Since we got a head start and talked about health benefits of dark chocolate just the other day, we’re moving on to a new "heart healthy" food — butter.
Yup, you read that correctly … the food that has continually been thrown under the bus and gotten a ton of bad press is now the newest "health food"…
…at least according to a study out in the March 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
OK, OK … I can’t put words in the author’s mouths. They didn’t quite call butter a “health” food or "heart smart", per se, but their findings were surely interesting.
Here’s the deal.
Saturated fats have long been thought of as artery clogging, heart disease causing "killers"…eat too many and you increase your risk of heart disease
Butter is primarily a saturated fat.
Therefore, you can draw the logical conclusion that when you eat too much butter … voila, you increase your risk of heart disease.
But then this study comes out of Harvard evaluating if in fact saturated fat truly is associated with heart disease.
The researchers did what’s called a meta-analysis, or in other words, scoured the available data on this topic (in this case, 21 different studies with a total of nearly 350,000 men and women), pooled the data and analyzed the combined results.
And their conclusions were “….there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk (of heart disease).”
Well this led to a flurry of reports, articles, and press releases suggesting butter is now “healthy.”
Isn’t the world of nutrition fun?
Butter has about 7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Now, granted, there are different types of specific fatty acids that make up saturated fat and they have different health properties. But we won’t go there in this piece.
At the end of the day, I believe the recommendation should not be everyone start adding butter to their daily diet…after all, butter is still a very dense source of calories (same amount of calories per tablespoon as olive oil or even super heart healthy fish oil).
…but will a little bit of butter hurt? Not in our opinion.
Worse than the butter itself are the refined carbs you’re spreading it on … the dense, white, doughy bread, bagels, muffins, croissants, etc.
And, similarly, the processed fat in all those products too (outside of the bagel, which is just a doughy mess). Leave the processed foods behind and choose REAL foods, with few ingredients. Buy unsalted and butter has 1 (cream).
Remember, though, this one analysis doesn’t convince me that we should eat butter (or any fat for that matter) by the spoonful. And, yes, I’ve had more than one subject in our research studies do that …
Mohr Results Bottom Line: Saturated fat should make up about 1/3 of your total fat intake. So if some of that 1/3 comes from butter, have no fear. It’s when you’re sitting at home or in a restaurant and putting a giant pat of butter on every bite before you eat it that we have a problem. Or when you take the “butter is healthy” message that was in the media and use it as an excuse to go hog wild and replace all other fats with butter only.
Just because a little is fine, doesn’t mean a lot is better. Just like the dark chocolate is healthy message. A little is OK, surely don’t live on it.