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Dinner Diva: The case for butter

dinner diva leanne elyI get a lot of emails from people who are, understandably, nutritionally confused. How do you decipher the claims of some of these things? The biggest question I get is regarding the butter/margarine debate. Check this out:

Dear Leanne,

I’m confused. You say I should use butter instead of margarine because margarine isn’t real food. I heard you say it was a molecule away from being plastic on your radio show! But what about the saturated fat? And what about those margarines that don’t have trans fatty acids and have Omega 3 fatty acids in them? They sound like they’re a better choice.

Confused in Boise

Dear Confused,

I understand all the confusion. The food industry has been working overtime to rid itself of the trans fatty acid problem and give margarine a better name. Well, maybe some of that is so, but I say stick with foods that have been around since your great-great-grandmother and you’ll never go wrong. So that means eat BUTTER. Yes, it’s got saturated fat, but you don’t eat much. I do this personally by using whipped butter and going easy. My cholesterol is just fine and I know I’m eating something my body will recognize as food. Too much of anything, even real, good food, is a problem!

The Case for Real Butter (and other healthy fats)

Here is something I wrote years ago explaining the problem. Pretend with me, for a minute, that I am a nutritional attorney defending a bottle of olive oil in a non-fat Court of Food. I am giving closing arguments to Judge Dinner Saver. Take a listen:

“Judge, let me just summarize the defendant’s right to be included in a healthy diet by giving the court these facts:

Fact One: A developing child (before and after birth and throughout childhood) must have fat for normal brain development.

Fact Two: Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that reduces the bad cholesterol (LDL) while not affecting the good cholesterol (HDL).

Fact Three: It satiates and helps with that “full” feeling–helping people not to over eat.

Fact Four: It helps keep skin and hair healthier looking.

Fact Five: It helps food taste better,” I said motioning dramatically to my client, the olive oil.

The Judge was unmoved and eyed me like a piece of lettuce lodged in her tooth. “Everything you say may be true, Ms. Dinner Diva, but isn’t it true that oils are unstable?”

“That is true, Judge. But this is easily overcome by purchasing the right oil. For example, a cold pressed or expeller pressed oil most often found in health food stores, is always a good oil and is labeled as such. Never mind the instability problem–if the oils are stored correctly in the refrigerator after opening, their fatty acids are preserved and no more rancid oils!” I said. But I could see the Judge wasn’t willing to back down and asked the question I had been dreading.

“Well, margarine is made from oil and yet you told me earlier that it was hydrogenated and a bad choice! So you have the audacity to tell the food court to eat BUTTER!” she bellowed.

I sighed and shifted nervously in my chair. “Here we go again,”I thought. “Honorable Judge, while it is true that butter is a saturated fat, it is still real food and is digestible by the body. IF it is eaten in mass quantities, it will be problematic both for your thighs and your heart. Margarine, on the other hand, is hydrogenated oil with fake colors and flavorings. This is a product filled with trans-fatty acids which will actually RAISE LDL levels and reduce the HDL levels.

Not only that, but the trans-fatty acids will age you faster than sitting in a tanning booth with your face slathered in bacon grease, I said.

Judge Dinner Saver removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes and sat for a moment. The tension could be cut with a butter knife.

“Thank you, counselor,” said the Judge finally. “Obviously, we can all use all the help we can get with our health and as far as I’m concerned with regard to The Non-Fat People vs. Olive Oil, case dismissed!” She slammed her gavel down and smiled for the first time.

A cheer went up in the audience. The safflower oil and peanut oil embraced as the butter melted in its chair. It was emotional for every oil and almost every fat…however, the Crisco and margarine left in a huff.

I hope I grabbed your attention–butter is your friend, a delicious one at that! So is avocado, salmon, olive oil, nuts….amazing stuff all of it especially because they all can help you shed the belly fat and boost your brain!

Ready for some delicious recipes packed with healthy fats? Go to www.savingdinner.com

Leanne Ely is a NYT bestselling author and the creator of SavingDinner.com, the original menu planning website, bringing families back to the dinner table for over 15 years.

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