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Butter gets a bad rap. Dating back to the 1920s, the heart disease epidemic came to be. Now the world’s leading cause of death, heart disease’s prevalence has left many speculating on the cause, with butter, meat, and eggs generally taking the blame. But not all butter is bad. In fact, it’s one of the healthiest fats you can consume, filled with a variety of important nutrients. And while the finger has been pointed at butter for its high levels of saturated fat, the connection between such fats and high cholesterol and heart disease has been debunked time and time again.

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Understanding Butter

Butter, which is simply milk fat, has a hefty amount of fat-soluble vitamins, and about 400 different fatty acids. Along with providing the body energy, fatty acids, specifically those in butter, have been found to affect our physiology and biochemistry in a way that can result in incredible health benefits. The popular fat loss supplement known as fatty acid CLA, or conjugated linoleum acid, for example, can do wonders. Research has found that CLA can aid in the reduction of body fat, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, improve bone mass, and modulate immune and inflammatory responses. However, not all butter is created equal.

Grass-Fed Butter Versus Grain-Fed Butter

Before you purchase any old butter, it’s important to understand the major differences between grass-fed butter and grain-fed butter.

Cows used to roam free, where their natural source of food was grass, not grains.

Grass-fed butter contains five times more CLA than butter from grain-fed cows. Grass-fed butter is also much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K2 than grain-fed butter. Vitamin K2, though not heavily discussed amongst the masses, is one of the most important nutrients for heart health, as it works to keep calcium out of your arteries.

Butter in general is about 2/3 saturated fat and 1/3 monounsaturated fat, while the rest is polyunsaturated fat. However, cows that are raised on pasture produce milk fat that has an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 1 — a good balance, while cows fed with grains produce a ratio swaying much more toward omega 6.

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Grass-Fed Butter And Reduced Risk Of Heart Disease

Not only is butter wrongfully accused of causing heart disease, but research has even found that, in countries where cows are mostly grass-fed, the people who consume the butter from them have a much lower risk of heart disease.

One study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010, reviewed the levels of CLA in the fat tissue of 1813 non-fatal heart attack patients in Costa Rica and concluded that when people ate more full-fat dairy such as butter from pasture raised cows, the lower their risk of suffering from a heart attack was. Furthermore, those who consumed the most were 49 percent less likely to experience a heart attack than those who ate the least.

Another study from Australia, where cows are more often grass-fed, found that people who ate the most high-fat dairy products had a 69 percent lower risk of mortality as a result of cardiovascular disease in comparison to those who ate the least.

The Butter-Toxin Debate

While this article clearly presents a positive outlook for consuming butter, specifically grass-fed butter, it would only be fair to bring up a valuable issue.

The health conscious world works tirelessly to ensure they put in their bodies contamination-free foods; foods that do not have high levels of pesticides, herbicides, and toxins. One might assume that for grass-fed animals, they are less tainted by these contaminants than grain-fed animals. But unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Even grass-fed butter is subject to bioaccumulation.

Animals store much of the chemical environmental toxins they are exposed to in their fat. Cows, for instance, store these chemicals in their milk fat, which is then absorbed by whomever consumes that milk fat. Even the EPA has weighed in on this issue, concluding that “approximately 35% of an adult’s daily intake of dioxins is derived from dairy products.”

To sum it up, of course there are both positive and negative issues associated with butter overall, but should you decide to keep butter a part of your diet, be conscious of the type you choose, continue to do your research, and stay educated on how to optimize your personal wellbeing.

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