To complicate matters further, very few foods are high in K2 – especially the more potent form known as MK-4. And, nearly all of the ones that do contain it are falsely demonized by politically correct nutritional guidelines. Butter oil and ghee are two of these foods that can be quite confusing.
Butter oil vs Ghee
When seeking a good source of the fat soluble Vitamin K2, two of the most readily accessible foods high in this nutrient are butter oil and ghee. Organ meats also contain high amounts, but sadly, consuming them has really not caught on with most people yet.
By comparison, most people are quite open to eating butter these days. Butter sales are on a huge upswing as is full fat dairy in general. Recent studies consistently point to its benefits, such the Harvard study suggesting that women with ovulatory disorder who eat full fat dairy increase their odds of conception. (1)
In my neck of the woods, I am happy to report that the full fat yogurt offerings in the supermarket are now equal to or larger than the low to no fat selections. This is the first time I’ve seen this in my lifetime! Even just a couple of years ago, I could not find ANY full fat yogurt in regular grocery stores. Everything was no fat or lowfat.
People are clearly getting the message that saturated fat and cholesterol are healthy – not the heart attack causing substances we were led to believe. The data on these nutrients was wrong (or purposely skewed?), as research frequently is that benefits highly profitable factory foods like margarine.
Of course, anyone with a lick of common sense could see through the ruse. Note the numerous healthy, chronic disease-free traditional societies that revered foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol! (2)
This trend leads us right into a discussion of why butter oil and ghee are so well accepted as reliable sources of Vitamin K2 – the nutrient that lowers your chances of getting ill with pretty much anything. Some research suggests it will even reverse heart disease by unclogging the arteries! (3)
Both of these K2 sources come from butter, but is one any better than the other?
Making Ghee from Butter
In a nutshell, ghee is simply butter that has had all the proteins removed. Accomplishing this requires heating the butter so that the proteins can be easily and thoroughly skimmed off.
Eliminating the small amount of protein from butter accomplishes two things.
First, it renders the butter extremely shelf stable. I keep a large jar of ghee right by the stove in our home all the time. I never refrigerate it, and it never goes rancid. My son has a small jar of grassfed ghee that he keeps at the chef station in his college dining hall. The chef uses the ghee to cook his meals instead of the standard bottle of canola oil. The jar of ghee sits there all semester until it is up without any freshness issues.
Secondly, ghee has a much higher smokepoint than plain butter. So, it works well for cooking and won’t burn like butter can.
As a bonus, most people with a dairy allergy tend to tolerate ghee very well. This is because it is the milk proteins or lactose that usually cause the reaction. Both of these are virtually nonexistent in ghee.
Ghee can be made from either good or poor quality butter. Hence, it makes sense to buy only grassfed ghee, or if you choose to make ghee at home (it’s VERY easy), use only grassfed butter. This ensures that your ghee will be high in vitamin K2. If you choose pale supermarket butter from grainfed cows, the ghee you make won’t have much if any K2 content.
The Making of Butter Oil
You might initially think that butter oil and ghee are exactly the same thing. After all, ghee melts at about 95°F/ 35°C, and when it does it looks exactly like …. butter oil!
It is true that butter oil and melted ghee look exactly the same. Visually, you cannot tell them apart. However, there is one big exception. True butter oil comes from raw butter and is completely unheated.
To make butter oil, the proteins are separated from the raw butter via centrifuge instead of heat. This careful processing retains all of the enzymes and probiotics. As with ghee, the butter should come from grassfed cows, else the resulting butter oil will have little to no Vitamin K2.
To my knowledge, only one company produces grassfed butter oil currently in the world. It comes in plain or flavored butter oil varieties that you scoop out of a jar or capsules for convenience and travel.
Should You Use Ghee or Butter Oil (or Neither)?
Whether you choose to use grassfed ghee or butter oil as your source of the MK-4 form of Vitamin K2 is up to you. Butter oil can be pricey for some budgets, so if that is the case you may wish to use ghee.
Of course, if you plan to use it for cooking, it’s not worth it to buy butter oil. Cooking butter oil negates the value of the rawness.
The good news is that heat does not harm Vitamin K2. Hence, if you wish to use grassfed ghee for cooking, neither the processing of the ghee nor the cooking itself will reduce its benefits though the probiotics and enzymes are lost.
For traveling when you won’t have access to a kitchen, the convenience of the butter oil capsules can’t be beat.
Do you have a dairy allergy so severe that you cannot tolerate either butter oil or ghee? If so, try using emu oil instead (liquid or capsules).
Emu oil from birds on their natural diet is also extremely high in Vitamin K2 and works as an excellent substitute for either grassfed ghee or butter oil.
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.