6 Healthy Reasons to Use More Butter
I was recently eating Sunday dinner with my family. I come from a large Italian family and Sunday dinner is possibly the most important part of the week and not to be missed. I chipped in with my favorite vegetable combo — Brussels sprouts cooked in butter with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. During the meal, my 92 year old grandmother was enjoying them when she made the comment “I used to love eating vegetables like this.”
I asked her what she meant by this comment. She responded that as a child and during her younger years, she routinely ate vegetables cooked in lard or butter. She also said that salt was often used liberally and this combo really made her love vegetables. Then she and her mother began steaming all vegetables to avoid those dangerous and unhealthy fats.
As a result, her vegetable consumption dropped significantly over the next several decades. Eating these delicious and buttery green pearls of delightfulness brought her back to her younger days. It wasn’t lost on her that her health was significantly better during the “good old days” and, in her words, she had “the figure of a model.” I have actually seen the pictures to prove it and grandma isn’t lying.
Is this story unique to my grandmother?
This microcosm of my grandmother’s experience with vegetables is likely one of the major reasons why consumption of foods like vegetables has significantly dropped, while processed foods have consistently become a larger part of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
That's because saturated fat and cholesterol have been demonized. When most people hear saturated fat or cholesterol, they immediately think of clogged arteries and heart attacks! What they don't realize, however, is that the entire lipid hypothesis (the theory that fat clogs your arteries) was simply built on bad science. It barely made it through the research process several decades ago, and would likely never have survived the current peer-review process. Beyond that, it has been disproven many times.1,2
Under the direction of the anti-fat campaign, our country now views vegetables as raw or steamed morsels of tasteless boredom, while the tastier half of food is represented by fast food and processed chemicals barely resembling food. Most people (including myself) don’t derive much enjoyment from eating raw broccoli, and since vegetable consumption has taken on the form of steamed green mush, most people have decided to turn to unhealthy but tasty processed alternatives.
Part of me can’t blame them...
Once again, conventional wisdom has placed the population in an impossible situation and then put the blame on them when they didn’t listen. Instead of avoiding the steamed Brussels sprouts and eating a sandwich or fries, why not douse those veggies in some flavorful (and healthy) grass-fed butter? Even for the sake of the argument, if fats like butter were as bad as some health leaders make them out to be, wouldn’t it still make sense to consume them if that was the only method to get people to eat vegetables? Why throw the baby out with the bath water?
But lo and behold, nature is not such a cruel being. Not only is butter from grass fed cows tasty, but it is good for you and provides healthy fats, cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid and bone strengthening vitamin K, to name a few. And nature was also nice enough to allow butter to make unpalatable foods like broccoli and Brussels sprouts absolutely delicious, adding further nutrients and vitamins into the diet.
But the cancer-fighting properties aren't the only benefits to cooking with healthy fats and oils and adding them to your vegetables:
They add flavor
They help avoid burning of your food
They provide fat as an energy source
They provide healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA
They help keep you full after you eat
Yet, if we paid attention to people like my grandmother, maybe vegetables would be as integral a part of a meal as they were for her half a century ago...
If vegetable consumption is genuinely part of the medical field’s strategy to help people to lose weight,3 then perhaps we should return to the methods our ancestors used to make vegetable consumption palatable instead of chastising these methods based on little to no evidence.
You were right all along grandma, so throw out that steamer, buy some butter, and enjoy your vegetables once again.
To Your Health,
Dr. Colin Champ
Dr. Colin Champ is a practicing radiation oncologist and nutritional expert. He is the author of Misguided Medicine: The truth behind ill-advised medical recommendations and how to take health back into your hands” You can hear more from him as the host of the incredibly popular Caveman Doctor podcast.
1. Ravnskov U: The fallacies of the lipid hypothesis. Scandinavian Cardiovascular Journal 42:236-239, 2008, http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14017430801983082
2. Sutter MC: Blood cholesterol is not causally related to atherosclerosis. Cardiovascular Research 28:575, 1994, http://cardiovascres.oxfordjournals.org/content/28/4/575.short
3. Rolls BJ, Ello-Martin JA, Tohill BC. What Can Intervention Studies Tell Us about the Relationship between Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Weight Management? Nutrition Reviews. 2004;62(1):1-17.