Butter, healthy friend. With caution to the smoke point
Undisputed lead of Northern Italian culinary tradition – in artisanal pastry, above all – butter results to be also an healthy friend. Furthermore, it’s actually a superfood, thanks to its valuable vitamins portfolio and the high CLA – conjugated linoleic acid – content. To be taken with relative moderation, due to its high energy value (750 kcal / 100 g), like all fats after all. And most importantly, better raw or slightly cooked.
The vitamins of butter
The beneficial nutritional properties of butter are several, as composition tables of foodstuffs by Cra-Nut (Italian Institute for Research on Food and Nutrition) show.
Butter is rich in vitamin A, among other things helpful to vision and the endocrine system. It contains an average of 930 micrograms/100gr, representing 115% of the relevant NRV (Nutrient Reference Value). Though its quantity may vary according to the feed administered to cows from which milk comes from. It is also a valuable source of other fat soluble vitamins, such as E (2,4mg per 100 g), D and K2. Which are useful to a correct absorption of calcium and phosphor, for the benefit of teeth and bones.
The CLA factor
Perhaps the most precious element in the composition of butter is conjugated linoleic acid (c18:3, CLA). Present in even higher amounts when cows have been grass-fed or fed with particular fodders.
This polyunsaturated fatty acid is a precious ally in cancer prevention as well as arteriosclerosis, diabetes and obesity. (2) It protects against hypercholesterolemia and coronary heart diseases. It has beneficial effects on bone formation and has an anti-inflammatory purpose in pathologies such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Butter contains also other fatty acids which are worth of appreciation like glycosphingolipids, deemed to provide a protective function of the bowel.
Caution with the smoke point
A critical element to keep under attention when using butter in domestic preparation is its low smoke point, (1) between 120 and 160 Celsius degrees. It is therefore unsuitable for frying foods, except cases of fast and gentle ‘browning’. Clarified butter is to be preferred in cooking, because of its complete absence of protein and carbohydrates increases heat resistance up to 200° Celsius.
(1) The smoke point is the temperature at which a every food fat starts to release volatile matter- which is visible as smoke that tends to a bluish color- and forms toxic substances such as acrolein
(2) See studies on CLA’s function in reduced risk of diabetes, protective factor in breast cancer prevention, prevention of cardiovascular and arteriosclerosis risks, reducing body mass index