Diet and Nutrition

Ghee: Health Benefits, Uses, and Its Process

Ghee: Health Benefits, Uses, and Its Process

Key Takeaways

  • Ghee is basically known as clarified butter. The process of preparing ghee mainly involves the separation of milk fats from the water. 
  • The consumption of ghee supports and promotes physical wellness and mental health in an individual.
  • Ghee is free from lactose and casein. Hence, people who have lactose and casein intolerance do not have many issues when consuming ghee.

What is ghee?

For thousands of years, ghee has been used across the globe for various purposes. It is truly considered as an ancient health food. Back in 2000 BC, butter was first known by people. It became very popular in the northern regions of India, but did not survive well in warmer parts of the country.

Later, ghee was made part of the daily diet and was also used in various ceremonial practices. Ayurveda healing practices also use ghee since it is believed to promote physical and mental purification with the help of its ability to cleanse and support wellness. The body benefits from ghee both from the inside and outside. Topically, ghee can be used to treat skin rashes and burns. It can also be used as a moisturizer on the skin and scalp. Similar to coconut oil, which has various health benefits, ghee is also called as a healthy multipurpose fat.

Ghee is basically known as clarified butter. It is simmered for a longer period to bring out an inherent nutty flavor. It is traditionally made from buffalo or cow's milk. The process of preparing ghee mainly involves the separation of milk fats from the water. It also needs to be heated to a higher temperature before it starts to smoke. Similar to coconut oil, ghee is also highly nutritious.

The Process of Preparing Ghee

The process of preparing ghee is not complicated, especially if ghee is prepared from grass-fed butter. Preparing ghee at home retains much of its nutrients than buying commercial ghee products. To prepare your own homemade ghee, you will need the following:

  • Glass jar
  • Cheesecloth
  • Mesh strainer and skimmer
  • Deep skillet with a wide base
  • Wooden spoon or any heat-resistant cooking utensil
  • 1 pound grass-fed unsalted butter

Instructions:

  1. Place a pound of butter in a deep skillet and melt it over low to medium flame. It is very important to slowly melt the butter. Keep stirring the melted butter with the help of a long-handled spoon. Let it simmer for a while.
  2. Stir occasionally for about 20-30 minutes until you can see that the milk protein is separated from the gold-colored liquid. White foam will start appearing on top of the liquid and small bits of milk fats would lie at the bottom of the pan.
  3. Very gently, skim this foam with the help of a mesh skimmer and discard it.
  4. Again, another stage of foam would form. Skim and discard this foam as well. The milk fats lying at the bottom of the skillet would turn brown in color, leading to a nutty flavor.
  5. Do not burn it and continue to simmer until it turns golden brown. It is important to note is that milk fat can easily burn if the simmering part is not done properly.
  6. Now, turn off the heat and let it cool at room temperature.
  7. Pour the liquid gold clarified butter in a jar. It will slowly start to firm up by the time it comes to room temperature.

You can refrigerate it if required. At room temperature, ghee can remain fresh for several weeks. However, you have to seal it properly. If it is refrigerated, ghee is known to last for months.

Nutritional Profile of Ghee

Similar to other fats, ghee has a high-calorie content. One tablespoon of ghee contains 112 calories. One serving of ghee also contains 12.7 grams of fat with very minimal amount of proteins. Ghee does not contain any dietary sugar, fiber, and carbohydrates.

Being high in saturated fats, one serving of ghee contains 7.9 grams of saturated fats. Since ghee is nothing but butter in a clarified version wherein the milk solids are being removed, it only contains a lesser amount of calcium. One tablespoon would only contain 1 mg of calcium.

It also has a significant amount of vitamin A at 108 micrograms. Moreover, ghee is known to help enhance the detoxification of carcinogens from the body. When ghee is compared to other oils such as soybean oil, it tends to decrease the activity of enzymes, which is known to activate carcinogens in the liver. There is a significant loss in the amount of water or moisture in ghee compared to butter with only 0.03 grams per serving. This would mean that ghee stays fresher compared to butter for a longer duration. Hence, ghee is recommended while traveling or in storage areas with high temperature. But one should only consume ghee in moderation, since anything above moderation can have its own disadvantages.

Uses

  • Weight gain: Ghee is recommended for individuals who want to gain weight. To effectively gain weight, they should regularly consume ghee or include ghee as part of their diet and it can work wonders for them. Ghee is especially useful for those who have a lean body with skin dryness.
  • Relief from dryness: Individuals who are suffering from dry skin, especially in winter seasons should start consuming ghee. Along with milk, ghee is known to provide effective relief from skin dryness. Ghee is also known to be included in the diet post-surgery.
  • Eyes: In Ayurveda, ghee has been known to help in eye disorders. The process is known as tarpana, which means "nourishment". In this process, ghee is placed over the patient's eyes. The patient would be asked to open and close the eyes a couple of times. This procedure is mainly known to strengthen the eyes and improves vision.
  • Pregnancy: Ghee is considered to be essential in a pregnant woman's diet. It is also ideal for improving overall intelligence, digestion, memory, quality of semen, and pleasant voice.

Benefits

1. High Smoke Point 

Today, there are plenty of high smoke point oils sold and most of them are genetically modified. Hence, it is not healthy for consumption. A few examples of those oils would include corn oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil.

The smoke point has always been known to be an important measurement for any type of oil. Heating oils above their smoke point can lead to the destruction of essential phytonutrients and an increase in the release of free radicals, which are harmful to the body. Hence, cooking oils must be carefully chosen.

Always use oil that has a smoke point of 50 degrees higher than the intended cooking temperature. This is especially true in the case of polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats. Saturated fats such as coconut oil and ghee are pretty stable for cooking rather than the monosaturated fats such as avocado and olive oil. Ghee has a smoke point of 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Suitable for Dairy Intolerance

Ghee is free from lactose and casein. There are certain individuals who are allergic to milk, which is also related to a heightened sensitivity towards casein. A few others can be hypersensitive towards lactose. Individuals who are suffering from a casein allergy can have reactions such as congestion or swelling of the lips, throat, face, mouth, or tongue. Individuals who are suffering from lactose intolerance have a difficult time digesting lactose, but the symptoms, in this case, are less dangerous than the ones with casein allergy. People suffering from lactose intolerance can face reactions such as gurgling, cramps, nausea, gas, vomiting, and a bloating feeling. Due to the process of making ghee, these elements are removed through skimming and straining. Hence, people who have lactose and casein intolerance do not have many issues when consuming ghee.

3. Butyrate

Butyrate, which is also called as butyric acid, is a short chain fatty acid which is very much present in ghee. It acts as a detoxifier and helps improve the health of the colon. Butyrate is known to support healthy insulin levels and also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help individuals who are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. 

Researchers have found out that butyrate helps prevent and treat diet-induced resistance in mice.

4. Rich in Vitamins A, D, and E

Individuals who have gluten sensitivity, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or other pancreatic disorders usually have a problem regarding their body’s ability to absorb vitamin A. Ghee is known to be a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, and E. You can easily start using ghee for cooking and as a replacement for butter since it is healthier than butter.

Vitamin D, which is also a fat-soluble vitamin, can be produced in the body after exposure to sunlight. However, during the winter season, it would be difficult for our body to produce or make enough of these soluble vitamins. Hence, ghee intake is necessary. Ghee is beneficial to the body since it contains vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps repair damaged skin, provides better vision, maintains balanced hormones, and also help in balancing the cholesterol levels in the body. Fat-soluble vitamins are easily absorbed by the body along with fat, and are stored in the gastrointestinal tract. Such vitamins are required in the body to maintain a healthy metabolism and various biochemical functions in the body.

5. Contains CLA

CLA or conjugated linoleic acid is found to be higher in grass-fed cows and their various products. Certain studies reveal that CLA has been known to reduce the risk of tumors, lowers high blood pressure and bad cholesterol, helps reduce inflammation, and lowers overall body fat, thereby maintaining a healthy body.

6. Ghee Is Butterier

The process of making ghee involves the extraction of water and milk fats, which intensifies the flavor of butter. However, the main role of ghee in one's diet is to bring back the body's healthy state and to overcome other conditions such as depression, hormonal imbalance, diabetes, obesity, and heart-related diseases.

7. Builds Strong Bones

Vitamin K2 is yet another fat-soluble vitamin, which is essential for the body. It helps utilize minerals including calcium. Some studies have shown that vitamin K builds bones much better than calcium can. Accurate levels of vitamin K2 in the body can also help protect against certain medical conditions, which would include tooth decay and atherosclerosis (calcification of the arteries). It also provides an overall support for the growth and development of bones.

8. Improvement in Digestion

As previously mentioned, ghee contains butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid. Butyrate is known to help in supporting a healthy digestive tract. It works by stimulating the conversion of fiber into more butyric acid. This process is essential for detoxification to eliminate other kinds of unhealthy fats as well as toxins from the body. Ghee can also increase gastric acid and promotes a healthy and efficient digestion.

9. Weight Loss

Weight loss is achieved when energy from other medium-chained fatty acids present in ghee tend to burn other fats present in our system. In the ancient Ayurveda practice, ghee has been an integral and central part of one's diet. It is believed that it can help in the improvement of gallbladder and digestive functions. According to Ayurveda practice, ghee attracts other kinds of fats and removes toxins from the body.

10. Reduces Inflammation

The amount of butyrate present in ghee plays a vital role in reducing inflammation from the digestive tract and other parts of the body. Ghee is known to create a more alkaline system, which helps reduce overall body inflammation by a reduction of leukotriene secretion as well as reducing prostaglandin in the body. Inflammation is seen as the root cause of diseases such as heart disease, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, and arthritis.