Healthy Fats: Butter & Ghee
We’ve all heard the tale — fat is terrible for our health and our waistline. Diets have cropped up aimed at completely cutting out said fat. Our grocery store shelves are stocked with modified, food-like items that claim they don’t have fat in them at all. So, what’s the deal?
It’s true – there are certain fat proteins that our bodies do not easily process, digest or use for energy. Those fats can cause problems for our health and wellness. However, to say that all fat is bad is not the case! In fact, there are certain types of fats that promote wellness, are easily converted into energy and support an ancestral, holistic diet. These powerhouse fats happen to be found plentifully in both grass-fed butter and ghee. Ghee is clarified butter which just means that the milk solids have been removed.
Long-Chain Saturated Fats (SFA)
One of the fats found in grass-fed butter and ghee are long-chain saturated fats. Long-chain saturated fats (or SFA) form core structural fats in the body. They comprise 75-80% of fatty acids in most cells, and are the primary storage form of energy (1). Despite what we’ve been taught about fat, there are no known toxicity or adverse effects of consuming SFA, even at high levels (assuming your inulin is in check). What this means is that the process of converting SFA into energy leaves no toxic byproduct. All that is left behind is CO2 and water. If you’re metabolically healthy, you can consume SFA freely without worrying. If you’re still concerned about eating SFA’s, watch these two videos (1and 2).
Monounsaturated Fat (MFA)
Another great fat found in grass-fed butter and ghee is monounsaturated fat, or MFA. Also referred to as oleic acid, MFA is most often found in beef, olive oil, avocado, lard and some nuts, like macadamia. Similar to SFA, MFA is non-toxic at high doses. Both SFA and MFA have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease by raising HDL and lowering triglycerides. These fats can also increase muscle mass and stabilize energy and mood levels…can’t really beat that! The illnesses we associate with high fat intake – like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and more – are actually the result of an excess consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, not SFAs or MFAs (2).
Both grass-fed butter and ghee have a formidable presence of these fats. Ghee is almost entirely comprised of saturated fat, with 8g of SFA and 3.7g MFA per serving. Butter from grass-fed cows has 7.2g of SFA and 2.9g of MFA (7).
Vitamins A, D, and K2
What else will you find in grass-fed butter and ghee? Vitamins A, D and K2 (the animal form of Vitamin K). These vitamins are considered fat soluble “activators” because they serve as catalysts for mineral absorption. Without them, minerals cannot be absorbed and used in the body regardless of how much you consume them (3). Here’s a breakdown of how each of these vitamins contributes to wellness and health:
Vitamin A – Contributes to mineral and protein metabolism and protects against infection. Promotes optimum development in infants and kids, thyroid function, production of stress and sex hormones, and healthy eyes, skin and bones (4).
Vitamin D – Contributes to mineral metabolism, healthy bones and nervous system, muscle tone, reproductive health and insulin production. Protects against depression and chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease (5).
Vitamin K2 – Promotes growth and facial development, normal reproduction, healthy bones and teeth and learning capacity. Protects against calcification and inflammation in the arteries (6).
How are you going to use grass-fed butter and ghee?
These two cooking fats are excellent options with which to start your meals. Grass-fed butter has a low smoke point, and can tolerate temperatures up to 350 degrees F, so it does best with gentle cooking. Try it when sautéing vegetables or browning meat. Because of the absence of milk solids, ghee is often well tolerated by those with lactose issues (8). Ghee can stand temperatures up to 485 degrees F, and would be a lovely addition to just about anything – add it to pâté, cook eggs with it, or smear it on a sweet potato.
Goodness. This post has me craving a steak with a pat of butter melting on top of it! Or veggies roasted in ghee! It can be a challenge to find the ultimate butter that is made with raw milk from grass-fed cows. Kerrygold butter is a nice option. Or some try your local farmers markets – they will typically carry butter from local farms. As for ghee, my very favorite is this organic cultured ghee. Enjoy!