Why is butter back on the table?
by Sarah Larson, ND, LAc

Or: Butter never left my table but why am I no longer in trouble for having it there?

Why is butter back on the table?The old saying, “where there’s smoke there’s fire”, is a good adage. Things that have the ring of truth tend to stick around. Unfortunately, when it comes to high cholesterol, the presence of cholesterol in our diets has been wrongly accused. In fact, saturated fat consumption appears to have nearly no effect on serum (blood) cholesterol levels when people also eat a moderate amount of polyunsaturated fats, too. This is according to a review of research literature by Dr. Glen D. Lawrence of Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. His article appeared in the journal Advances in Nutrition in May,  2013.

What does this mean? Well, this means we have been telling patients to limit their intake of red meat, butter, full-fat dairy and other foods containing saturated fat because we thought these fats, which contain cholesterol, were the reason high amounts of cholesterol are seen in blood testing. High cholesterol in blood had been thought to increase the amount of plaque found in people’s arteries leading to heart attacks and stroke. It stood to reason, if people eat less cholesterol, less will be found in the blood, and less will be deposited in arteries which means fewer people should die from heart attacks and stroke. As it turns out, this logic doesn’t play out in the real world. There appears to be less of a correlation between saturated fat intake to high serum cholesterol and the production of plaque than we thought. In addition,we need cholesterol to make all of our hormones and fat is important for proper brain function so it’s important to eat a diverse diet that includes fat. Many medical doctors put patients on statin drugs which are supposed to reduce the amount of cholesterol in patients’ blood. Even naturopathic doctors like me offer patients herbal and supplemental support to reduce cholesterol.

If we eat foods that contain saturated fat like red meat, whole fat dairy (to include butter) but are certain to also consume plenty of wild, cold water fish or take an adequate amount of fish oil as well as enjoy olive and coconut oils, eat avocados, nut and seeds, elevated levels of blood cholesterol should not be a problem. The most important thing to remember about saturated fat intake is the source: free-range, grass-fed, local meats and organic, full-fat dairy products.

When you are at the market, put the fat-free yogurt or sour cream back on the shelf and grab some delicious, organic products from your nearest farmer’s market to go along with your homegrown vegetables. Find a local beef or lamb producer and purchase some tasty, grass-fed, free-range meat to enjoy all winter long. Alternate with eating wild, cold water fish like salmon or cod. Lastly, put that delicious organic butter back on the table, it turns out our grandparents knew what they were doing!

If you have questions about your heart and/or dietary health, contact me at 360-787-3615 to make an appointment.

Photo credit: transformationone.com