Grass-Fed Butter: Is It Good for You?

Butter is often dismissed as a universally unhealthy ingredient. After all, butter of all varieties is definitionally high in fat because it’s made of milk fat. However, there’s more to this common kitchen ingredient than its fat content. 

Grass-fed butter in particular appears to offer some health benefits to counteract the health risks it poses. It appears to have lower levels of saturated fats and more unsaturated fats than standard butter, for example. This is because grass-fed butter is made from the milk of cows that are allowed to graze instead of being fed high-grain diets. Studies suggest that consuming grass-fed butter in moderation may have more benefits and fewer risks than consuming standard butter. 

A one-tablespoon serving of grass-fed butter contains:

Grass-fed butter is a rich source of:

Grass-fed butter is also a great source of Vitamin A. This vitamin has been connected to a lower risk of conditions like cataracts, diarrhea, measles, and breast cancer.

Potential Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter

Grass-fed butter is a rich source of energy, vitamins, and minerals. However, the same thing that makes grass-fed butter so useful can also create complications for people with certain medical conditions. 

Research has found a number of potential health benefits to eating butter:

Better Digestive Health

Butter is rich in many types of fat, including butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that has been studied for its health benefits. One important benefit of butyrate is its potential effect on your digestive health. Studies suggest that consuming foods rich in butyrate can help fuel the “good bacteria” that live in your intestines. It also appears to help relieve intestinal inflammation, which can cause symptoms like stomach pain, bloating, or irregular bowel movements.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Butyric acid may have another important benefit. While more studies need to be conducted, early trials suggest that consuming butyric acid can help boost energy use and improve insulin sensitivity. For people with diabetes, this may mean that regularly eating small amounts of grass-fed butter could help them manage their blood glucose levels more effectively.

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May Reduce Inflammation

Finally, grass-fed butter is a good source of a nutrient called conjugated linoleic acid. This is a compound that’s currently being studied for its effects on the immune system and inflammatory response. Early trials suggest that consuming enough conjugated linoleic acid may help reduce chronic inflammation and associated decreases in immune function. However, this and similar studies focus primarily on conjugated linoleic acid in much higher quantities than are found in butter, so simply consuming butter may not be enough to see significant benefits. Grass-fed butter has been shown to have up to 500% more conjugated linoleic acid than standard butter.

Potential Risks of Grass-Fed Butter

Because all types of butter are a significant source of saturated fats, cholesterol, and calories, you should consult with your doctor before increasing the amount of butter in your diet. Consider the following before eating grass-fed butter:

Dairy Allergies  

If you’re allergic to any form of dairy — including milk, cheese, or yogurt — you will also be allergic to grass-fed butter.

Cholesterol Concerns

Butter of any sort is a significant source of cholesterol. People with high cholesterol levels may find that consuming grass-fed butter makes their cholesterol worse, not better. 

Heart Disease Risk

Avoid consuming large amounts of any form of butter if you’re at risk of heart disease. Grass-fed butter contains saturated fats, although it does contain less of these fats than standard butter. Saturated fats are connected to a higher risk of heart disease and coronary events. Current nutritional guidelines suggest that you should keep your saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your daily caloric intake.

Weight-Maintenance Concerns

Butter is a very calorie-dense food. Consuming grass-fed butter in significant amounts may make it more difficult to feel satiated and lead to weight gain. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 25, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Clinical Microbiology Reviews: “Effects of vitamin a supplementation on immune responses and correlation with clinical outcomes.”

Diabetes: “Butyrate improves insulin sensitivity and increases energy expenditure in mice.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

FoodData Central: “Butter, salted.”

Foods: “Characterization of Retail Conventional, Organic, and Grass Full-Fat Butters by Their Fat Contents, Free Fatty Acid Contents, and Triglyceride and Fatty Acid Profiling.”

Journal of Dairy Science: Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets.”}.

Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association: “Anti-inflammatory effects of conjugated linoleic acid on young athletic males.”

US Department of Agriculture: “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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