bits of the plant we can’t digest by ourselves?)
Best of all, butter tastes so good – much better than those spreads! Butter is great for cooking with at medium temperatures; I would always use it over seed oils. If you can’t tolerate lactose or casein, or you want to cook at higher temperatures, then you can use ghee, which is the oil part of butter; how to do this is easily found online, or buy ready-made.
Written by Jacqui Carrel. Originally published in The Jersey Evening Post