Butter is a popular dairy product typically made from cow’s milk.
Essentially, it’s the fat from milk in solid form. It’s made by churning milk until the butterfat is separated from the buttermilk.
Interestingly, what dairy cows eat can affect the nutritional value of the milk they produce, as well as the butter made from it (
Although most cows in the United States primarily eat corn- and grain-based feeds, grass-fed meat and dairy products are becoming increasingly popular (
Here are 7 potential health benefits of grass-fed butter.
Regular and grass-fed butters are high in fat and calories. They’re also rich in vitamin A, an important fat-soluble vitamin (
However, studies show that grass-fed butter may be more nutritious. In particular, it contains a higher proportion of healthy unsaturated fatty acids (
For example, grass-fed butter is higher in omega-3 fatty acids. These are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to many health benefits.
One analysis found that grass-fed butter provides about 26% more omega-3 fatty acids than regular butter, on average (
Another analysis determined that grass-fed dairy may pack up to 500% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than regular dairy. Studies have linked this fatty acid to many potential health benefits (
For instance, CLA has demonstrated promising anticancer effects in animal and test-tube studies, though more research is needed (
In addition to boasting a healthier fat profile, grass-fed butter is believed to be much richer in vitamin K2, which plays an important role in bone and heart health (
Summary Compared to regular butter, grass-fed butter has been found to be higher in vitamin K2 and healthy fats, such as omega-3s and CLA.
Vitamin A is fat-soluble and considered an essential vitamin. This means your body cannot make it, so it must be included in your diet.
Like regular butter, grass-fed butter is rich in vitamin A. Each tablespoon (14 grams) of grass-fed butter contains roughly 10% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of this vitamin (
Vitamin A is necessary for vision, reproduction, and optimal immune function. It also plays an important role in growth and development and is involved in forming and maintaining healthy teeth, bones, and skin (
Summary Grass-fed butter is a good source of vitamin A, a nutrient that’s essential for immune function, vision, and more.
Butter is high in beta carotene — a beneficial compound that your body converts into vitamin A as needed to meet your daily requirements.
Studies suggest that grass-fed butter may be even higher in beta carotene than regular butter (
In one experiment, butter made from the milk of 100%-grass-fed cows had the highest amount of beta carotene, while butter from cows that were fed a mixed diet of grass and corn had the lowest amounts (
Beta carotene is also a well-known and potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help defend your cells from potential damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals (
A wealth of observational studies have associated a higher intake of foods rich in beta carotene to a reduced risk of several chronic diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (
However, these studies largely focused on the intake of beta carotene-rich fruits and vegetables — not the intake of grass-fed butter.
Summary Grass-fed butter contains higher amounts of beta carotene than regular butter. Beta carotene is a potent antioxidant that has been linked to a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in two main forms — vitamin K1 and K2.
Vitamin K1, also known as phylloquinone, is the predominant source of vitamin K in most diets. It’s mainly found in plant foods, such as green leafy vegetables (
Vitamin K2 is a lesser-known but important nutrient. Also known as menaquinone, it’s mainly found in fermented foods and animal products, including grass-fed butter (
Although vitamin K2 is less common in the diet, it’s very important for your overall health. It plays a key role in your bone and heart health by regulating your calcium levels (
Vitamin K2 helps support bone health by signaling your bones to absorb more calcium. Several studies have found that people who consume more vitamin K2 tend to experience fewer bone fractures (
Vitamin K2 also helps remove excess calcium from your bloodstream, which may help prevent harmful calcium deposits and plaque from building up in your blood vessels (
In a large population study involving 4,807 people, high intake of vitamin K2 (32 mcg per day) was associated with a 50% reduction in risk of death from heart disease (
Summary High-fat dairy products like grass-fed butter contain vitamin K2, which is a form of vitamin K that promotes bone and heart health.
Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats have long been considered healthy, as studies have consistently linked them to heart health benefits.
Strong scientific evidence shows that replacing some of the saturated fat in your diet with unsaturated fat may help reduce your risk of heart disease (
One easy way to do this is by replacing your regular butter with grass-fed butter.
Some studies have compared the products of grass- and conventionally fed dairy cows. They’ve found that grass-fed butter is higher in unsaturated fats than regular butter (
However, grass-fed butter still contains a significant amount of saturated fat.
Recent research suggests that saturated fat intake may not be linked to heart disease, as health experts once thought. However, it’s best to eat a variety of fats, not just saturated fats, from nutritious sources like nuts, seeds, and fatty fish (
Summary Compared to regular butter, grass-fed butter is higher in unsaturated fatty acids, which have been linked to heart health benefits.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of fat that is mainly found in meat and dairy products derived from ruminant animals like cows, sheep, and goats.
Grass-fed dairy products, particularly grass-fed butter, are believed to be especially high in CLA.
In one experiment, grass-fed cows produced milk providing 500% more CLA than cows fed a corn-based diet (
Studies suggest that CLA may have several potential health benefits.
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that CLA may help prevent certain chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain cancers (
For example, in test-tube studies, CLA induced cancer cell death and slowed the replication of breast and colon cancer cells (
However, human-research findings are mixed.
Some studies suggest that people with diets higher in CLA may have a reduced risk of breast cancer, while other studies have found no correlation between the two (
Studies in mice and rabbits suggest CLA supplements may have the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease by slowing and reducing plaque buildup in the arteries (
Nevertheless, the handful of human studies analyzing CLA’s effect on plaque buildup has shown no benefit at all (
Plus, most studies use concentrated forms of CLA, not small amounts, such as those found in a typical serving of grass-fed butter. For this reason, it’s unclear what effect, if any, this amount would have on your health.
Overall, more human studies on the health benefits of CLA are needed.
Summary Grass-fed butter may contain up to 500% more CLA per serving than regular butter. However, it’s unclear how the small amount of CLA in butter affects your health. More research in humans is needed.
Ultimately, grass-fed butter may be a relatively nutritious replacement for regular butter.
Fortunately, the taste and texture of the two are almost identical, and regular butter can easily be swapped for grass-fed butter in any recipe.
For example, grass-fed butter can be used in baking, spread on toast, or used for non-stick cooking.
Keep in mind that grass-fed butter is still a concentrated source of fat and calories. Though it’s relatively healthy, it’s still best enjoyed in moderation to avoid unintentional weight gain.
Also, be sure to include plenty of other healthy fats in your diet. Eat foods like nuts, seeds, and fatty fish to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of healthy fats.
Summary When used in moderation, grass-fed butter is a relatively healthy and easy replacement for regular butter.
Grass-fed butter is a good source of vitamin A and the antioxidant beta carotene. It also has a higher proportion of healthy, unsaturated fats and CLA than regular butter.
What’s more, it provides vitamin K2, a form of vitamin K that plays an important role in your bone and heart health.
Overall, grass-fed butter is a relatively healthy alternative to regular butter when consumed in moderation.