The origins of butter go back thousands of years to when our ancestors first started domesticating animals. In fact, the first written reference to butter was found on a 4500 year old limestone tablet illustrating how butter was made.
In India, ghee (clarified butter) has been used as a staple food, and as a symbol of purity, worthy of offering to the gods in religious ceremonies for more than 3000 years.
The Bible has references to butter as the product of milk from the cow, and of Abraham setting butter and milk from a calf before three angels who appeared to him on the plains of Mamre.
For millennia, people around the globe have prized butter for its health benefits.
So how did butter become a villain in the quest for good health?
At the turn of our century, heart disease in the western world was rare. By 1960, it was the number one killer. Yet during the same time period, butter consumption had decreased from on average, eighteen pounds per person per year, to just four.
A researcher named Ancel Keys was the first to propose that saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet were to blame for coronary heart disease.
Numerous subsequent studies costing millions of pounds, have failed to conclusively back up this claim, yet the notion that a healthy diet is one with minimal fat, particularly saturated fat, has persisted. While there has been a drastic reduction to the intake of natural animal fats like butter and meat, the processed food industry, particularly the low-fat food industry, proliferated.
When the baby boomers were children, concerned mothers began to replace butter with margarine. The margarine manufacturers told them it was the healthier alternative and mothers believed them. In those days no one asked, “where is the science to prove it? I want to know before I give this man-made, junk to my children. After all we humans have been eating butter for thousands of years?”.
As a result, since the early 1970’s, the populations average saturated fat intake has dropped considerably, while rates of obesity, diabetes, and consequently, heart disease, have surged.
So… Is Margarine Better than Butter?
No! This is a tragic myth. Butter is a completely natural food essential to your health – especially when you eat organic.
Margarines, on the other hand, are a processed food, created chemically from refined polyunsaturated oils. The process used to make these normally liquid oils into spread-able form is called hydrogenation. Margarine and similar hydrogenated or processed polyunsaturated oils are potentially more detrimental to your health than any saturated fat.
So why should you eat butter?
Butter is rich in the most easily absorbable form of Vitamin A necessary for thyroid and adrenal health.
Contains lauric acid, important in treating fungal infections and candida
Contains lecithin, essential for cholesterol metabolism.
Contains anti-oxidants that protect against free radical damage.
Has anti-oxidants that protect against weakening arteries.
Is a great source of Vitamins E and K.
Is a very rich source of the vital mineral selenium.
Saturated fats in butter have strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
Butter contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster.
Vitamin D found in butter is essential to absorption of calcium.
Protects against tooth decay.
Protects against calcification of the joints.
Butter helps prevent hardening of the arteries, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland.
Is a source of Activator X, which helps your body absorb minerals.
Is a source of iodine in highly absorbable form.
May promote fertility in women.
Is a source of quick energy, and is not stored in our bodies adipose tissue.
Cholesterol found in butterfat is essential to children’s brain and nervous system development.
Contains Arachidonic Acid (AA) which plays a role in brain function and is a vital component of cell membranes.
Protects against gastrointestinal infections in the very young or the elderly.
This is only part of the health benefits of eating butter, however there is a caveat.. The best butter you can eat is raw, organic butter because pasteurisation destroys nutrients. Unfortunately, the sale of raw butter on a national scale, (as in supermarkets) is prohibited in most countries, but if you look hard enough there are many places that sell it on line, or….. You will just have to make your own (recipe below).
Don’t forget though, everything in moderation and ditch those disgusting and dangerous spreads!
Homemade Butter, it really is so simple!
A revival of handmade butter is part of a wider trend for ambitious cooking projects, as DIY cooking goes, butter is actually easy.
Butter is easier than boiling eggs. All it takes, is “a small child and a jam jar”.
You pour a 300ml tub of double cream into a large jam jar. The cream needs to be at room temperature. Ask a child to shake it with all their might, or do it yourself. It will seem at first that nothing is happening. Then it goes thick and sandy, like tahini, and you will really despair. Just when your arms can take no more – about 10 minutes – you hear a sloshing sound and see a yellow clump as the fat globules solidify. Butter!
It’s even easier with an electric stand mixer. Nineteenth-century dairymaids, slaves to their plunge churns, would have killed for such a machine. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and whisk at medium speed until the cream separates into a lump of butter and a sea of buttermilk. The butter needs to be drained in a sieve – keep the buttermilk for something useful and rinse the finished lump in very cold water. Add Maldon sea salt if you like, shape it, or leave it au natural and et voila… Homemade Butter!
You can keep your butter for 2-3 weeks in a fridge, but if you intend to use the buttermilk rather than waste it (it is great used for pancake or yorkshire pudding mix), you will need to use it within 3 days.