The Paleo diet is relatively easy to follow as there are very few guidelines. One of the main guidelines is to eat food which would have only been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means that any foods which came about due to the agricultural revolution is out. So no dairy; no milk, cream, cheese, yogurt or butter.
Hang on, this is where it gets tricky. One only has to do a quick internet search to figure out that these guide lines are some what blurry when it comes to our beloved butter.
Is Butter Paleo?
The short answer is no. But it’s not that simple
At one point in history butter was the ultimate unhealthy food. It was blamed for heart disease and cholesterol amongst other things. People turned to a low fat diet and opted for low fat margarine. Tides are changing and butter had has reemerged as a food with many more benefits than we first thought.
4 Benefits of Eating butter
When we talk about butter, it is in the context of butter specifically from grass fed, pasture raised cows and not the generic poor quality butter we might find in the average supermarket.
1. Grass fed butter is rich in nutrients
Butter contains vitamins like A, E and K2. Now if you are already eating a diet rich in healthy whole animal proteins and loads of vegetables then you are probably already ingesting a fair amount of vitamin A and E. Vitamin K2 is the one vitamin which is hard to come by. Vitamin K2 is important for calcium metabolism and has been indicated in helping to prevent osteoporosis (1). In addition Vitamin K2 helps to lower our risk of heart disease as it actually de-calcifies our arteries (2,3)
2. Butter is a source of Butyrate
Butyrate or butyric acid, is a fatty acid which is normally produced as a by product of the digestion of dietary fiber by your healthy gut bacteria. The good news is that grass fed butter is also a dietary source of Butyrate.
Studies in rats have shown that this fatty acid prevents weight gain, and in humans butyrate has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which could aid in keeping the digestive system healthy (4). It is also proposed that butyrate may aid in preventing colon cancer (5).
3. Butter is Rich in Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA is another fatty acid which has various health benefits. Specifically grass fed butter, is rich in this fatty acid which is a naturally produced trans fat. The beauty of this trans fat is that because it is natural it is actually good for us. Some studies in mice have showed that CLA potentially helps with weight loss but studies in humans have shown mixed results. Some studies have show significant weight loss in humans (6) , whilst others show no effect at all (7). Finally this meta analysis found that the overall verdict is that CLA can cause modest fat loss.
4. Butter is a Great Source of Delicious Satiating Fat
A final benefit to discuss is the simplicity of having yet another healthy, filling and delicious fat option to add to your diet. It is great to cook with as it is mostly a saturated fat which makes it stable for cooking at high temperatures. It is also highly digestible as fats go as it contains a fair amount of medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s).
Final verdict on Butter
Yes, technically butter is not Paleo if we are to follow all the rules that were originally set out for us. Remember however that your Paleo journey is a personal one and sometimes it is necessary to judge for yourself what food agrees with you and what food your body rejects.
Grass fed butter itself is much more easily tolerated than other forms of dairy and if you are really worried about the dairy aspect it is easier to go for ghee which is simply butter with the dairy removed.
As we’ve already explained, in this case the benefits of including delicious butter in your Paleo lifestyle may far outweigh any perceived rule breaking. So whilst you wont be spreading butter on your toast anymore it can be used on a daily basis to cook with or to bake yummy Paleo goodies.