If you like Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine, you must be familiar with one of its golden ingredients – ghee or clarified butter. Its distinctive fragrance and nutty taste set it apart from other fats. But ghee is not just used cooking in India, but also considered sacred – it even finds a place in religious rituals and ceremonies. Not only is ghee traditionally considered pure, it is said to confer purity to foods that have been cooked in it too.1 Let’s take a look at what this golden fat so prized by the ancients can do for you.
1. Get A Shot Of Vitamins
Ghee contains fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K which play important roles in keeping us healthy.2 Vitamin A plays a part in bone growth, reproduction, tooth development, and regulation of the immune system; vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects essential fatty acids and red blood cells from destruction; and vitamin K promotes bone health and has an important role in normal blood clotting.3 And a spoonful of ghee can give you a healthy mix of these critical vitamins.
2. Feel Energized
Ghee is a great source of ready energy. One tablespoon (or 12.8 g) of ghee will give you 112 kcal of energy enriched with vitamins.4 It also helps that it mostly comprises short chain fatty acids – which the body metabolizes into energy quickly rather than storing as fat.5
3. Keep Your Guts Healthy
Ghee is known to be a great source of butyrate or butyric acid, the fatty acid from which butter gets its name. So what’s butyric acid, you ask? It is a short chain fatty acid that acts as fuel for the cells in the colon. It can block the growth of bad bacteria and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. This way, it helps maintain the health of your gut and improves digestion.6
According to research, oral supplementation with butyrate can improve inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease.7 While bacteria present in our gut can produce butyrate by fermenting dietary fiber (one reason why a fiber-rich diet is good for your gut!), a spoonful of ghee rich in butyrate can do wonders too.
4. Take Care Of Your Heart
Saturated fats usually get a bad rap, but did you know that ghee is good for your heart? Animal studies have shown that consuming ghee rich in conjugated linoleic acid results in lower levels of cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood. Since high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are associated with heart disease, ghee could help keep your heart healthy.8 Just remember to practice moderation and not go overboard.
5. Get An Antioxidant Boost
Normal oxidation in our body produces free radicals which can damage our health. Free radicals have been linked to various diseases like cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation of joints, liver disease etc as well as aging.9 But the antioxidant system in our body can counter the damage caused by free radicals. Ghee is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which supports our body antioxidant system. Animal studies show that CLA-enriched ghee enhances antioxidant enzyme activities in the blood and liver.10
Another plus point with ghee is that it has a high smoke point. That’s the temperature at which an oil starts smoking. Now, not only does smoking oil leave you with a messy kitchen but heating an oil past its smoke point releases toxic fumes and free radicals. But don’t worry – with ghee you can safely turn up the heat.
6. Lose Weight
Yes, you read right, ghee may even help you lose weight! Researchers suggest that this could be because ghee helps in the fast digestion and absorption of food.11 It is also worth noting that conjugated linoleic acid supplements (as found in ghee) can reduce body fat mass and increase lean body mass.12
However, again, do keep in mind that ghee consists mostly of saturated fat and is best consumed in moderation. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of saturated fat to less than 7 percent of the total calories you consume daily.13
Ayurveda’s Golden Child: Traditional Uses Of Ghee
According to ayurveda, ghee is one of the healthiest sources of fat. It is said to nourish ojas, which is the subtle essence of all the tissues in the body. Traditionally prepared cow ghee is supposed to be both detoxifying (samshodhana) and palliative (samshana) and is thought to have the following qualities.
- Ghee protects the body from diseases and promotse longevity.
- It increases the digestive fire (agni) and helps with the absorption of food.
- It lubricates the connective tissues and makes the body more flexible.
- Ghee functions as an ideal vehicle for carrying the therapeutic properties of herbs to the deeper tissue layers of the body, which is why many ayurvedic medicinal preparations involve cooking herbs with ghee.14
Interestingly, antioxidants and essential fatty acids such as DHA which are present in ghee do impart many of the benefits that are attributed to this golden fat in ayurveda.15
Ghee alone or along with honey is used topically to treat inflammatory swellings, wounds, and blisters and is considered to promote quick healing.16 Ghee used for skin remedies is called shata dhauta ghrita in ayurveda. This is the ghee that has been washed with water. When ghee is washed, it turns white in color and the texture too changes to a butter-like consistency. This ghee must be mixed thoroughly with water and then strained. Ideally, this procedure is supposed to be repeated a hundred times (“shata” means a hundred). Practically though, 20 to 30 repetitions should do.17
How To Prepare Ghee
Ghee is essentially butter from which the milk solids have been removed, leaving you with butter fat. It’s fairly easy to make at home.
- Place unsalted butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and let it melt and come to a boil.
- Reduce the heat a little and allow the butter to cook without stirring. A foam will appear on the surface and disappear in a few minutes. Allow a second foam to develop and the liquid to turn a golden color.
- Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth and leave the milk solids behind. And viola! You’ve got ghee.
- You can store it in an airtight container for up to three weeks.18
But you should know that ghee is traditionally prepared in a slightly different way. And if you want to stick to the traditional route of ayurveda, we’ve got a recipe for you:
- Boil cow’s milk and cool it to room temperature.
- Add about 10% curd as a starter culture and incubate for eight to ten hours at room temperature.
- Manually churn the curd till butter floats on top of the buttermilk. Wash the butter with water twice or thrice to remove any residual buttermilk.
- Heat the butter in a steel container till it’s clarified.19
|↑1, ↑14||Sharma, Hari, Xiaoying Zhang, and Chandradhar Dwivedi. “The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation.” AYU (An international quarterly journal of research in Ayurveda) 31, no. 2 (2010): 134.|
|↑2, ↑4||Basic Report: 01003, Butter oil, anhydrous. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑3||Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, and K – 9.315. Colorado State University Extension.|
|↑5||Kerry G. Brock, George M. Diggs,Jr.. The Hunter-Gatherer Within: Health and the Natural Human Diet. Botanical Research Inst of Texas, 2013.|
|↑6||Douillard, John. Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically-Proven Approach to Safely Bringing Wheat and Dairy Back Into Your Diet. Morgan James Publishing, 2016.|
|↑7||Sabatino, A., R. Morera, R. Ciccocioppo, P. Cazzola, S. Gotti, F. P. Tinozzi, S. Tinozzi, and G. R. Corazza. “Oral butyrate for mildly to moderately active Crohn’s disease.” Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics 22, no. 9 (2005): 789-794.|
|↑8, ↑10||Chinnadurai, Kathirvelan, Harpreet Kaur Kanwal, Amrish Kumar Tyagi, Catherine Stanton, and Paul Ross. “High conjugated linoleic acid enriched ghee (clarified butter) increases the antioxidant and antiatherogenic potency in female Wistar rats.” Lipids in health and disease 12, no. 1 (2013): 1.|
|↑9||Antioxidants. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑11||Karandikar, Yogita Surendra, Akshata Sanjay Bansude, and Eesha Ajit Angadi. “Comparison between the Effect of Cow Ghee and Butter on Memory and Lipid Profile of Wistar Rats.” Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: JCDR 10, no. 9 (2016): FF11.|
|↑12||Gaullier, Jean-Michel, Johan Halse, Kjetil Høye, Knut Kristiansen, Hans Fagertun, Hogne Vik, and Ola Gudmundsen. “Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation for 1 y reduces body fat mass in healthy overweight humans.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 79, no. 6 (2004): 1118-1125.|
|↑13||Know Your Fats. American Heart Association.|
|↑15, ↑19||Joshi, Kalpana. “Docosahexaenoic acid content is significantly higher in ghrita prepared by traditional Ayurvedic method.” Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine 5, no. 2 (2014): 85.|
|↑16||Datta, Hema Sharma, Shankar Kumar Mitra, and Bhushan Patwardhan. “Wound healing activity of topical application forms based on ayurveda.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 (2011).|
|↑17||Hebbar, JV. Living Easy With Ayurveda. Partridge Publishing India, 2015.|
|↑18||Larsen, Linda. The Everything Food Allergy Cookbook: Prepare easy-to-make meals–without nuts, milk, wheat, eggs, fish or soy. Adams Media, 2008.|