If you eat butter, let it be from cows that exercised in the fresh air and sun and ate grass in summer pastures, not soybeans and grains in barns. I really like the Organic Valley brand Pasture Butter (and also Grass Fed Milk. ) http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/butter/pasture/ As the cows graze on grass over the long summer days, they produce a milk that provides higher levels of vitamins, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and balanced omega-3 and omega-6 fats. And because they are out in the fields, their milk has the flavor of the terrain, like single origin chocolate or wine, what’s called the “terroir” in fancy french.
Also, like European butters, Organic Valley’s Pasture butter is cultured. And that does not mean they listen to Opera in the barn over the winter. (Though when I spent a summer at a dairy farm in Vermont, they did play music for the cows in the barn, and swore they liked the company. But it was just A.M. radio). That means it is made with microbial cultures just like yogurt is. Which seems to me to make it less cloying and easier to digest than sweet cream butter. Makes sense. In Chinese Medicine as in Ayurveda, anything you do to make food more digestible, like cooking fish with ginger, or adding cardamom to milk, helps your “spleen qi” or “Agni/digestive fire” to transform foodstuffs into energy. Here is the wiki-scoop on cultured butter vs. sweet cream butter (what Americans are used to):
Before modern factory butter making, cream was usually collected from several milkings and was therefore several days old and somewhat fermented by the time it was made into butter. Butter made from a fermented cream is known as cultured butter. During fermentation, the cream naturally sours as bacteria convert milk sugars into lactic acid. The fermentation process produces additional aroma compounds, including diacetyl, which makes for a fuller-flavored and more “buttery” tasting product.Today, cultured butter is usually made from pasteurized cream whose fermentation is produced by the introduction of Lactococcus and Leuconostoc bacteria.
I am unable to opine whether there is a health benefit to these bacteria as pro-biotics, but its hard to imagine there not being one. Anything you do to make fats more digestible, though, means you are creating less gunk in your digestive tract (digestive toxins/Ama in Ayurveda) by lightening the work of your digestive fire/Agni. In any case, for me, I prefer the slightly sour flavor and lighter texture of cultured butter.
Another great advantage of the Organic Valley line is that their products are really organic. And that is not just good for your body, its good for the enviornment. An 8oz. weekly purchase (what is that, a family of 8?) of organic butter prevents the following annually:
21 lbs Synthetic Nitrogen Fertilizer
4.5 oz Synthetic Herbicides & Pesticides
Well, you get the idea.
Most United Stateseans eat too much of everything; so I am not saying you should go out and eat a stick of butter a day. Amongst natural foods, there are none that are unhealthy or healthy, there are only healthy/unhealthy diets. If you are going to eat butter as part of a healthy diet, eat organic butter first, and if possible, from the milk of grass and hay fed cows, not cows made obese with soybeans and grains.
Butter in Ayurveda
Butter, like milk, is cooling, so it pacifies Pitta. Like all fats, it is heavy, which does pacify Vatta, however its cooling property aggravates cold dry Vatta. So its not the best choice for Vatta, but a balanced Vatta can have it as an occasional fat. Sesame and Olive Oil are better choices for Vatta dominant, especially Vatta Kapha, but a Vatta-Pitta can handle occasional butter, especially when feeling heated or in hot weather. Even then its good combined with something warm, like hot grain cereal and cinnamon, or sourdough rye toast with apricot jam.
Like all fats, butter increases Kapha, but all the more so since it is cooling and Kapha is cold water. Not the best choice for Kapha, more than very occasionally. Kapha would do better to choose a warming fat like mustard oil, olive oil, sesame oil, in that order.
copyright eyton j. shalom, l.ac., December 2012, all rights reserved, use with permission.