Ghee is the Sanskrit word for clarified butter. It is commonly (usually) used in Indian foods and recipes. It has a very distinct flavor, often described as sweet or nutty. To make ghee pure butter must be heated. As this butter melts the solids settle and the water goes to the top to create a foamy top layer. In between there is a thick oil center which will eventually turn a golden brown. This is the clarified butter (ghee). This will become a solid and should be kept in an airtight container. This clarified butter is very long lasting and does not spoil easily if kept in an airtight container. Ghee is mostly milk fat, which is the reason it has a long shelf life and becomes a solid. It doesn’t need refrigeration. Now days it is easy to find this at Asian food stores and sometimes in the Asian sections of your local market.
Soooooo….. is ghee good for you???
Just like any type of fat, it is recommended that ghee be used in moderation. Too much fat in your diet and your cholesterol will go up. However, ghee is considered more healthful and having less negatives that actual butter because it has lost some of its whey and butter solids at the bottom of the pot when making it. It also has more medium and short-chain fats when compared to butter. These medium and short-chains are easier for our bodies to digest and are not associated with cardiovascular problems, compared to long-chained fats. Therefore even though ghee is mainly saturated fat (like coconut oil), because of it having short chains it is thought to have less negative effects and less likely to cause atherosclerosis (buildup in arteries). There is even research that shows ghee increasing the amount of biliary lipids, which assist in increasing HDL’s (good cholesterol), and evening it’s ratio to LDL’s (bad cholesterol), ultimately decreasing serum cholesterol levels (Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry).
Ghee is also high in Vitamins A, D, E, and K. and helps our bodies properly digest fat-soluble vitamins. This can preserve our vision (Vitamin A) and prevent bone loss (Vitamin D). Research about ghee shows that ghee gives us an antioxidant named conjugated lineolic acid (CLA). CLA is being increasingly studied because early research has shown that this antioxidant has the potential to protect animals from cancers.
Ghee is used as a health food in Ayurveda. Ayurveda may often be thought of as some far off Eastern medicine not usable or relatable to those in the West. However, Ayurveda’s focus on food and diet being the first step to healing the body and preventing illness is very understandable to people now-days dealing with all sorts of allergies and digestion problems. It is said that ghee is healthy for the whole body and an ultimate remedy for problems in the body. Within Ayurveda, ghee is helpful in soothing inflammation, fever, acidity, lubricating joints and assisting in digestion, memory, healthy liver, and immune system. Beyond that, Ayurveda uses ghee to boost body energy, clarity of voice, increase the quality of semen, assist in healing pink eye, healing wounds of burns and ulcers, and detoxifying the body. Although ghee is usually used internally more often than externally, ghee is also ideal for massage for relieving stress, insomnia, and paralysis. Ghee is often prescribed for issues of anxiety and depression, as well as dementia and epilepsy.
If you’re in Dallas, TX, and want to find out more about the benefits of ghee and how it is used in Ayurveda medicine, the following may be good places to start: SweetOjas Ayurveda, Dallas Ayurveda, Pranaa Spa, Nature’s Way Every day.
Even if you don’t want to use ghee within Ayurveda, ghee can be a great cooking option. All the benefits listed at the beginning, as well as, ghee’s great flavor make it a great option for cooking when oil is needed to be cooked at a high heat and for a long time. Since ghee’s smoke point is between 325°F and 375°F, it is a much more stable cooking oil and therefore, less likely to create free radicals.
Now, is ghee better for health than, say, Olive Oil??? Health recommendations state that olive oil is probably better for a long term cooking choice for instances that it can be used. Its smoke point is about 320 degrees F. When deciding what oil to cook with you always have to determine between the health and taste factors. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which are actually considered a healthy dietary fat. If your diet emphasizes unsaturated fats, such as MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), olive oil would be a good choice. However, current research and ancient beliefs show ghee as very healthful also, for multiple reasons. And of course, in regards to taste, ghee adds great flavor to stir-fries, flavorful rice dishes, on chapattis, on meats, and of course special Indian dishes.
Living a Balanced Life is what I always recommend. Gaining the great taste and health benefits from moderate ghee intakes is great! And using health conscious oils (such as Olive or Canola Oil) in other cases is great too!
So….. if you haven’t tried GHEE yet, why don’t you go stop by your local Asian mart and Spice up your life!
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