Monday, July 25, 2011

Is All Butter Created Equal?

The embrace (some might say exaltation) of butter is, in some respects, what sets the Primal eating plan apart from strict paleo. It is essentially pure animal fat with only minor traces of dairy proteins and sugars remaining, and for that reason I consider it a worthwhile staple. But, to answer the question posed in the title, not all butter is created equal. Most of us are in agreement that the nutritional content of the animal’s flesh depends on the content of its diet, and the same goes for butter.

We’ve covered similar ground with other foods – olive oil, cheese, chocolate, to name a few – but butter’s special. A quick glance around the forum and other online paleo/Primal/real food communities reveals that people are mad for butter. Perhaps it’s because we’re subject to a steady barrage of anti-butter propaganda from day one on this earth; perhaps it’s due to the fact that the stuff tastes like heaven and goes with nearly everything. Whatever the reason, butter knowledge is important.

Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed

The eternal battle rages on. While the grass-fed camp may be outnumbered, they are plucky, pugnacious fighters with superior armament, training, and tactics. Once they finish off grain-fed butter in Spartans-at-Thermopylae fashion, I expect them to make short work of margarine. Here’s why it’s so lopsided:

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) Content

CLA is a funny fatty acid. It’s actually a trans-fat, but it’s a good, naturally occurring one. Instead of a group of candle wax makers creating trans-fats in industrial vats by hydrogenating cottonseed oil into disgusting, technically edible faux-butter, the special digestive systems of grass-fed ruminants produce CLA internally. The resulting trans-fat – which has been linked to superior heart health, suppression of tumors, reduced belly fat (although in pigs, I’m not sure that’s what we’re after!), and greater fat loss in the obese and overweight – pops up in the flesh and dairy of the animal. As far as cows go, pasture feeding leads to dairy CLA levels 3-5 times that of grain-fed cattle (PDF).

Winner: Grass-fed Butter

Vitamin Content

We’re drawn to colorful things, especially foods. Bright berries, verdant greens, multicolored fruits and peppers – these are the naturally occurring foods with the most phytonutrients. In fact, the actual dyes responsible for providing color to vegetation, like the blue in blueberry, are also usually antioxidants. Funny how that works out, eh? The same is true for butter. You ever notice how grass-fed butter actually looks like butter? It’s a deep yellow, sometimes bordering on orange, whereas grain-fed butter is white and waxy. It’s yellow because it has more carotene (think carrot, think orange) and Vitamin A. It’s got more carotene because it comes from cows that eat fresh vegetation rich in the stuff. From pasture to ruminant to digestive tract to butterfat to butter to you. Grain-fed? From the study I just linked, even back in 1933 they understood that “the oil cakes and cereals in common use are incapable of bringing about this result” of yellow, vitamin-rich butter.

Vitamin K2, in case you weren’t aware, appears to reduce, prevent, or even counteract arterial plaque, and it helps the body use calcium correctly and effectively. Vitamin K2 is another vital component of grass-fed butter. As Dr. Weston Price observed, only cows subsisting on fresh green grass produced butter imbued with significant levels of the all-important “Activator X,” which most people agree is vitamin K2. Cow stomach fermentation turns K1 (found in leafy greens, like kale, chard, spinach, and, yes, leaves of grass) into K2, which then shows up in the dairy fat. How much Vitamin K1 do you think there is in corn? Not much at all (PDF).

Winner: Grass-fed Butter

Fatty Acid Composition

Whether it’s grass-fed or grain-fed, butter is rich in saturated (about 2/3) and monounsaturated (just under 1/3) fat. The rest is polyunsaturated, but this is where grass-fed and grain-fed really differ. Cows raised on pasture produce milk fat with an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 1. Yes, equal amounts. A balance. Grain-fed cows, on the other hand, produce a ratio tilted heavily toward omega 6. It’s true that we’re talking about relatively miniscule amounts of polyunsaturated fats here, but I prefer the balanced ratio. And if you’re putting away as much butter as I can, those insignificant amounts of omega 6 can begin to add up.

Winner: Grass-fed Butter


Flavor is usually a subjective determination. What tastes better is entirely a matter of personal opinion, right? Not in the case of butter. Grass-fed butter tastes objectively better using any parameter. Creaminess? Smooth, yellow grass-fed butter can be eaten and enjoyed like candy. Richness? Grain-fed is weak and insipid in comparison. Mouth feel? Grass-fed coats the interior (in a pleasant way), while grain-fed comes off as watery and unnatural.

Winner: Grass-fed Butter

All that said, grain-fed butter is still a better option than conventional cooking fats, like vegetable oil or margarine. I still request restaurant food to be cooked in butter, completely aware that it’s probably white as a ghost and totally grain-fed. The saturated fat in regular butter isn’t any less stable.

Grass-fed isn’t as tough to find as you might think
, though. And even if it’s more expensive, it’s still cheaper than shelling out the dough for exclusively grass-fed meat. In fact, for those of you who can’t regularly eat pastured meat, eating lean cuts of conventional meat cooked in a quality grass-fed butter is a great compromise.

Watch out for these brands near you:

A favorite, fairly easy-to-find brand is Kerrygold, an Irish dairy whose cows are all pastured and whose butter is incredible. I get mine for $2.69 at Trader Joe’s, but I’ve seen it in basic and specialty grocery stores, too (albeit for slightly higher prices). Look for the silver foil (unsalted) and gold foil (salted) packages.
Anchor butter is another tasty one. It hails from New Zealand, land of reliably grass-fed lamb, and I’ve seen it at Whole Foods for a reasonable price. If you can’t find it there, you could always order online in bulk. Just freeze the extras.

Organic Valley
has a seasonal pastured, cultured, salted butter that usually appears in spring, which is when the grass is at its greenest. I’ve had it a few times. It’s good and a bit tangy, and it comes in a green foil package. Skip the regular Organic Valley stuff, which gets some grain.

Check farmers’ markets.
If you’ve got a dairy stall, you’ve probably got access to good butter. Talk to the producers about the cows’ diet.


Learn the slang that’ll help you blend in with the cool kids at the next Weston A. Price Foundation meet-up.

What is cultured butter?

Cultured butter is traditionally made from fermented, or soured, cream. It’s not actually the butterfat that ferments, but rather the trace amounts of lactose sugars present. Nowadays, though, most commercial cultured butter is “cultured” by the incorporation of bacterial cultures. “European style” butter is cultured butter.

What is “sweet butter”?

Historically, sweet cream butter came from fresh cream, rather than soured or fermented cream. Relative to cultured butter, it’s rather “sweet.” These days, it’s often just another way to describe unsalted butter. Sweet butter is better for cooking, as most recipes assume the use of unsalted butter. Also, since salt is a preservative, sweet butter tends to be fresher (since it has to be, having no preservatives).

What is clarified butter?

Heat butter until it melts, let it cool and settle, then skim off the top layer of whey protein and pour off the butterfat, leaving the casein proteins on the bottom – you’ve got clarified butter.

What about ghee?

Ghee is basically pure butterfat, rendered down and stricken of all lactose and dairy proteins. It’s ultra-clarified butter in that it reaches a temperature high enough to cook off the water and brown the milk solids, which imparts a nutty flavor to the finished product. Properly made, ghee can stay on the counter for about a year without going bad. If you’ve got one, check your local Indian grocer. They’ll have huge tubs of intensely yellow ghee for sale. Is it all grass-fed? I’ve no idea, and the rich color isn’t a reliable indicator since the color could come from the browned milk solids. Anyone know for sure?

There are clear winners and losers in life. Grass-fed butter wins handily and grain-fed loses. There’s not much more to say other than get out there and find yourself a decent source of grass-fed butter!

Monday, July 11, 2011

**DATE CHANGE** Live In Motion is going to Mexico this October Puerto Vallarta Fitness Getaway

We apologize for re-posting the same article on our fitness getaway to Puerto Vallarta this fall but we are very excited about this and want to make sure everyone is aware of this fantastic opportunity! Please read below and click on the link at the end of the post to get more information.  If you need to contact us for more information or to BOOK your trip with us please email us at

Puerto Vallarta Fitness Getaway
**DATE CHANGE** October 7th - October 14th, 2011

A vacation like you’ve never experienced before! Boot Camp on the beach, Yoga overlooking the ocean, nutritious meals and much more!

If you are interested at all please let us know. 

Your Fitness and Health Getaway includes:
  • 7 days/7 nights in a beautiful Italian style villa
  • Nutritious meals prepared by a Holistic Chef
  • Morning walks on the beach
  • Boot Camp style training on the beach
  • Lots of free time to wander the city and enjoy the culture
  • Freedom to participate as much or as little as you please2 organized adventure tours
  • 2 spa treatments (massage, pedicure, manicure or facial)
  • 1 special outing including a gourmet meal

For more details about this fantastic vacation click here:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Recipe: Fish Chowder With Dill

This hearty soup is excellent for arthritis. Turnip makes a sweet, tasty broth with twice the vitamin C of potato. Tablespoon for tablespoon, dill is richer in calcium than cream.

1-2 Cups Fish or Veggie Stock
1 Cup Onion - diced
4 Stalks Celery and Leaves – Finely Chopped
1 Cup Turnip – peeled and diced small
1 Tbsp Brown Rice Flour
7.5 Ounces Fish of your choice
1 Cup Peas – frozen
1 Tbsp Each – unsalted butter and crispy kelp or dulse flakes
1/2 Tsp Each – Tabasco Sauce and Ocean Salt
2 Cloves of garlic - minced
1 Cup Half and half Cream
4 Tbsp Fresh Dill – finely chopped
Dash Cayenne pepper

1) Combine first four ingredients. On medium heat, in a soup pot, heat stock with onion, celery and turnip. Cover and steam until soft.

2) In a small dish, add a little cold water to flour. Stir into soup pot. Bring soup to just boiling, then reduce heat. Add fish, peas, butter, crispy kelp and Tabasco sauce. Stir until heated through (5 min). Turn off heat and stir while adding salt, cayenne, garlic and cream.

3) Serve Immediately. If not serving immediately, remove from heat and cover, to prevent cream from curdling. Use low slow heat to reheat. Garnish with a tablespoon of fresh dill.

Source: Cooking with Herbs and Spices by Lori Nichols-Davies.

Monday, July 4, 2011

How losing sleep can make you gain weight

We've always stressed to our clients the importance of overall lifestlye factors such as proper sleep and stress management for maintaining a healthy weight. Check out this quick article to see the effect that just one night of poor sleep has on your metabolism.

A recent study that appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that loss of sleep can lead to weight gain, partially due to a slowed metabolism.
The really interesting part of the article is this one: "The team found that even a single night of missed sleep slowed the volunteers' metabolisms the next morning, reducing their bodies' energy expenditure for tasks like breathing and digestion by five to 20 percent, compared with the morning after a good night's sleep."

It used to be thought that missing out on sleep caused fewer calories to be burned simply because people were tired the next day and didn't want to move around as much, but according to this admittedly small study, it's decreasing the caloric burn of breathing and digestion. That's not "just because I'm tired;" that's a core metabolic decrease due to decreased sleep.

It's interesting, and reinforces the importance of getting a good night's sleep, but more on that in a moment. I think the real issue with not being properly rested and its effect on weight is the voluntary effect it has, rather than involuntary such as a somewhat-decreased metabolism. I mentioned that if you're tired, you don't want to move around much, and this can include things like skipping workouts. If you slept well and are bursting with energy, jobs get done, weights get lifting, paths get run on, and bicycles get ridden. Not so if you're exhausted.

Even more important is the effect on ingestive behavior, meaning what you eat. Focusing on healthy eating requires using your brain and your will to make the right choices. If you're tired, you're more likely to make bad, calorically dense food choices.

And here is an interesting thing about sleep that might help lower your stress: it's okay for it to be broken up. It turns out that broken sleep is the norm, but we've somehow got the idea that we're supposed to be sleeping eight hours straight every night. If we wake up in the middle of the night, it stresses us out and we can't fall back asleep, and that is a problem.

However, knowing that a brief waking period after a few hours of sleep is perfectly normal can help lower your stress about it and prevent your brain going into overdrive with thoughts of "why can't I sleep? What's wrong with me?"

So the next time you wake up in the middle of the night try thinking, This is totally normal; I do it. I'll fall back asleep soon. And it will increase the likelihood that you do.