What’s Ghee & Why Use It?

January 29, 2020

 “Out of all the oils fit for human consumption, ghee is the best to eat.

– Charaka Samhita, sutra 27, verse 232

Ghee, a type of clarified butter, is a source of dietary fat traditionally used in Indian cooking.  Ghee is prepared by melting butter until the milk solids separate, froth and then settle to the bottom. The solids are then strained away, resulting in a translucent, decadent “liquid gold” with numerous health benefits.

Here’s the science:

Rich in Vitamins

Ghee is a good source of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.  Did you know 1 tablespoon provides approximately 15% of your daily requirements of vitamin A?

The healthy cholesterol in ghee also helps your body covert sunlight into vitamin D and supports your adrenals in making necessary hormones.

Ghee Supports Healthy Weight

Ghee is 65% saturated fat, 25% monosaturated fat & 5% polyunsaturated fat.  The saturated fat content is mainly easy to digest short-chain fatty acids; these are processed by the liver and used as energy, rather than having to pass through adipose tissue or contributing to weight gain.

Ghee from grass fed cows contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which increases metabolic rate, enhances muscle growth & decreases fat deposition- especially in the abdomen.  CLA lowers cholesterol & triglycerides, insulin resistance and helps prevent diabetes.

Moderate amounts of ghee are excellent for pacifying the appetite control centers in the brain due to it’s satiating and nourishing qualities.

Ghee Fights Inflammation & Aids Digestion

 The CLA also prevents inflammation in artery walls and discourages plaque formation/hardening of the arteries.  The omega-3 fatty acids found in ghee also aid in combating inflammation and decreasing levels on unhealthy cholesterol in the body.

Ghee contains butyrate, a short chain fatty acid which not only decreases inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, but blocks the growth of harmful gut bacteria while supporting a fertile environment for healthy bacteria to thrive.  The butyric acid found in ghee can also reduce “leaky gut” symptoms (where undigested food particles pass through intestinal walls) by supporting stronger mucosal linings throughout the digestive system.  This is why scientists link butyric acid to healthy immune system responses.

Ghee is often tolerated by those with dairy intolerances or sensitivities, as the main milk protein (casein) & sugar (lactose) are removed during the cooking process.

Higher Smoke Point

Most bakeries and restaurants prepare foods with vegetable oils, thinking they are a better alternative to animal fats, however many of these oils have low smoke points. The smoke point occurs when the oil being cooked starts smoking; this is a sign of oxidation and the formation of dangerous free radicals.  As ghee has one of the highest smoke points of any oil (465 degrees), it is preferred for use in all high temperature cooking and baking.

For more info on temperature smoke points for other oils, click here.

Why Ayurveda Prefers Ghee

Followers of Ayurveda have always eaten ghee; this is historical, and has continued regardless of our modern diet trends: “fat is good” wait, no “fat is bad,” or wait, “some fat is okay” etc.  Fats have always been regarded as an intrinsic component of our food, to be used and enjoyed in moderate quantities. (never to be taken out or reduced from a food product, ie: “fat free” or “low fat”)

Ayurveda regards ghee as an “anupana,” a vehicle that drives nourishment deeper into the tissues.  Fats help digest proteins, carbs, minerals and all other nutrients in food.  Ghee feeds the “agni” or digestive fire in the same way that fuel feeds a fire.  Without adequate fat, the agni becomes erratic, variable and weak.

Ghee not only contributes to the healthy functioning of the agni, but also builds ojas (immunity), bala (strength) and balances all three doshas.  Consuming ghee lubricates and moistens vata dosha while cooling pitta dosha.  Ghee encourages a smoother passage of all substances inside of the srotas (body channels).

A Final Note

While it’s hard to argue with the health benefits of ghee, remember- all things in moderation.  Even the healthiest of foods can become toxic if ingested in improper amounts.  Large amounts of excessively fatty foods are difficult to digest; overindulging in  ghee can tax the agni instead of helping it and contribute to weight gain.