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Butter…The Amazing Health Food?

If you’ve watched any TV since the 1960s, you’ve probably been exposed to at least one advertisement for margarine that made this central claim:

“Low In Saturated Fat”

I can only shake my head when I see ads like this. It would be one thing if they overstated some benefit of margarine, but what they’ve done here is downright deceptive. And an entire generation of Americans was misled into a needless fear of saturated fats.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, MD, explains it this way: “After decades of believing the myth that butter clogs arteries and causes heart attacks, people are now beginning to realize that partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, and shortening—so-called ‘heart healthy spreads,’ are the culprits—not wholesome saturated fats like butter. The now discredited ‘lipid hypothesis’ is thankfully going the way of bloodletting and lobotomies. It’s time to bury the myth that butter is bad for you—for good.”

Like we mentioned last week, our bodies need a certain amount of healthy fat (including some saturated fats, monounsaturated fats like olive oil, and omega-3 fats) on a consistent basis. Our bodies were designed to burn fat. Your brain is 60% fat, your cells use fat to build cell membranes, and your digestive system uses fats to facilitate mineral absorption. When you remove healthy fats from your diet, your body suffers. Dr. Mercola shares, “Omega-3 deficiencies have been tied to the following problems: mental fog, depression, weight gain, brittle fingernails, allergies, arthritis, poor quality of sleep, memory problems, dry hair, dry skin, lack of concentration, and fatigue.”

Another thing that happens when you remove fats from your food is they taste terrible – bland and pasty, like cardboard. That would make processed foods difficult to sell, so food manufacturers began adding large quantities of sugar, salt and neuro-exciters like monosodium glutamate (MSG) to their recipes. Processed foods went from nauseating to addictive, and a culture of obesity was born, fueled by mindless snacking and comfort eating.

So, What’s Wrong With Margarine?

There are several articles that have been floating around in various forms for decades detailing the evils of margarine. While I appreciate their intent, their science is lacking, and their claims are easily debunked. It’s a shame; Dr. Mercola lists plenty of good reasons to avoid margarine that they missed:

  • “Trans fats: These unnatural fats in margarine, shortenings and spreads are formed during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid fat. Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy and problems with lactation; and low birth weight, growth problems and learning disabilities in children. A U.S. government panel of scientists determined that man-made trans fats are unsafe at any level. (Small amounts of natural trans fats occur in butter and other animal fats, but these are not harmful.)
  • Free radicals: Free radicals and other toxic breakdown products are the result of high temperature industrial processing of vegetable oils. They contribute to numerous health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
  • Synthetic vitamins: Synthetic vitamin A and other vitamins are added to margarine and spreads. These often have an opposite (and detrimental) effect compared to the natural vitamins in butter.
  • Emulsifiers and preservatives: Numerous additives of questionable safety are added to margarines and spreads. Most vegetable shortening is stabilized with preservatives like BHT.
  • Hexane and other solvents: Used in the extraction process, these industrial chemicals can have toxic effects.
  • Bleach: The natural color of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is grey so manufacturers bleach it to make it white. Yellow coloring is then added to margarine and spreads.
  • Artificial flavors: These help mask the terrible taste and odor of partially hydrogenated oils, and provide a fake butter taste.
  • Mono- and di-glycerides: These contain trans fats that manufacturers do not have to list on the label. They are used in high amounts in so-called “low-trans” spreads.
  • Soy protein isolate: This highly processed powder is added to “low-trans” spreads to give them body. It can contribute to thyroid dysfunction, digestive disorders and many other health problems.
  • Sterols: Often added to spreads to give them cholesterol-lowering qualities, these estrogen compounds can cause endocrine problems; in animals these sterols contribute to sexual inversion.”

Meanwhile, Butter…

Organic grass-fed butter contains so many good things that our bodies need. This article goes into detail, but I want to give you a couple of highlights:

  • Powerful fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Important minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper and selenium.
  • Fatty acids, which support immune function, provide a wide microbial defense, assist in metabolism, and can protect against cancer.
  • Cholesterol, which in spite of decades of bad press, is actually critical for intestinal health and nervous system development.
  • It also protects your joints, muscles, and arteries from stiffening due to calcification.

Don’t Go Crazy

Now, like any good thing on your dinner table, you don’t want to have too much butter in your diet. Balance is the key, but if you’re going to spread something on your toast, always choose butter over margarine.

Every Wednesday, we look at food, supplements, and the issues that surround healthy eating. I hope you’ll join us here every Wednesday. And if this article was helpful to you, be sure to share it with friends and family. Who knows? You may know someone who could use this information to make a significant change in their long-term health today.

I’ll see you here tomorrow for “Think Right Thursday.”

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