Why Grass-Fed Butter Is One of the Healthiest Fats on the Planet

Butter is one of the healthiest fats on the planet.

It's not just a big pile of yellow-colored fat, there are many important nutrients in there, some of which have potent biological effects.

Despite having been demonized in the past, real grass-fed butter is one of the healthiest fats on the planet. Period.Photo credit: Shutterstock

However, this does depend on the type of butter, and the amounts of these nutrients vary greatly depending on what the cows ate.

Butter From Grass-Fed Cows is a Major Source of Heart-Healthy Nutrients

Butter is basically just milk fat, also known as butterfat.

Butterfat is highly complex. It contains about 400 different fatty acids, and a decent amount of fat-soluble vitamins (1).

Fatty acids are actually more than just energy sources, some of them have potent biological activity.

As it turns out, many of the fatty acids in butter can affect our physiology and biochemistry in some way, leading to major health benefits.

This includes the fatty acid CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). It is popular as a fat loss supplement, and studies show that it can have powerful effects on health (2, 3).

Grass-fed butter contains five times more CLA than butter from grain-fed cows (4).

Butter from grass-fed cows is also much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K2, compared to butter from grain-fed cows (5).

As you can see, butter from grass-fed cows is a much healthier and more nutritious choice.

Butter Contains Saturated Fat, But Who Cares?

Butter used to be considered unhealthy, because it contains saturated fat.

However, this is actually not a valid argument against butter, because the saturated fat myth has been thoroughly debunked in recent years.

Two massive review studies were published recently, one in 2010 and the other in 2014. Both included hundreds of thousands of people.

These studies clearly showed that there is no association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease (6, 7).

Studies Show That People Who Eat Grass-Fed Butter Have a Lower Risk of Heart Disease

The relationship between full-fat dairy consumption and heart disease seems to depend on the country in which the study is performed.

In countries where cows are largely grass-fed, the people who eat the most butter seem to have a drastically reduced risk of heart disease.

An impressive study on this was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in the year 2010: Smit LA, et al. Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.

This study looked at the levels of CLA in the fat tissue of 1813 non-fatal heart attack patients, and compared them to 1813 similar subjects who had not gotten heart attacks.

Levels of this fatty acid are a very reliable marker for the intake of fatty dairy products, and this study was done in Costa Rica, where cows are grass-fed.

They split the subjects into 5 groups, from lowest to highest, depending on their levels of CLA. The results were fairly remarkable:

As you can see, the more full-fat dairy (like butter) people ate, the lower their risk of heart attack.

In fact, the people who ate the most were 49 percent less likely to experience a heart attack, compared to those who ate the least.

However, keep in mind that this was a case-control study, a type of observational study. These types of studies can not prove causation.

This study shows that people who eat more grass-fed dairy fat have a lower risk of heart disease, but it can not prove that dairy fat caused the reduction in risk.

But, at the very least, this study is pretty good reassurance that butter is not the devil it was made out to be.

Many Other Studies Have Shown Similar Results

This is far from being the only study.

Another study from Australia showed that people who ate the most full-fat dairy had a 69% lower risk of heart disease than people who ate the least (8).

Several other studies in European countries, where cows are generally grass-fed, have shown that dairy fat is linked to reduced heart attacks and strokes (9, 10).

Grass-Fed Butter is Super Healthy

Despite having been demonized in the past, real grass-fed butter is one of the healthiest fats on the planet. Period.

Show Comments ()

Fire Seasons Have Become Longer Globally, Experts Say

Experts say that climate change is lengthening global fire seasons, as the southern hemisphere experiences "freak autumn heat" and major weekend bushfires devastate the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales.

"March is not traditionally seen as a time when the bushfire danger escalates, but as the fires in Tartha NSW, and south west Victoria show, bushfires do not respect summer boundaries," said Richard Thornton, the CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

A Tale of Two Cities: How San Francisco and Burlington Are Shaping America's Low-Carbon Future

By Kyra Appleby

President Trump's commitment to pull out of the Paris agreement signaled what appeared to be the worst of times for a transition to a low-carbon future in the United States. But actions being taken by a significant number of cities could instead make it the best of times for renewable energy in America.

Keep reading... Show less
Statoil / YouTube

Early April Fool's Joke? Statoil Rebrands Itself as Equinor

By Andy Rowell

First came BP, which went from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum. Then Denmark's Dong Energy changed its name to Orsted, to mark its departure from oil and gas. Then earlier this year Shell announced it was morphing from an oil company into an integrated energy company.

And now, the Norwegian company Statoil is proposing to change its name to "Equinor." The rebranding exercise—or what some may call greenwashing exercise—will cost as much as 250 million kroner or $32 million.

Keep reading... Show less

World's First Mass-Market 3D-Printed Electric Car Costs Less Than $10K

The world's first mass-produced 3D-printed electric vehicle could hit the roads by 2019.

Italian startup X Electrical Vehicle (XEV) and Shanghai-based Polymaker, a 3D-printing filament manufacturer, are behind the LSEV—a $9,500 two-seater with a top speed of 42 miles per hour and a range of 93 miles.

Keep reading... Show less
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Pruitt Sees EPA As Political Stepping Stone

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief Scott Pruitt was already voted "worst Trump minion," but, according to reports published last week, Pruitt has his eye on more illustrious titles.

Vanity Fair reported on Wednesday that President Trump was thinking of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replacing him with Pruitt.

Keep reading... Show less
Gogama oil train derailment. CBC / YouTube

Risky Move: Canada Shipping More Tar Sands Oil by Rail

By Justin Mikulka

The Motley Fool has been advising investors on "How to Profit From the Re-Emergence of Canada's Crude-by-Rail Strategy." But what makes transporting Canadian crude oil by rail attractive to investors?

According to the Motley Fool, the reason is "… right now, there is so much excess oil being pumped out of Canada's oil sands that the pipelines simply don't have the capacity to handle it all."

Keep reading... Show less

What Standing Rock Gave the World

By Jenni Monet

At the height of the movement at Standing Rock, Indigenous teens half a world away in Norway were tattooing their young bodies with an image of a black snake. Derived from Lakota prophecy, the creature had come to represent the controversial Dakota Access pipeline for the thousands of water protectors determined to try to stop it.

Keep reading... Show less
Zero Point Zero

Netflix’s 'Rotten' Reveals the Perils of Global Food Production

By Katherine Wei

We all love to eat. And increasingly, our cultural conversation centers around food—the cultivation of refined taste buds, the methods of concocting the most delectable blends of flavors, the ways in which it can influence our health and longevity, and the countless TV shows and books that are borne of people's foodie fascinations. However, there's one aspect we as consumers pay perhaps too little heed: the production of food before it reaches markets and grocery store shelves. We don't directly experience this aspect of food, and as a result, it's shrouded in mystery, and often, confusion.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!