Grass-Fed Butter Vs Regular Butter: Which Is The Healthy Choice?

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There used to be a long-standing debate about whether it was better to have butter or margarine.

Since the evidence surrounding the health risks associated with trans fats has mounted over the past couple of decades, almost all health experts now agree that it is better to have butter vs margarine.

But, what about regular butter vs grass-fed butter? What is the healthiest butter? Even if it is better to have butter vs margarine, is butter bad for you? Is there a healthy butter? Are there more calories in grass-fed butter or regular butter?

In this article, we will briefly discuss the pros and cons of butter vs margarine, and then we will look more closely at whether butter is healthy and whether it is better to have grass-fed butter or regular butter, along with the actual differences between the two.

We will look at: 

  • Is Butter Healthy?
  • The Differences Between Grass-Fed Butter and Regular Butter
  • Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter vs Regular Butter

Let’s get started!

Sliced butter

Is Butter Healthy?

So, is there healthy butter, or is butter bad for you?

For many years, butter was considered one of the most unhealthy foods, and nutrition experts strongly urged people to limit butter consumption. 

The primary fear surrounding eating butter was the high saturated fat content found in butter.

For this reason, margarine became an “attractive alternative” to butter and was initially touted to be a healthier butter alternative.

However, margarine is typically made from oils that undergo a hydrogenation process so that they are stabilized and semi-solid at room temperature.

This process creates trans fats, which have since been found to be extremely deleterious to your health and much worse for you than saturated fats.

Thus, it is almost universally accepted now that it is better to have butter vs margarine.

Cows eating grass.

The Differences Between Grass-Fed Butter and Regular Butter

Other butter is not demonized in the American diet and Western diet to the degree that it was some 20 years ago; there still is quite a debate about what is the healthiest butter, namely whether you should have grass-fed vs regular butter.

But, what is the difference between regular butter and grass-fed butter? Is grass-fed butter healthier than regular butter? Can you substitute regular butter for grass-fed butter in Bulletproof coffee recipes and other grass-fed butter recipes?

Grass-fed butter and regular butter are both formed from the cream or fat portion of milk from a cow.

In this way, both grass-fed butter and regular butter have the same starting ingredients and production process.

However, the difference between grass-fed vs regular butter is in the way that the cows that produced the cream for the butter were raised.

Grass-fed butter comes from cows that were allowed to graze on grass as their chief diet.

A cow grazing.

Regular butter is typically produced from cows that were fed a diet of grains rather than grass. For this reason, “regular butter“ is sometimes called grain-fed butter because the cows were fed grains such as oats.

Regular butter is generally cheaper than grass-fed butter because you can feed cows on much less land, and they can produce milk a lot quicker when they are fed high-calorie grains such as oats rather than left to graze in large pastures to eat enough grass.

The differences in how the cows that produce the cream used to make grass-fed butter vs regular butter were fed impart differences in the nutritional profile of regular butter vs grass-fed butter as well as the appearance and flavor.

Although the differences in grass-fed butter versus regular butter nutrition facts are not wildly different, the percentages of different fatty acids vary because of the nutrition the cows receive as part of their regular diet. 

Here are some of the key differences between grass-fed vs regular butter:

Butter being cut and placed on toast.

#1: Grass-Fed Butter vs Regular Butter: Appearance

Most people find that grass-fed butter looks and tastes more appealing than regular butter due to its flavor, color, texture, and overall appearance.

Grass-fed butter is said to have a richer taste and smoother texture. 

There are also more nuanced flavors, depending on the time of year that the butter is produced, and the location or source from which the grass-fed butter is derived (what country, region, etc.).

Ultimately, grass-fed butter is said to have more of a pronounced “butter flavor“ than conventional butter.

Even research studies have found that consumer ratings are higher for grass-fed butter vs grain-fed butter.

#2: Grass-Fed Butter vs Regular Butter: Nutrition Facts

Here are the basic nutrition facts for both types of butter: 

Regular Unsalted Butter

  • Serving size: 1 tablespoon, 14 grams
  • Calories: 100
  • Fat: 11g
  • Saturated fat: 7g
  • Cholesterol: 10% of DV
  • Vitamin A: 10% of DV

Grass-Fed Butter, Unsalted

  • Serving size: 1 tablespoon, 14 grams
  • Calories: 100
  • Fat: 11g
  • Saturated fat: 8g
  • Cholesterol: 10% of DV
  • Vitamin A: 10% of DV
A tablespoon of butter.

Benefits of Grass-Fed Butter vs Regular Butter

As can be seen, butter nutrition facts are not significantly different whether you are looking at conventional butter from cows that are fed grains or grass-fed butter in terms of the total calories and total fat per serving.

However, the nutritional profile of grass-fed vs regular butter varies on a micronutrient level, especially within the specific profile of fatty acids in the butter product.

One of the main benefits of grass-fed butter is that it contains more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than regular butter, along with less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fat.

Taken together, the health benefits of grass-fed butter are more aligned with promoting heart health than regular butter nutrition.

Furthermore, another nutritional benefit of grass-fed butter for heart health is that it contains higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compared to regular butter.

Butter.

CLAs are thought to promote heart health, so it is important to note that there are only about 300 mg of CLAs in 1 tablespoon of grass-fed butter, and most research suggests that you need to have upwards of 3000 to 6000 mg of CLAs per day to see improvements in heart health.

Unless you are following some sort of butter diet or doing the keto diet by consuming tons of grass-fed butter, you are unlikely to be eating 10 to 20 tablespoons of butter per day, which would be the amount you would need to see the benefits of the CLAs in grass-fed butter.

Given the fact that they were about 100 calories in 1 tablespoon of butter, this would equate to 1000 to 2000 calories of grass-fed butter every day.

Because butter provides very little nutritional value aside from fat, consuming this much butter every day would likely mean that you would be missing out on other key nutrients such as proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to stay within your daily calorie allowance.

Depending on your dietary needs and goals, as well as your cardiovascular disease risk factors, you may want to limit your butter intake altogether. 

Butter on toast.

Plant-based butters are good for those who follow a vegan diet.

Additionally, plant-based oils such as avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, and flaxseed oil provide much less saturated fat and a higher percentage of healthy polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, which are associated with better heart health.

Flaxseed oil also is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to confirm anti-inflammatory effects on the body and support heart health, brain health, and function.

If you want to have Bulletproof coffee or follow the keto diet by consuming healthy fats, but you want to minimize your butter consumption, you can try MCT oil or coconut oil in place of grass fed butter and keto diet butter recipes.

Ultimately, if you have the financial means to do so, it is better to consume grass-fed butter vs regular butter.

The grass fed butter nutrition is superior to regular butter, and the richer taste may allow you to have smaller servings of butter while still getting the butter flavor. This will save you calories and unnecessary grams of excess fat.

Bulletproof coffee.

However, equally important is to choose organic butter; all dairy products should be organic where possible because conventional dairy products are packed with hormones that are given to the cows in order to increase the productivity of milk.

Although there isn’t a ton of research looking specifically at the effects of livestock hormones on human health, it is generally thought that these types of hormones can disrupt the human endocrine system and may be associated with things such as precocious puberty, gut microbiome dysbiosis, infertility when consumed in high amounts, and weight gain.

Interested in learning more about the benefits and risks of eating more butter as part of a high-fat diet? Check out our article about high-fat diets here.

A variety of oils.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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