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. Audrey Avatar

    I had my Vitamin D levels recently tested for the first time. I take Vitamine D supplements, astaxanthin, eat a paleo diet with lots of coconut oil. I’m also going to get the fermented cod liver oil, Thanks!

  2. Dana Avatar

    I am on your e-mail list.

    Right now we get vit D from the sun mostly. I don’t think we get enough though and I thinking about starting the Fermented Cod Liver Oil for a lot of different reasons. Just working up to it as I am worried about the taste/aftertaste.

  3. Rhiannon Miller Avatar
    Rhiannon Miller

    I live in Scotland, where there isn’t much sun. I take a 5000IU supplement of Vitamin D daily. I also try to take a walk outside at lunchtime to take advantage of what sun there is. I roll my shirtsleeves right up to my shoulders.

  4. Jessica West Avatar
    Jessica West

    I’ve been working hard to get out in the sun every day – a little bit difficult with the weather we’ve been having in the pacific nw lately. I haven’t used sunscreen all summer, and I take vitamin D (5000 IU) when I don’t get sun, if I can remember to. I also take fermented cod liver oil, again when I remember it.

  5. Erin brouss Avatar
    Erin brouss

    We have always used sunscreen sporadically and my boys have never burned.

  6. Erin Avatar

    Right now I have no sun routine besides the stand by of toxic sunscreen. I’m very fair skinned and didn’t realize that I had another option. I’m very excited to work on a natural solution!

  7. RJ Avatar

    I have also noticed since going grain-free that I no longer burn, but tan!  I take Vitamin D pills and spend time outside 🙂

  8. Kelly Avatar

    I take a supplement (5000 iu). I work a 9-5  indoors desk job and try to get outside, but some days I just can’t. :-/

  9. Kerry Avatar

    This year I have decided to take time for myself and sunbathe to increase my vit D and just have some time away for myself. (I have 3 children)  I was amazed at the difference in my tan.  I actually have one.  Earlier in the year we made the switch to organic produce, cooking with coconut oil, grass-fed beef and no processed foods.  I recently went to the pool with my children expecting to be there for maybe 1 hour and we ended up being there for 2.5.  I did not burn at all and was in the water most of the time.  I am also Irish with some Scottish so very fair skinned!    

  10. Sara Avatar

    In the summer, I get it naturally.  In the winter, I take 4,000 IU’s.

  11. Jenny Avatar

    I get a lot of sun exposure and I am about to order the cod oil.

  12. Jim Avatar

    We spend alot of time outside working in our garden or fishing on our boat.

  13. Jen Thomas Avatar
    Jen Thomas

    I’ve been taking Astaxanthin and it has been quite miraculous, I honestly notice a difference in my fine lines (I had very few to begin with though), my freckles completely disappeared and my face was COVERED in freckles! I know this is diet related too but I HIGHLY recommend Astaxanthin for any skin issues or hyper-pigmentation. I have a c-section scar that is brown from hyer-pigmentation and it has faded in one year of Astaxanthin more then in the whole 9 years. 

  14. Denise Avatar

    We have rarely used sunscreen because we have some Asian in us; so we are lucky to mostly tan with only the occasional burn.  Through the years, I have felt guilty for not slathering on the sunscreen on my kids and myself; so it is nice to have confirmation that we were doing the right thing by avoiding the sunscreen and enjoying the sunshine 🙂

  15. Angy Avatar

    I am already signed up for the newsletter and receive your feeds in my FB timeline as well.

    On most sunny days I lay out on my terrace balcony in bra and panty so that I can maximize my sun exposure.  I do 15-20 minutes per side.  I am a fair-skinned red head and find that this works great without burning me.  I had a nice little tan last year and hope to get the same this year.  I live in Germany and the weather can go back and forth between cloudy and sunny.  So if I see the chance to get a bit of sun I jump on it!

    1. Angy Avatar

       Forgot to add that I add coconut oil to my coffee in the morning, do my best to eat clean and I use coconut oil as my main moisturizer.

  16. wendy Avatar

    I eat FCLO/butter oil every day, and take D3 supplements… also make sure to spend some time out in the sun as often as possible (though unfortunately we’ve had a very cold rainy summer so far!). So far, no burns, just a lovely golden colour 🙂

  17. Crystal Avatar

    I try to get out in the sun, but I’m sure I’m deficient so I’ve been looking into taking a supplement.

  18. Gabriele hawthorne Avatar
    Gabriele hawthorne

    Which of those supplements do you give to your kids my twins are 7 years old. I try to give them lots of veggies but they are more fruit eaters.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Fermented Cod Liver Oil and probiotics are the main two I try to get in everyday…

  19. Colleen Avatar

    I take 5000 IU vitamin D3 daily as well as the FCLO/Butter oil blend, use lots of coconut oil internally and externally, and don’t wear sunscreen unless I’ll be out for hours. I’m signed up for your newsletter, a fan on facebook, and will share on my facebook page.

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