Ghee has been used for thousands of years, quite literally. It’s truly an “ancient” health food and definitely not a fad. The first known use of butter was back in 2000 BC. It became very popular in the cooler northern parts of India, but didn’t survive well in the southern warmer regions. It’s believed that the southerners are responsible for clarifying butter, in order to keep it from spoiling.
Ghee quickly was integrated into the diet, into ceremonial practice and into Ayurvedic healing practices. It’s believed to promote both mental purification and physical purification through its ability to cleanse and support wellness. Ghee benefits the body both inside and out, and is actually used topically to treat burns and rashes as well as to moisturize the skin and scalp. Much like coconut oil, it’s a multi-use fat that is healthy in many ways!
What is Ghee?
Ghee is clarified butter, but simmered longer to bring out butter’s inherent nutty flavor. Traditionally made from buffalo or cows milk, the process of making ghee removes the water and milk fats, leaving a high-smoke point (meaning that it can be heated to a pretty high temperature before it starts to smoke) fat. Plus, it’s nutritionally rich like coconut oil.
Ghee Benefits vs. Butter Benefits
So how is ghee better than butter? Ghee has a unique nutrition profile without any lactose or casein, but rich in short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids and butyrate. For people who are lactose or casein-sensitive, they can use ghee because the process has removed these allergens. If you’ve been told to stay away from dairy and butter, experiment with ghee made from grass-fed beef!
Butter contains 12-15 percent medium and short-chain fatty acids, while ghee contains 25 percent or greater. The body actually metabolizes these fats in a different manner than long-chain fatty acids. The result? Medium and short chains are not associated with cardiovascular disease.
Saturated Fats: Solid at room temperature, examples include butter, lard, suet and vegetable shortening.
Unsaturated Fats: Liquid at room temperature, examples include corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, canola oil and nut oil.
Trans Fatty Acids (Trans Fats): These are artificial fats that are created from liquid vegetable oil to make them solid and shelf-stable.
Some of the unsaturated oils mentioned above are often touted as “healthy” oils, but I advise everyone to stay away from corn oil, soybean oil and canola oil at all costs. Through the process of making ghee, all of the milk fat solids are removed, leaving a beautiful golden elixir. Unlike butter, ghee won’t burn in frying, and has a smoke-point of 450 degrees, similar to other very unhealthy oils.
Top 10 Ghee Benefits
1. Ghee Has a High Smoke Point
Why is ghee’s smoke point important? Because the vast majority of high-smoke point oils sold today (peanut oil, soybean oil, corn oil and canola oil) are genetically modified cooking oils that are not healthy for consumption. Of course, smoke point is an important measurement of any oil; any cooking fat that is taken above its smoke point is in danger of hitting flash point, the reason for most fires in the kitchen.
In addition to a risk of fire, heating oils above their smoke point destroys essential phytonutrients and can result in an increase of free radicals. Therefore, always be sure to use a healthy oil that is suitable to the recipe and preparation.
ALWAYS use an oil whose smoke point is 50 degrees higher than your intended cooking temperature, especially when it comes to using polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Even though smoke point is important, saturated fats (ghee and coconut oil) are more stable for cooking than monounsaturated fats (olive and avocado), and monounsaturated fats tend to be more stable than polyunsaturated fats (flax oil and fish oil).
In addition to safety, many fats change their fatty acid structure when heated and become unhealthy. So olive oil shouldn’t be used for cooking and only used to add after cooking, in dressings or sauces.
Of the cooking oils/fats below, oils colored RED are those that you should not consume; YELLOW-colored oils are great to consume, but not cook with; GREEN marks the oils that are wonderful for both cooking and eating without cooking.
2. Ghee is Rich in Fat Soluble Vitamins A, D and E
If you have gluten sensitivity, leaky gut syndrome, IBS, Crohn’s or certain pancreatic disorders, you may have a problem absorbing vitamin A. By using ghee for cooking, and as a replacement for butter, you can increase your intake. Vitamin D, also a fat-soluble vitamin, can be made in the body after exposure to sunlight.
However, during winter months, it can be difficult for our bodies to make enough. Ghee benefits the body by improving moisture and contains vitamin E, which is an antioxidant whose role is to repair damaged skin, balance hormones, improve vision and help to balance cholesterol. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed with fat and stored in the gastrointestinal tract — and they are essential to maintaining a healthy metabolism and various biochemical functions in the body. (1)
3. Ghee is Suitable for Individuals with Casein and Lactose Sensitivities
Another one of the health benefits of ghee? It’s lactose and casein-free. Some individuals have a milk allergy, which may stem from a heightened sensitivity to casein, and others may be hypersensitive to lactose. For individuals with a casein allergy, the reaction may include swelling of lips, mouth, tongue, face or throat, hives, or congestion.
Lactose intolerance individuals have a difficult time digesting lactose; however, the symptoms are much less dangerous than a casein allergy. Symptoms of lactose intolerance may include bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, gurgling and cramps. The majority of people who have sensitivities to either casein or lactose don’t have an issue with ghee, as these elements have been removed through skimming and straining.
4. Ghee Made From Grass-Fed Cows Contains CLA
Conjugated linoleic acid or CLA is higher in grass-fed beef and in products made from their milk. This is one of the main reasons I encourage eating grass-fed beef and dairy. While research is still diving into the benefits of CLA, initial studies indicate that it may help to reduce tumors, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and actually lower body fat.
5. Ghee Contains Butyrate, an Essential Short-Chain Fatty Acid
Butyrate, or butyric acid, is a short-chain fatty acid that acts as a detoxifier and improves colon health. It’s been shown to support healthy insulin levels, is an anti-inflammatory, and may be helpful for individuals suffering from IBS, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
A recent study found that “butyrate can prevent and treat diet-induced insulin resistance in mouse.” (2) Researchers agree that more study needs to be conducted to further explore how butyrate affects insulin levels in humans.
6. Ghee Tastes like Butter, But is “Butterier”
The ghee-making process, which includes the extraction of the milk fats and water, intensifies the flavor of the butter. You’ll find that in cooking preparations, to get the taste of butter, you need significantly less to reach satisfaction. In addition, ghee is central to my Healing Foods Diet that focuses on getting the body back to a healthy state while triumphing over heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, hormonal imbalances and more.
7. Ghee Builds Strong Bones With Vitamin K2
Another one of the fat-soluble vitamins, K2 is essential for the body to help utilize minerals, including calcium. In fact, studies show that Vitamin K builds bones better than calcium.
Proper levels of Vitamin K2 help to protect against tooth decay, supports proper growth and development of bones, and protects against the calcification of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis.
8. Ghee Supports Weight Loss, Like Coconut Oil
Energy from medium-chain fatty acids in ghee and coconut oil actually burn other fats in our system, leading to weight loss. In Ayurvedic practice, ghee is a central part of the diet that is believed to help improve gallbladder function, and jumpstart digestive systems. The belief is that ghee actually attracts other fats and removes toxins that are traditionally difficult to eliminate.
9. Ghee Improves Digestion
As mentioned above, the short-chain fatty acid butyrate helps support a healthy digestive tract. It works by stimulating the conversion of fiber into more butyric acid, which is essential for detoxifying as well as the elimination of other fats and toxins. Additionally, ghee benefits include increasing gastric acid and aiding in efficient digestion.
10. Ghee Reduces Inflammation
Ghee’s levels of butyrate play a role in reducing inflammation in the digestive tract and throughout the body. In Ayurvedic practice, ghee benefits the body by creating a more alkaline system that overall reduces inflammation by reducing the leukotriene secretion and reducing prostaglandin in the body. It’s believed that inflammation is at the root of most diseases we face today including Alzheimer’s Disease, some types of cancer, high cholesterol levels, arthritis and asthma.