Ghee has been considered a health food in India for thousands of years. It’s rejuvenating, health-boosting and has a delicious flavor. Ayurvedic health science regards ghee as a health tonic which can help get rid of many ailments.
Not only does it treat digestive diseases, but people also use it as an energy booster and a tonic for brain health. This form of clarified butter has become quite popular in the western world in recent years.
It is now being recommended as an alternative to butter thanks to its numerous health benefits.
Some of the popular benefits of ghee are that it strengthens bones, improves digestion, helps in weight loss, can prevent cancer, etc. Let us learn more about ghee and its benefits in detail.
What is ghee?
Ghee is a type of clarified butter. It is made by simmering butter on the stove top for a few minutes. This process causes the milk solids, water, and other impurities to separate out. These impurities are then strained out, leaving pure ghee.
Once the milk solids have been removed, you do not need to store ghee in the refrigerator. Pure ghee solidifies at room temperature.
History of ghee
History of ghee dates back thousands of years. Ghee originated in India around 2000 BC. Around this time, butter had become quite popular in northern India, but it could not survive the warmer temperatures of south India.
So, the people in southern India started clarifying butter to make it last longer. Soon ghee became a part of the religious ceremonies and Ayurvedic medicines.
Traditionally ghee is believed to promote mental and physical purification, and this is the reason why people use ghee in Ayurvedic detox treatments.
According to the Hindu belief, ghee is considered to be the food of Gods. It is believed that Lord Prajapati first created ghee by rubbing his hands together to churn it. He then poured it into the fire to create his offspring.
Benefits of ghee
1. It has a high smoke point
Ghee is excellent cooking oil as it has a high smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke. When this happens, important phytonutrients break down, causing the fat to oxidize and form harmful free radicals.
The smoke point of ghee is 485 degrees Fahrenheit which is much higher than that of butter. This means you can use ghee for cooking, frying, and baking without worrying about destroying its essential nutrients.
2. It is lactose and casein free
Are you aware of the fact that 25 percent of Caucasians are lactose intolerant? They lack the enzyme that helps break down lactose.
This condition can lead to flatulence, bloating, vomiting, and cramps. Individuals with casein allergy can develop reactions that include swelling of lips, face, tongue, hives, and congestion.
Most of the people with lactose and casein allergies can safely consume ghee as the milk solids that contain casein and lactose are removed during the creation of ghee.
3. Contains conjugated linoleic acid
Ghee is one of the best sources of conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. Several studies have shown that CLA is highly effective in reducing body fat, reducing inflammation, preventing cancer and lowering blood pressure (1, 2).
The concentration on CLA is much higher in ghee from grass-fed cows.
4. Boosts intake of vitamins
Ghee provides several essential vitamins like vitamin A, K, and E to the body. Vitamin A, which is a fat-soluble vitamin, plays a critical role in hormone balance, liver health, fertility, and stamina.
Grass-fed ghee also contains vitamin K2, which is crucial for providing calcium to the bones. Vitamin E also plays the essential role in maintaining healthy vision and clear skin. It also helps in healing of wounds.
5. Contains butyric acid
Ghee is a rich source of butyric acid, an anti-carcinogenic short chain fatty acid. Studies have shown that butyric acid improves insulin sensitivity and increases energy expenditure (3). It also helps fight inflammation and improve immunity (4).
Butyrate also plays a vital role in the maintenance of intestinal homeostasis and overall health of individuals (5). Butyric acid is made by the gut flora when you eat fiber. It plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy digestive system.
6. Strengthens bones
Ghee is rich in vitamin K, which plays an important role in blood clotting, brain functioning, and heart health. Vitamin K is also essential for bone health as it provides a specific protein that is needed for maintaining calcium in our bones.
According to a 2003 research that studied 1112 men and 1479 men, a reduced vitamin K intake is associated with low bone mineral density in women (6).
7. Helps in weight loss
Ghee contains medium chain fatty acids which help in burning fat, and they help in weight loss. According to a 2015 analysis of various trials, medium chain triglycerides are more effective in inducing a reduction in body weight and composition as compared to long-chain triglycerides (7).
Ghee contains CLA, a type of omega-6 fatty acid, which plays a vital role in improving lean body mass while reducing body fat.
8. Improves digestion
Ghee helps to heal your digestive tract. It is rich in butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that nourishes the cells of the intestines.
Butyric acid in ghee helps in reducing inflammatory conditions, reduces seepage of undigested food particles and aids in the repair of mucosal wall.
It also helps provide relief from constipation. According to a 2013 study, the butyric acid helps reduce pain during defecation and the contraction of muscles in the intestines (8).
9. Reduces inflammation
Ghee contains butyrate, which helps in reducing inflammation in the body. Butyrate helps in preventing conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and even cancer.
10. Tastes better than butter
The flavor of ghee improves when you remove the milk solids. You can enjoy the nutty flavor of ghee by using just half the amount as compared to butter.
11. Can prevent cancer
Ghee is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has potent anti-cancer properties. CLA acts as an anti-oxidant which encourages cancer cells to self-destruct.
According to a study in the Journal of Nutrition, the anti-tumor effects of CLA are enhanced by the fatty acids in ghee.
12. Improves heart health
Studies have shown that substituting vegetable oils with ghee can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating saturated fats like ghee can prevent the progression of heart disease in women with metabolic syndrome.
How to make ghee?
You can make ghee easily in your kitchen. For this, you need 16 ounces of organic, grass-fed unsalted butter.
In a saucepan heat this butter on a low flame till it has completely melted. When this liquid starts to boil, reduce the heat further and skim off the bubbles that rise to the top.
Continue to simmer till only a clear, honey-colored liquid remains in the pan. After it has cooled down, strain the impurities with the help of a cheesecloth and store this ghee in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Nutritional values of ghee
A 56 grams serving of ghee provides (9) –
- Calories: 407
- Total fat: 46 grams
- Cholesterol: 122 mg
- Sodium: 6 mg
- Carbs: 0
- Protein: 0
- Vitamin A: 1418 IU (28 % of daily value)
- Calcium: 13.6 mg (1% of daily value)
- Vitamin E: 1.3 mg (7% of DV)
- Vitamin K: 4 mcg (5% of DV)
Uses of ghee
Like coconut oil, ghee is also extremely versatile. It can be used for cooking, skin and hair care and for maintaining oral health.
Swap ghee with butter or vegetable oil in your recipes. Its high smoke point makes it easy to use for sautéing and frying. You can enjoy its nutty flavor in your food.
2. Skin and hair care
Ghee has natural moisturizing properties. You can use it on the hair as a deep conditioning mask. You can also rub it on dry and chapped skin or lips as a natural moisturizer.
Ayurveda recommends using ghee for daily self-massage. Just warm up some ghee in a pan and use the warm ghee and rub it on your body, arms, and legs. Rubbing some warm ghee on your feet before you go to bed can help you sleep more soundly.
4. Oral health
Ghee can also be used for the Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling. Swish one tablespoon of ghee in your mouth for 5 to 10 minutes. It helps to pull out all the toxins in the gums and the mouth.
Ghee is an extremely healthy option if you take it in moderation. However, overeating it can have a negative impact on your health. Ghee is fat, which if consumed in excess can lead to diarrhea and indigestion.
You also risk gaining weight if you use too much of ghee in the long term. Some studies have found that the cholesterol content in ghee can get oxidized when exposed to high heat (10). This can lead to several health problems.
Unlike coconut oil, ghee is made from butter, so it is not vegan. People following vegan diets should stay away from ghee.
Ghee is a form of clarified butter, which is a healthy alternative to butter and vegetable oil. Though it originated in India in 2000 BC, it is gaining popularity in the western world due to its health benefits.
It is lactose and casein free, helps strengthen bones, reduces inflammation, improves digestion, and helps in weight loss. However, we must take it in moderation to enjoy its various health benefits.