Butter From Grass Fed Cows

butterExtra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has tremendous health benefits — studies indicate that extra virgin olive oil may promote cardiovascular, bone, digestive, and cellular health.  It’s full of vitamin E, monounsaturated fat, and a number of antioxidant phytochemicals.   These qualities make EVOO difficult to top in terms of a healthy fat source, but if there was any other fatty food that came close, I’d say that butter from grass-fed cows would be it.

Butter isn’t traditionally considered a healthy food.  It’s been given a bad rap because of its high fat content, but don’t let that stop you from missing out on butter’s amazing nutrient content!  Just because a food is high in fat doesn’t mean that it causes people to gain excess fat (refined and engineered foods do that).  While butter from unpastured cows lacks important nutrients (and for that reason should be avoided like all empty calories), butter from pastured cows (grass-fed) contains nutrients that support a healthy cardiovascular system, strong bones, a healthy metabolism, and that reduce inflammation and prevent “leaky gut syndrome.”  Here are a few of the incredible nutrients contained in butter from grass-fed cows and what they do for your body:

  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) — is only found in meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals.  Studies indicate that CLA promotes lean muscle mass and healthy metabolic function.  CLA also has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • Vitamin K2 (MK-4) — is different than the more commonly known vitamin K1.  It was recently discovered that vitamin K2 has an important role in preventing calcification in the arteries and, at the same time, promoting strong bones and teeth.  Vitamin K2 accomplishes this by activating osteocalcin to deposit calcium where it belongs.  Butter from grass-fed cows is one of the best known sources of vitamin K2, a vitamin that we don’t produce internally.
  • Vitamin A — is a crucial, fat-soluble antioxidant.  Vitamin A is important for eye function, cellular health, red blood cell production, bone health, and maintaining a robust immune system.
  • Butyric Acid — is found in such high quantities in butter that it borrowed butter’s name. This little known nutrient is one of the body’s preferred sources of energy.  Butyric acid is rapidly digested in the intestines and used by the body as fuel.  It’s known to decrease intestinal permeability, which is good because that means fewer harmful molecules or organisms are absorbed into the bloodstream.   Butyric acid also reduces inflammation and improves metabolic function.
  • Saturated fat — isn’t nearly as bad as most people think it is.  Saturated fat is one of best sources of energy (which is why this is the form the body stores fat in). It’s easily burned by the body’s cells and doesn’t cause an insulin spike.  Saturated fat is also a good source of fat energy because it doesn’t throw off the body’s omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio.  Saturated fat only becomes problematic when it’s consumed from refined foods or meat and dairy products that aren’t from grass-fed animals.

Cows were meant to eat grass on the open pasture.  When they eat nutritious food (it doesn’t get much healthier than grass), they produce nutritious milk.  The cream from nutritious milk makes the healthiest, nutrient-dense butter.  Happy cows = happy people.  EAT real food.

References: Effects of CLA on Fat-MassCLA affects MitochondriaK2 Improves Bone StrengthButyrate Attenuates Inflammation

Originally posted 2013-03-13 22:34:36.

Strong bones: Even more important than we thought!

Sure, they allow us to move and generally prevent us from collapsing into a giant blob, those are pretty important things, but bones also have a lot of other important functions. In addition to forming an incredibly strong and lightweight skeleton, our bones play an active role in a number of hormonal and metabolic functions that are crucial for the body’s overall vitality and longevity. Building strong bones is important in order to prevent breakages and fractures during aging, but it goes beyond that.

Our bones aren’t inert; they’re living, constantly rebuilding themselves and manufacturing important cells. Bone cells send and receive unique signals to and from other parts of the body, and the strength of these signals is related to the health and density of the bones. Bones are responsible for making blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. They also regulate the body’s blood-calcium level, which is vital for proper muscle function and pH balance. When circulating calcium level is low, bones release calcium into the blood stream. Low blood-calicum levels over time result in frail bones and osteoporosis. When calcium levels are sufficient, calcium is stored as bone mass or excreted from the system, so it’s incredibly important to get enough calcium and vitamin D on a daily basis.

New research is also finding that the skeletal system plays an important role in sustaining overall youth, metabolism, and vitality by releasing a protein called osteocalcin. Once released, osteocalcin acts like a hormone by signaling fat cells to release adiponectin, which increases glucose sensitivity. Osteocalcin also increases insulin production in the pancreases, boosts testosterone production in men, promotes bone mineralization, and slows the process of muscle loss associated with aging. These are all incredible benefits! Reduction of muscle loss is an especially important factor in regards to aging.

The good news is that it might be possible to increase the amount of osteocalcin released by the skeletal system and therefore slow the aging process. Osteocalcin is released by bone cells called osteoblast, and preliminary research indicates that their formation is supported by eating a diet rich in whole foods containing vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and by maintaining a regular exercise program that includes resistance training. Calcium is only one factor in maintaining healthy bones. Optimum skeletal health depends on the complex interaction of hundreds of nutrients, hormones, and neuro-skeleton electrical signals that naturally follows a creation-based lifestyle!

References:

Human Bone Formation and Osteoblast Differentiation
Peripheral Signaling Involved in Energy Homeostasis
Testosterone and Osteocalcin

Originally posted 2012-11-26 21:55:00.

Lose fat, improve your health….with whole fat dairy?

There is a misconception, pehaps a result of the low-fat craze or the desire to blame our health problems on one cause, that whole fat dairy causes increased body fat and a number of other health problems.  Many have also stopped drinking milk or eating dairy products because of the health problems that can be caused by lactose.  In this article I will explain why the right kind of dairy is actually healthy and why many people don’t have to worry about eating lactose. 

While it can be difficult to wrap our minds around, especially given the message we’ve heard over and over againt that eating fat is bad, whole fat dairy can actually promote fat loss when coupled with an overall healthy diet.  Here’s how: high quality, whole fat milk contains a specific type of fat called coagulated linoleic acid (CLA) that may contribute to fat loss.  In addition to it’s potential fat-loss benefits, CLA also has anticarcinogenic properties.  Since non-fat milk doesn’t have any fat it doesn’t have any CLA either.  Also, CLA is only found in milk from cows that eat a natural grass diet.  By contrast, most cows raised in industrial dairies eat grains like corn rather than natural grass.  You can ensure your milk is from grass fed cows by looking for a label that says “pastured” or “organic.”  Organic milk has to come from cows that have been, at a minimum, partially pastured.  Also, cows that produce organic milk haven’t been treated with growth hormones.

Moreover, whole milk from pastured cows is rich in nutrients and has the ability to satisfy hunger.  Feeling full is an important part of being able to lose unhealhty weight, and whole milk helps accomplish this more than non-fat, low-fat milk, or other sugary drinks like soda or juice.  Milk from pastured cows is also rich in potassium, high quality protein, vitamin A, calcium and vitamin K2 (which isn’t found in industrially raised cows).  Together, these nutrients work together to support lean muscle mass, strong bones, and healthy teeth. Therefore, when milk replaces other less nutritious calories it can improve your overall health. 

Milk from pastured cows has even greater benefits when found in other forms.  For example, regular consumption of yogurt can have an even more pronounced effect on feeling full.  Yogurt also contains high amounts of iodine, an extremely important nutrient for women’s health.  It also contains healthy bacteria for a strengthened immune system and improved digestion.  Another benefit of yogurt is that those who are lactose intolerant can often eat it without any problems, as the bacteria in yogurt break lactose down into easily digestible sugars.

Cheese is another little recognized health food.  Cheese is especially high in K2, a vitamin that is different from the common form of Vitamin K and is gaining recognition for its importnant role in bone heath and preventing artherosclerosis.  Cheese is also high in calcium and protein.

Perhaps most suprising, butter from pastured cows is healthy too and might actually promote fat loss when eaten as part of a diet low in refined sugar and whigh in whole-foods!  While butter is high in saturated fat, the saturated fat is readily used by the body for energy and does not cause a spike in insulin.  Butter from pastured cows is also extremely high in vitamin K2, which helps the body deposit calcium in the bones and teeth, rather than in soft tissues like the arteries (one of the major causes of atherosclerosis).  Whole butter is also high in Vitamin A, an important nutrient for the skin, eyes, and immune system.  Finally, since it is almost pure fat, butter is extremely high in CLA! For a good source of butter, I recommend Kerry Gold (from Ireland) or a local organic butter.  You’ll be able to tell it’s from cows that eat grass by its distinct orange tint, indicating its high nutrient content. Another potential benefit of butter is that it contains little to no lactose.

Which leads me to the issue of lactose intollerance.  Avoiding lactose is one of those health trends that spread when a few people have good results with it and then assume that everyone else needs to do the same.  For most people of European descent, however, lactose consumption doesn’t pose any problems.  Lactose is the form of sugar that is found in milk.  The body breaks lactose down into glucose by releaseing lactase (a digetive enzyme).  Most humans can eat lactose when they are babies because their bodies still produce lactase.  Good thing, because they depend on their mother’s milk for survival.  Unfortunately, many people’s bodies stop producing lactase when they grow older, leading to digestion problems when dairy is eaten.  The bottom line is that unless you are actually lactose intollerant, you don’t need to stop eating dairy, just be sure to eat dairy from cows that eat grass (the food they are designed to eat).  If you have digestion problems or feel bloated or have other reactions after eating dairy, try going without it for a while to find out if that is the problem.

If you are lactose intollerant and still want to enjoy the health benefits of dairy, you might be able to eat yogurt, butter, or whey protein, as these products are low in lactose (be sure to consult with your doctor first).  Also, not all forms of lactose are the same, different cows produce different kinds of lactose. Old varieties of cows, called the A2 variety, such as Jersey and Guernsey, produce a milk that some people who are lactose intollerant can drink.  Most mass-produced milk, however, is produced by new varieties of cows (the A1 variety), like the Holstein, that can cause symptoms such as excess mucus production and other forms of lactose intollerance.

A note on raw vs pasteurized milk.  Many in the natural health community argue that raw milk is far healthier than pasteurized milk – I’m not convinced.  Based on the studies I’ve looked at ,the most common form of pasteurization used, Short Time High Temperature (STHT), has a minimal effect on milk’s nutrients.  Some milk is pasteurized using an Ultra High Temperature process, and this can have a more significant effect on milk’s nutrients and should be avoided.  In my opinion the benefits of STHT pasteurization outweight any small losses in nutrients.  Unless you get raw milk from cows rasied in your backyard of from someone you trust who lives very nearby, the risk of bacteria contamination is real. The more times raw milk is handled and the futher it has to be transported, the more opportunites there are for bacteria contamination or growth.   Raw milk consumption continues to result in sickness or death every year.  Some foods simply need to undergo a minimal amount of processesing to ensure edibility. 

The most important things to ask when purchasing dairy are: “Is it organic?”, “Are the cows grass fed?”, and, perhaps, “What kind of cows does it come from?”  Organic, whole dairy from grass fed cows is nutritionally superior to any other type of dairy and offers a whole host of health promoting nutrients!  So, put down the non-fat milk from cows fed corn and soy and enjoy the rich goodness of a cold glass of whole milk from happy cows that eat green, nutrient-dense, grass!

Pubmed study on dairy and body composition: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22249225
Dr. Weston Price study on K2: http://www.westonaprice.org/fat-soluble-activators/x-factor-is-vitamin-k2
Pubmed study on dairy and appetite: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22380537

Originally posted 2012-07-29 22:48:00.

The Benefits of Using Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 Ghee and Its Benefits: When you think of butter, you probably picture that rich, creamy medium you cook many of your favorite meals in; but not all butter looks, acts or tastes the same. Ghee or clarified butter, for example, is what you get when you remove the water and the milk solids, resulting in a pure butterfat. When butter is cooked long enough for the water in the butter to completely evaporate and for the milk solids to brown and produce a nutty flavor, you get a butter product called ghee. Ghee has a long history in Indian culture-and many other parts of the world!-for its use not only in meal preparation, but in holistic remedies as well. If you’ve never tried ghee, you may want to consider it for one of these delicious or healthy applications: 

Use ghee to fight inflammation: Ghee has been shown to reduce leukotriene secretion and reduce prostaglandin. Prostaglandin levels and leukotriene secretion both play a role in inflammation, which can not only lead to unpleasant physical reactions (redness, swelling, itchiness, etc.), but it can also accelerate the aging process.

Use ghee if you’re lactose or casein intolerant: The method of clarifying butter to turn it into ghee removes most of the lactose and casein contained in butter. Many of those who are lactose or casein intolerant can enjoy ghee without any negative reactions.  

Use ghee for a healthier butter choice: Although saturated fats, commonly found in butter products, should be consumed in moderation, ghee butter has been linked to decreased cholesterol levels in lab trials. Other butter products, such as margarine, are hydrogenated and have been shown to contribute to increased cholesterol levels, a leading cause in heart disease.

Use ghee to boost your daily dose of antioxidants: Ghee contains carotenoids and vitamins A and E. These antioxidants fight free radicals and promote skin cell growth, good vision and immune system health, as well as reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. 

Use ghee to boost your micronutrient intake: Ghee is excellent source of vitamin K2 and CLA,  nutrients that aren’t found in very many other foods. Vitamin K2 may help prevent calcification of the arteries by activating the body’s system that removes calcium from the arteries to deposit it where it’s supposed to be, in the bones. Then there’s CLA, which is a special kind of fat that may provide anti-oxidant benefits and help promote a healthy metabolism.  

Use ghee to increase the effectiveness of some herbs: Ghee helps transport the medicinal properties of some herbs, when ingested, to organs and cells. Some herb mixtures used in Ayurveda (the Hindu system of holistic medicine) that contain ghee have been shown to enhance memory, increase the body’s wound healing ability and display anticonvulsant and hepatoprotective (liver-protective) properties.

Use ghee for flavor: Ghee’s nutty and intense flavor gives it a unique flair in the world of butters. Enjoy ghee on your popcorn without worrying about the soggy factor-the lack of water in ghee keeps the kernels dry! Rice and vegetables also complement ghee’s flavor and texture well, but you can try ghee on any food in your plant-based diet for a strong kick of buttery, nutty sweetness!

Use ghee for cooking: Ghee has a high smoke point, meaning it can be cooked at high temperatures without burning. Use ghee to fry or sauté your favorite foods to produce flavorful dishes, sans the singe!

The next time you’re planning a meal, you may want to walk past the margarine and vegetable oil in the grocery aisles and opt for ghee instead. This exotic butter will spice up your foods and add a little extra health to your diet!

References: University of Kansas Medical Center (inflammation); PubMed

Originally posted 2013-10-22 10:33:48.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Sauteed Spinach with Toasted Sesame SeedsVitamins are essential nutrients (i.e. nutrients that we need for basic function but cannot produce on our own). There are two classifications of vitamins: Water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin B12 (cobalamin), and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A (retinol), vitamin D, vitamin E (tocopherol), and vitamin K.

When something is fat-soluble, it simply means it dissolves in fat. The best way to get these vitamins is consuming them with a little bit of fat, such as butter or olive oil. Not surprisingly, many fat-soluble vitamins are found in foods that are fatty (our Creator is so smart). Most vegetables, however, don’t contain fat, so when people try to be “extra healthy” by not using any oil or fat with their vegetables, they’re actually missing out on the fat-soluble vitamins those vegetables contain.

The interesting thing about fat soluble vitamins is they are not in extremely high demand in terms of quantity. They are actually stored in our tissues, so they do not need to be consumed in massive quantities. For this reason, fat-soluble vitamins (especially vitamin A) can cause toxicity if one is not careful. Toxicity is usually due to a person taking vast amounts of synthetic fat-soluble vitamins. One rarely becomes toxic from vitamins consumed from food sources. So, like in most everything nutrition related, it is best for the body when one consumes, whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Vitamin A (Retinol)
Functions: Absolutely essential for eye health (wards off night blindness and other eye ailments); maintains mucus membranes, skin, and epithelial cells; anti-inflammatory effects; bone and tooth growth; reproduction; immunity.

Dietary Sources: Cod liver oils, sweet potatoes, chicken livers, beef livers, calf livers, lamb livers, eggs, spinach, parsley, paprika, red pepper, cayenne, chili powder , cantaloupe, carrots, lettuce, dried herbs, butternut squash, watercress, mango, tomatoes, butter, beef

Notes: When consuming animal products containing vitamin A, you are actually getting retinol. This is the actual vitamin. Consuming plant-products gives you the precursor (also called the pro-vitamin) beta-carotene. The body turns this into vitamin A.

Vitamin D
Functions: Regulation of the minerals calcium and phosphorus

Dietary Sources: Cod liver oil, herring, pink salmon, kippers, mackerel, sardines, tuna, butter, caviar, salami, ham, sausages, eggs, mushrooms

Notes: The main source of this vitamin comes from the sun. It is synthesized in our skin and can be stored for periods of time (like through the winter). Lighter-skinned people synthesized it very effectively, whereas darker-skinned peoples are not able to synthesize it very well. It is interesting to point out that traditionally, darker-skinned people groups are usually found where sunshine is plentiful, like Africa, South America, and so on. Lighter-skinned people groups herald from colder climates, such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, etc. They need all the vitamin D they can get, and they are more able to make it. Fascinating! Also, stay away from things fortified with vitamin D2. Your body utilizes vitamin D3, and vitamin D2 comes from some sketchy sources.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Functions: A powerful antioxidant, it is actually part of the cell membrane and protects it. Some research suggests it can protect from certain types of cancers as well as heart disease, diabetes, viruses, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A lot of research is still pending on this vitamin.

Dietary Sources: Sunflower seeds, paprika, red chili powder, almonds, egg yolks, pine nuts, fatty meats, wheat germ, liver, dried herbs, dried apricots, spinach, butter, avocado, almonds, raw peanuts (with skins), rye, asparagus, hazelnuts, blackberries

Notes: It really must be taken with food to even be absorbed.

Vitamin K
Functions: Synthesis of blood-clotting proteins and bone proteins

Dietary Sources: Gouda cheese, cauliflower, kale, green tea, turnip greens, spinach, tomatoes, parsley, Swiss chard, runner beans, broccoli, scallions, chili powder, curry, paprika, and cayenne, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, pickles, prunes, cabbage

Notes: Vitamin K1 is found and plants and must be converted to vitamin K2. Animal sources are already vitamin K2. Vitamin K is not stored well in the body like other fat-soluble vitamins, but it does recycle itself.

References:
Understanding Nutrition, 12th Edition (Whitney & Rolfes 2010)
USDA

Originally posted 2013-09-03 09:51:37.

Simple Switch: Choosing the Right Milk

The “Simple Switches” are a series of posts providing examples of easy ways to make dramatic improvements to the average American diet (read more about the Simple Switches at bottom of this article).

The Switch: Organic Whole Milk for Conventional Skim or Low Fat Milk


Priority: High

Reasoning:

  • Conventionally raised milk often contains hormones and antibiotics that can interfere with normal development and the immune system.  Organic milk is free from all hormones and antibiotics.
  • Low-fat or skim milk is missing the fat! The fat in milk is needed for proper absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamin D, vitamin k2, and vitamin A.  Additionally, whole-fat milk is more balanced, promoting sustained blood-sugar levels after consumption.  Milk fats (including cholesterol) are also crucial for the body’s health, as they are used as building blocks for the cell walls, nervous system, hormones, and the brain.
  • Organic milk also comes from cows that spend more time eating what they were meant to eat…grass!  Cows that eat grass produce milk that contains much higher amounts of nutrients, especially vitamin K2 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  These two nutrients help protect the cardiovascular system, promote bone strength, support proper metabolism, and have anti-carcinogenic properties.  Conventionally raised milk (milk from cows that are mostly fed grains) is almost entirely absent of both vitamin K2 and CLA.  These are vital nutrients for growing children and aging adults alike!

Taking it to the next level: To get even more health benefits from your milk, buy non-homoginized, raw or low-temperature pasteurized milk.  Homogenization, the process of dispersing the fat equally through the milk, is nice for a consistent texture, but it can actually damage the fat molecules in the milk.  When the fat particles are broken up, the surface area of the molecules increases, making them more susceptible to oxidation.  Oxidized fat molecules can eventually damage the arteries and/or cause inflammation.  Also, when milk is pasteurized (heated to kill the bacteria), the heating process destroys most of the enzymes that make milk easier to digest.  Pasteurization also destroys the enzyme (phosphatase) that helps the body more effectively absorb and utilize milk’s calcium content.  

References: Effects of Homogenization, Calcium Absorption and Phosphatase

More on Simple Switches: Every simple switch is categorized into a certain level of priority, either “low,” “medium,” or “high.”  Sometimes there will also be the option to “Take it to the next level,” which is a low level priority switch beyond the basic recommendation.  

  • “Low” — important for optimum health, but if you’re on a budget or time restraints, it’s more important to prioritize the other switches first.  Low priority switches are typically the “super” healthy options, which might not be realistic for everyone at a certain stage in life.
  • “Medium” — this switch is going to add significant health benefits, such as added nutrients, but the food the switch is replacing might not be harmful in moderation.
  • “High” — high priority switches should be made, even if it means you have to make room in your budget.  These switches replace foods that are potentially harmful to your health with foods that add significant health benefits.

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Originally posted 2013-07-12 20:02:08.

DIY Ghee (clarified butter) Recipe

Ghee is simultaneously one of the healthiest and tastiest cooking oils.  It’s also a very practical cooking oil because it can withstand high heat without breaking down or smoking.  Ghee made from organic butter contains high amounts of vitamin k2, which is essential for bone strength and cardiovascular health.  It’s also a great source of healthy fats, including CLA, which may provide antioxidant, metabolic, and cardiovascular benefits.  Even more, ghee is far more shelf stable than butter, making it great for traveling or leaving out for easy spreadability.

DIY ghee is easy and fun.  Homemade ghee is also cost saving.  By following the recipe below you’ll save half the amount you would spend on store-bought ghee. Enjoy!

butter
Be sure to use organic, unsalted butter, in order to achieve ghee with the most amount of nutrients like vitamin K2, and CLA
cheesecloth
Cheese cloths are inexpensive and handy. Use 3 or 4 pieces layered together to achieve the best filtering.
buttermelting
Melt the butter on the stove on medium heat.
Ghee-stage-1
Stage 1 – What the butter will look like immediately after it melts
ghee-stage-2
Stage 2 – After the butter simmers for a while it will start to form large bubbles as the water boils out.
ghee-stage-3
Stage 3 – After the bubbles get smaller and become less frequent, a golden foam will form and brown butter solids will sink to the bottom. It’s now ready to pour through the cheesecloth!

Originally posted 2013-07-03 19:36:49.