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All about Butter

Learn all there to know about eating nightshades on a Paleo diet.


All About Butter

Before you read the rest of this article, a disclaimer...

If you think fat (especially saturated fat) is "bad" or "unhealthy", you should first read our guide on Fat so we can help you clear up some of these misconceptions.

If you already understand how important and nutritious the right kind of fat is for your body, then you can safely proceed to learn more about one of our favorite fats—butter.

Is Butter Paleo?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. It also depends on how you define Paleo.

The strictest form of Paleo, often called "Strict Paleo," excludes all neolithic foods, dairy included.

To Strict Paleos, butter is not Paleo.

But if you ask any Modern Paleo, "Is butter Paleo?", you'll get an answer like this: "Not technically, but I eat it and recommend it."

What it comes down to is not whether butter is considered Paleo or not Paleo, but whether butter is considered healthy or not healthy.

And quality butter is healthy... very healthy.

As simple as that.

Let's look at how and why.

butter is paleo

Why Butter is Healthy

Butter is not like other forms of dairy. Heck, in our book, butter is its own food group.

So the first thing we need to do is look at what butter is.

Butter is mostly pure saturated butterfat with trace amounts of lactose and casein. The small amount of lactose and casein make butter "ok" for most people with lactose intolerance, but usually not ok for those with severe milk allergies.

(We looked at some of the problems with dairy in section 12, with lactose and casein being the main source of problems for most people.)

Considering saturated fat is the primary calorie in butter, it's easy to see why butter has become such a popular product for Real Food Paleos.

It's pure saturated fat... and we love our saturated fat.

When you shift your nutrition mindset, you go from avoiding fat to seeking it out. And when this life-changing shift takes place, butter becomes a heaven-sent.

It has a multitude of uses—cooking, homemade mayo, pan sauces, basting, etc.—and it's delicious and nutritious.

Of course, not all butter is created equally.

As it goes with any food that comes from an animal, the health of the animal is of paramount importance in determining the quality of the butter.

Omega-3s in butter

The best butter comes from the best milk-producing animals.

When an animal eats a natural diet—grass for cows—the animal is healthier than when it eats a diet unnatural to its species—like when dairy cows eat GMO grains. 

When the animal is healthier, it produces healthier milk.

So when industrialized dairy cows are fed GMO feed (and injected with hormones), they get fat and sick and produce milk that has a skewed omega-3 to omega-6 balance.

They make unhealthy milk. And unhealthy milk translates to unhealthy butter, cheese, yogurt, and so on.

And this is, fundamentally, why you want to avoid all non-organic, mass-produced dairy products.

Typical omega-3 to omega-6 ratios for healthy, grass-fed beef is around 1 to 1.5 while grain-fed industrialized dairy cows often produce milk with ratios as high as 1-20 (o3 to 06).

One of the primary issues with the Western diet is this imbalance of omega-3s to omega-6s. The average Westerner eats way too many omega-6s because that's what's prevalent in industrialized animals and fat-containing processed foods.

When it comes to anything dairy, stick with grass-fed.

Grass-fed dairy cows produce milk with a better fatty acid profile than grain-fed cows.

When you choose grass-fed dairy products, you are likely supporting smaller producers that treat their animals humanely. And this is a huge win for the good guys in the food industry. Keep supporting them!

On the flip side, when you buy mass-produced milk, you are supporting the very thing that is keeping our country sick; industrialized food (and mistreated animals).

milk from healthy grass-fed cows

Milk from ruminants such as cows and sheep contain higher levels of beneficial CLA. Grass-fed beef, and the dairy it produces, is an excellent source of CLA.

CLA research suggests that it may protect against diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Simply put: grass-fed beef is better than grain-fed beef in nearly every way.

So the first thing to consider when buying butter is whether the milk comes from grass-fed dairy cows. The brand we love the most is Kerrygold.

The next considerations you should take note of when choosing any dairy product are whether it's organic or not, and how the animals were treated.

Kinds of Butter

Sweet Butter

Sweet butter is made from fresh cream and not fermented cream (like cultured butter). Nowadays, this term is broadly used to refer to unsalted butter.

Clarified Butter

Is butter that has the whey protein and casein proteins skimmed off. 

It's super easy to make at home. Do this: 1. Heat butter on low heat until it melts. 2. Let it cool 5 minutes then skim off top layer of whey. 3. Slowly pour out the liquid butterfat, leaving the casein protein at the bottom of the pan. (You could also strain through cheese cloth.)

Clarified butter has a higher smoke point than butter and since the whey and casein is removed, it is a purer form of butterfat that people with dairy issues can usually tolerate.


Ghee is one step up from clarified butter. It is clarified butter that has been heated long enough to separate and remove all of the water and milk solids, leaving behind only pure butterfat.

It has a slightly more nutty flavor than clarified butter and a slightly higher smoke point. 

The Skinny on Butter

We consider grass-fed butter a superfood.

We like it blended with Wild Coffee in our Wild Butter Brew recipe. (You must try it.)

We cook with it. Melt it and pour it over our veggies. Make pan sauces. And so on.

High-quality grass-fed butter should be a staple in the Real Food kitchen and in every smart persons diet.

colin stuckert CEO Wild Foods