The Case for Butter


I confess. When I was typing out the title of this article, I typed “The Case OF Butter” by mistake and had to correct it.  I love butter that much.  When I was in college, my roommates gave me butter for my birthday.  Butter is expensive, yes, but it cost much less than a new handbag or perfume, so my roomies lucked out — a gift both cheap and appreciated.  I thought I probably loved butter more than anyone else in the world, until I got married.  My husband had recently completed a 30-month mission to Finland for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and had become a butter addict there.  After decades of marriage, he still has potatoes with his butter, not vice-versa, and he’s as healthy as an ox.

I never believed the hype for margarine (yeah, we were duped; we now know it’s dangerous), and never believed the warnings about eggs, cheese, milk and butter, or saturated fats in general.  After all, ever since mankind domesticated animals so many thousands of years ago, what could be handier than getting sustenance from one’s cows and chickens?  Could something so convenient really be bad for you?  I continued to eat them, and finally, science came around to my point of view.  

By the 1990’s cracks were beginning to show up in the reasoning that eating saturated fats would clog your arteries and bring on heart disease.  People were avoiding eggs, cheese, whole milk, avocados and coconuts, and they were still dying at the same rate.

Now, nearly two decades later, a more complicated picture has emerged of how fats and carbohydrates contribute to heart disease.

For instance, it’s clearer that some fats, namely plant-based fats found in nuts and olive oil, as well as those found in fatty fish, are beneficial. Willett says there’s strong evidence that they help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Pork Roast.jpg

Saturated fats seem not to make us unhealthy, and you know those cholesterol numbers?  Turns out it’s the ratio of bad cholesterol to good cholesterol that’s most important, and not how high your bad cholesterol is.  Dr. Gardiner, who writes for Meridian Magazine online, says the people who live the longest have a cholesterol number of 270 (gasp, who would’ve thought?).  And with statins providing us with so many scary side effects and cholesterol being necessary to produce hormones, maybe we can relax a little and butter our bread.

There’s now evidence that — compared with carbs — saturated fat can raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and lower trigylcerides in the blood, which are both countering effects to heart disease….

Those nasty carbs, especially when we follow a diet of mostly grains and goodies, seem to be especially hard on our hearts.  And saturated fats are merely neutral when we gobble up the carbs.  

The New York Times (obviously staffed by butter-lovers) published an article in March 2014 called “Butter Is Back.”  Said journalist Mark Bittman,

Julia Child, goddess of fat, is beaming somewhere. Butter is back, and when you’re looking for a few chunks of pork for a stew, you can resume searching for the best pieces — the ones with the most fat. Eventually, your friends will stop glaring at you as if you’re trying to kill them.

That the worm is turning became increasingly evident a couple of weeks ago, when a meta-analysis published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. (In fact, there’s some evidence that a lack of saturated fat may be damaging.) The researchers looked at 72 different studies and, as usual, said more work — including more clinical studies — is needed. For sure. But the days of skinless chicken breasts and tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter may finally be drawing to a close.

It couldn’t be too soon for me.  Not that I’ll change the way I’m eating.  I always felt saturated fats were filling, tasty, natural.  But now, I feel vindicated.  It’s hard to digest a meal when it comes with a side of guilt.

Gale Boyd is the managing editor for She is a Jewish convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has lived all over the world. She has raised 6 Third Culture Kids and is always homesick for somewhere.