January 10, 2014

Butter Probably Won’t Make Our Butts Bigger. ~ Jenna Penielle Lyons


According to the Agricultural Marketing Research Center, the United States made almost two billion pounds of butter last year.

Yesterday while I was drinking coffee, eating eggs (cooked in Amish butter) and listening to NPR, a story about butter consumption in the U.S. sparked my interest. I decided to ghee-k (pun, anyone?) out on butter stats.

People have been eating butter since 6,500 B.C.—we know this because archaeologists have found butterfat on ancient containers. And people will probably always continue to eat butter. I’m pretty sure that if every lactating animal went extinct, humans would find a way to make butter out of their own milk. Butter is important in almost all cultures (another pun) for many reasons.

You might have seen pictures of the baby Krishna eating butter. Butter is a sacred necessity in many Eastern traditions, and finds a creamy place in Hindu and Buddhist practices as an offering.

But as the 1900s loomed on the horizon, a chemist from France had a different idea about butter: it needed to be better butter. So he invented margarine. And trans fats were left to wreak havoc on society’s cholesterol levels. They still do today, as more margarine is eaten than butter in the United States.

Now check this out:

Nutritionally, everything is the same in the margarine vs. butter comparison, except for the trans fat levels. Margarine contains nearly five times the amount of trans fat that butter contains. The American Heart Association has recommended that people stop eating trans fats entirely, as they have adverse effects on HDL and LDL cholesterol levels (HDL is good, LDL is bad, and trans fats raise the bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol).

Good news for those trying to get fit: butter, when applied to rice or veggies in small doses, can trick your body into thinking it is satiated.

And, your body needs fats to transport nutrients to your body. Lipids are important molecules (which are inherently fatty or waxy) and they are crucial in storing energy in the human body (and other bodies too!).

So you need fats, lipids in particular. You can’t utilize protein energy without fats to accompany  it. You can consume healthy fats in the form of fish, lean meats, butter, nuts, avocados, and healthy oils (olive, coconut, safflower, etc.).

When you are working out, you use all your carbohydrate energy within 20-30 minutes. After that, your body resorts to energy from fats. I promise from the bottom of my heart that if you are exercising a lot and eating butter, you will get stronger—not fatter.

If I am hiking, running a long race in the mountains, cycling or back-country skiing, I tend to eat butter (plain and normal, hazelnut, almond or peanut butter) to get energy because it is more effective metabolically than eating carbs or sugar. This makes sense, because if you look at a chart of fat content in various demographic groups (I found one in Nina Planck’s book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why), the groups that were/are likely active for most of the day eat the highest level of fat.

For example, hunter-gatherers, lumberjacks, Eskimos, Nigerian tribes, Pacific Islanders, and other indigenous groups all eat diets that contain up to 60 percent fat. 

Imagine that!

The take away message is that as long as you are maintaining an active lifestyle, getting outside, and eating a balanced diets, it’s okay to butter your bread or put butter on your carrots. Or rap hilariously about butter and Paula Deen. 

Have a phat week, and keep it buttery!

Here’s some hip-hoppin’ butter:


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Skarg.

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