Is Butter Bad For You?

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There’s been a lot of anti-butter propaganda in the past. For the longest time, people even thought margarine and vegetable oils were healthier options (not so much). So is butter bad for you or not?

Without going all Paula Dean on you, there are a lot of reasons to enjoy butter and eat it often. Synthetic versions of food simply can’t compete with the original.

Is Butter Good or Bad Fat? 

Much of the recent conversation about healthy fats has centered around plant-based fats. There’s a lot of emphasis on olive oil and avocado. Experts still tend to recommend polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats from plants over animal fats. Options like soy, canola oil, and corn oils are touted as healthy. 

And while coconut oil has recently gained in popularity, mainstream experts still don’t recommend it. The American Heart Association officially recommended against it in 2017 because it’s high in saturated fat. You may have noticed from all of the coconut oil recipes on my site that I don’t agree with their conclusions.

Very recently there’s been a gradual return to natural animal fats, like butter, ghee, tallow, and lard. Thank goodness! These types of fat aren’t as dangerous as dietitians and other health “experts” told us in the past. 

The Right Type of Butter

So, is butter bad for you?

Depending on how it’s sourced, it can be one of the healthiest fats you could eat. Butter from grass-fed cows is what you’re looking for. Dairy products from feedlot cows don’t have the same levels of nutrient levels, like vitamin K2 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Look for grass-fed unsalted butter, salted butter, or clarified butter (ghee). A high-fat diet isn’t necessarily bad, either. That is, as long as the fats are healthy and from naturally raised sources. 

It’s only when a higher fat diet is combined with processed foods and lots of carbohydrates that you’ll have problems. There are plenty of reasons to enjoy butter, guilt-free! 

Butter and Heart Disease

But doesn’t butter clog your arteries and increase the risk of heart disease?

No, not so much. 

A 2010 meta-analysis of nearly 350,000 people found no link between saturated fat and heart disease. A Japanese cohort study followed 58,000 men for an average of 14 years. In the end, the researchers didn’t find a link between saturated fat intake and heart disease. Actually, it was the opposite. The more saturated fat the men ate, the less likely they were to have a stroke. 

A 2016 analysis in PLoS One looked at butter and the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and overall death. Researchers found butter didn’t cause heart disease. And those who ate butter were actually less likely to have diabetes. 

Cholesterol and Butter

Butter is widely known as a good source of dietary cholesterol. Most people who avoid it are doing it for that reason. But cholesterol is a necessary antioxidant. Our body makes cholesterol if it has too many free radicals. These free radicals tend to come from damaged or rancid fats in deep-fried and processed foods.

So, it isn’t butter that increases the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. It’s the damaged fats and processed foods. 

People like to talk about “good cholesterol” (HDL) and “bad cholesterol” (LDL). But it’s not that cut and dried. LDL cholesterol is only a problem when we have small, dense particles. Large, fluffy LDL particles don’t lead to blockages and heart attacks.

Butter and the Brain

Our bodies use cholesterol to repair damage in the body and will make it if we don’t eat enough. It’s also vital for healthy brain function. The brain houses 20% of our body’s cholesterol. Without it, we’re more likely to get neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Health Benefits of Butter

There’s plenty of evidence behind the benefits of butter. Here are some of the healthy compounds in butter and why they’re so good for us. 

Supplies Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA for short, is a good fat found in grass-fed butter, dairy, and meat. In fact, they’re 3-5 times higher than their grain-fed counterparts. I explain exactly why CLA is so great in this post. But in summary, studies show it may do several things to support health:

  • Fight cancer
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Soothe asthma
  • Boost the immune system
  • Promote weight loss
  • Strengthen bones

That sounds like something I want more of! Let’s look at some specifics…

May Promote Cardiovascular Health

Some observational studies found that high-fat dairy products, like butter, support heart health. An Australian study observed adults ages 25-78 for a total of 16 years.  The researchers found a possible beneficial link between full-fat dairy and heart health. A 2009 Swedish study found that as dairy fat intake went up, stroke risk went down.

As mentioned, butter is a good source of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). In Costa Rica, where cows are mostly grass-fed, a 2010 study showed that people with the highest CLA levels in their tissues had a lower risk of a heart attack. 

Butter is also a good source of vitamin K2, which is important for cardiovascular tissue. In an analysis of nearly 5,000 people, those with the most K2 were 52% less likely to get calcification in their arteries. They were also 57% less likely to die from heart disease.

Good For The Joints 

Butter is a source of a unique “anti-stiffness” factor. It’s called the Wulzen Factor or stigmasterol. This compound helps us avoid or reduce joint problems like arthritis. The same nutrient helps prevent calcification in other parts of the body. Arteries are one example. 

The catch? This special “anti-stiffness” factor is only found in raw, unpasteurized dairy products. Most of us probably aren’t eating a lot of raw butter.

The CLA in butter can also offer relief to those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A study of RA sufferers found CLA and vitamin E together decreased symptoms. Study participants had lower white blood cell counts, balancing an overactive immune response. It also reduced their morning joint pain and stiffness.

Other studies show CLA is beneficial for a wide variety of inflammatory conditions. So, it makes sense it would help with joint pain.

Supports Gut Health 

Butter contains a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) called butyrate. Our gut bacteria also make butyrate and other SCFAs. Butyrate is the preferred energy source for the cells lining the gut and actually got its name from butter! 

Here are just a few of the ways butyrate supports gut health:

  • Improves electrolyte absorption
  • Lowers inflammation
  • Restores the gut lining
  • Lowers oxidative stress
  • Improves intestinal motility 

I talk more about the benefits of butyrate in my article on post-biotics and here in this podcast episode.

May Help With Cancer 

Butter has nutrients that may help protect against cancer, including the ones already mentioned:

  • Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) – May reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  • Vitamin K2 – May help reduce the risk of liver cancer and increase cancer survival rates.
  • CLA – May help prevent certain cancers, including breast, colon, colorectal, gastric, prostate, and liver, according to cell studies.
  • Cholesterol – Low cholesterol can actually increase the risk of some cancers.

High cholesterol protects against infections and is crucial to a strong immune defense. You see, butter is healthy after all. Of course, more studies are needed and we don’t tend to consume large amounts of butter at a time. But from the look of things, butter is protecting against, not contributing to disease.

Butter For Stronger Teeth

It turns out teeth can heal… (say what?).

Butter is a good source of fat-soluble vitamins that are necessary for many aspects of health. These vitamins, A, D, E, and K2, are especially important for oral health. They help teeth remineralize by aiding in the absorption of minerals. The famous dentist Weston A. Price discovered vitamin K2 is crucial for oral health. 

You can boost oral health from the inside out. I talk more about how to remineralize teeth naturally in this post. And this is the daily oral health routine I used to remineralize my cavities.

Thyroid Health

Many people these days struggle with underlying thyroid problems. It turns out the movement away from butter (along with some other factors) could contribute to the problem.

The specialized medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil make it a thyroid superfood. And when they’re combined with butter, it creates powerful thyroid support. Butter has Vitamin A and a highly absorbable form of Iodine, both of which support healthy thyroid function.

Great For Children

Most kids love butter, and I’ve seen many kids even take a bite out of a stick of butter. It turns out they’re on to something important. Butter is a source of many nutrients kids need for proper growth. 

One of those is preformed vitamin A, which can only be found in animal foods. Plants, like carrots, have carotenoids that first have to be converted to true vitamin A in the gut. And most of us don’t make that conversion very well.  

Vitamin A is crucial for growth and development, eye health, heart health, and the immune response. It’s also important for the maintenance of several organs and tissues of the body.  

Of course, not all kids can do dairy products. In that case, there are other foods they can eat to boost calcium levels. I’m not worried about butter leading to weight gain or obesity. Again, it’s the carbohydrates that are usually to blame. 

Bottom Line: The Source Matters

Pasteurized, store-bought butter is a step up from any vegetable oil product. But grass-fed raw butter is the best choice. That is if you can find it. Pasteurized grass-fed butter is the next best option. 

I get the Kalona brand of butter from here. I use it to cook with and I’ll even put a tablespoon of butter in my coffee. And I don’t care if my kids take a bite out of our healthy butter.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Michelle Sands, ND. She is double board certified in Integrative Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine and is also a Board-Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and competitive endurance athlete.  As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Do you love butter? How do you eat it? Share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


111 responses to “Is Butter Bad For You?”

  1. Meredith Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    Do you know where I can get Kalona Butter? Butcher Box says they don’t offer it, but that is where your link goes to. Thanks!

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      Sorry about that! I think that link used to go to Tropical Traditions and changed, but they don’t carry it anymore either. I’ve found at Whole Foods and through local co-ops

  2. stephanie Avatar

    Hi Katie 🙂 just wondering at what age did you start giving raw butter and coconut oil to your babies? I’m not finding it easy to find an answer on the internet. Thank you 🙂

  3. douglas Avatar

    gradually humans get tossed a blemish or two from the health guru’s of big brother stating that all this butter, margarine, and other dairy products that promote healthy balance and vitamin rich with minerals and probiotics sell there product. but when you use BUTTER ! with your foods it enhances flavor and ease of eats, there is one major griller food connoisseur , who garnishes his steaks with Butter as an anointing.

  4. Gail Christian Avatar
    Gail Christian

    Butter we’ve discovered is healthier than margarine. But when recovering from Stage 4 cancer I avoided all forms of fat and oils. Cells smothered in fat and oil is often a catalyst for cancer I learned from Dr. Warburg’s studies.

    After your cancer’s gone and you have a clean bill of health. then by all means enjoy the butter! I do, dribbling down over my popcorn!

  5. Ashley Avatar

    I’m not sure how else to connect with you other than to comment here – hopefully you get the message as I know you are have many followers! I am looking for research on the Weston A. Price diet. Obviously, he did his own research while traveling and that is what the diet is based on. But I wondered if you could point me in the direction of studies that support his view, specifically ones that would show better outcomes for those who eat meat products from healthy animals versus industrialized meat. Thanks so much for your time!

  6. Teanna Avatar

    Hi everyone, I finally found grass fed butter in my city.. but it’s $11 for 1/2 lb ! I bought some anyway, and tried Katie’s gingerbread Latte recipe (amazing), but I just can’t spend that type of money on butter when I use it so often. I live in Canada (Edmonton). Does anyone have any advice on where I can find some that might be a few dollars cheaper, or anywhere online that would ship here? Thanks!

  7. Ashley Gener Avatar
    Ashley Gener

    Were you paid by the dairy industry to write this article or something? I can’t believe that the words “healthy” and “butter” can actually be in the same sentence. You might as well write an article that talks about the “health” benefits of smoking. Oh wait. People actually used to believe that smoking was healthy because the tobacco industry had used medical doctors to promote smoking as healthy for decades and people smoked like there was no tomorrow only to die of cancer just like people are eating dairy today like there is no tomorrow only to die of breast, prostate cancer and so many other diet-related and preventable diseases.

    I recommend that you visit these links by medical doctors who do NOT get paid by the dairy industry in order to get an idea of the truth the dairy industry tries so hard to keep hidden and successes to do so because they have millions of dollars:

    I also recommend that you read the book “The China Study” (written by Dr. Campbell who grew up on a dairy farm) and watch the documentary “Forks Over Knives” where medical doctors expose the dangers of animal products to our health.

    Plus, you shouldn’t be consuming dairy for ethical reasons anyway.

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      This is exactly the reason I write posts like this, because there is such misinformation and indoctrination when it comes to saturated fat. If you missed it, there has been a lot of emerging science disproving the lipid hypothesis (just a hypothesis, by the way) and the idea that saturated fat is problematic. I’ve included some below since you seem to like studies. I think it is absolutely hilarious that you think I am paid by the dairy industry, since (1) I am not paid by anyone to write this blog (2) I advocate grass fed humanely raised butter and have problems with the way most dairy is raised. I also don’t ever give my family pasteurized or non-organic dairy.
      The China Study was flawed research and has been disproven by people much smarter than Dr. Campbell (Here is one article by a well-researched reformed vegan:
      The documentary Forks Over Knives is based on this flawed science.
      Animal products have been consumed for centuries and there is no record of any traditional culture that survived or had long lives on a vegan diet.
      I don’t have any ethical problem whatsoever with consuming ethically raised butter from a local farmer where I’ve seen that the cows are properly cared for and raised in a healthy way. You may, in which case, please leave the butter for the rest of us, but eating animal products is not an ethical issue for me and I don’t really like being told on my own site what I should and should not ethically eat. It seems that you would prefer to read other blogs that are more in line with your ethical preferences.

  8. Rebekah Avatar

    Your source, tropical traditions cannot sell raw butter (thanks to the government). Your post indicated that if it’s pasteurized, it doesn’t have all those benefits. For the sake of those who don’t have access to raw dairy, can you clarify the difference between grass-fed (pasteurized) butter and regular old butter? I can buy grass-fed cultured butter at HEB here in Houston, is it even worth it since it’s made from pasteurized milk?

  9. Charmaine Marie Avatar
    Charmaine Marie

    I was feeling extremely down in March and had my 25(OH)D levels tested and they were 15! I was vegan for 10 years and about 11 months post partum and nursing on demand. I took my vegan multi-vitamin and 2000 IU vegan D2 and whatever was fortified added to that number… my body wasn’t synthesizing the D2 well at all. So I’ve since transitioned to vegetarianism and have noticed an improvement. Were taking a D3 supplement and have noticed a huge difference!

  10. dawn Avatar

    I plan to start getting a little of unprotected sun exposure each day. 🙂

  11. Desy Avatar

    I take a twenty to thirty minute walk every afternoon, but I am planning on adding FCLO once school starts and I am getting paychecks regularly again 🙂

  12. Spider Avatar

    Supplement with Vitamin D3 and spend time daily outside sans sunscreen.

  13. Hilary Barnett Avatar
    Hilary Barnett

    spend as much time outside as possible, although with the recent heat
    waves and a 6-month old baby it’s been difficult! I also take Nature’s
    Sunshine Vitamin D3 tablets, one 4,000 IU per day.


  14. Hilary Barnett Avatar
    Hilary Barnett

    I spend as much time outside as possible, although with the recent heat waves and a 6-month old baby it’s been difficult! I also take Nature’s Sunshine Vitamin D3 tablets, one 4,000 IU per day.

  15. Naomi Avatar

    I get my Vitamin D by taking walks around the neighborhood with my girls and working in the garden.

  16. Rachel martin Avatar
    Rachel martin

    I have stopped using sunscreen (this is my first summer and so far so good). I take FCLO off and on as I work on building up my stash of supplements I budget for this when I can. I had my levels checked at my last annual w/my midwife and she said they were within normal range but I thought she said my levels were around 34. Is higher better?

  17. Janet Avatar

    I take 4000 IU of D3 per my doctor’s advice and I spend shorter but more frequent amounts of time in the sun (without sunscreen) in order to get the benefit of the sun without prolonged exposure to the damaging rays.

  18. Lauren Avatar

    I get my Vitamin D from the sun!! Would love to try eating more coconut oil too.

  19. Laci Avatar

    I eat healthy, take a vitamin d supplement, and spend a little time out by the pool each day. 🙂

  20. Kristen Avatar

    I love being outdoors. One way is to keep up with my garden – weeding and harvesting seems like just the right amount of time daily.

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