The A-Z of Indian Superfoods: Ghee

A kitchen staple in Indian households, associated with the comfort of puris and halwa, and used in many family hacks by elders, this popular Ayurvedic ingredient has achieved superfood status in recent years. We tell you all about its great health benefits.

By Shreya Maji
15 Aug 2021

Ghee is a kind of clarified butter used in the traditional cuisines of India and Middle East. Made by heating cow milk at a temperature under 100°C until the liquid evaporates to leave milk solids behind, ghee retains a significant number of nutrients, and more than that of other kinds of clarified butter because of the gentle heat. In addition to cooking, it is also used alongside herbal medication as a part of Ayurveda.



Is Ghee Healthy?
Ghee is high in saturated fat, and one of the commonly held beliefs about fat is that it is unhealthy. Saturated fat is usually connected to the risk of heart diseases. The relationship between saturated fat and heart diseases is complex, and research is still ongoing. A study published in The British Medical Journal in 2018 shows that saturated fats do increase LDL or “bad cholesterol” which is a risk factor for heart disease, as well as the LDL to HDL (“good” cholesterol) ratio, which is why moderation would be advised to anyone with high LDL levels. But there is no evidence yet to connect the consumption of such fats to heart disease itself, which depends on a variety of factors, including overall diet and lifestyle.

Saturated fats also cover a wide range of dietary fats, among which fatty acids like butyric acid, which is present in good amounts in ghee, capric acid, lauric acid and others are considered to be good, in the sense that they all have no effect on LDL, and in fact have other health benefits.


Benefits of Ghee

1 Ghee is a rich source of Vitamin A.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin which is extremely important for your eye health, immunity system, bone health and healthy reproduction. Ghee is rich in Vitamin A, and one tablespoon of ghee contains up to 13 percent of your daily required intake of Vitamin A.

2 Ghee is rich in Vitamin E.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps lower the risk of a number of cell degenerative diseases, like high blood pressure, arthritis, cataracts and heart diseases. Ghee contains a significant amount of Vitamin E, which can help you get all these benefits of the nutrient.

3 Ghee increases the bioavailability of nutrients.

Recent research shows that fat-rich foods can increase bioavailability, or the absorption of vitamins and minerals by your body. Using ghee to cook vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale, which are rich in fat-soluble Vitamin K, will ensure that your body gets the Vitamin K you need for your bone health.

4 Ghee has anti-inflammatory properties.

In Ayurvedic medicine, ghee was used topically to treat swelling and burns. Scientists have linked this to the presence of butyric acid in ghee. This is a short-chained fatty acid which may lower levels of inflammation, increase digestive ability, and improve colon health. Thus consumption of ghee can give you better gut health.

5 Ghee can boost your immunity.

Ghee contains Vitamins D and K. Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which facilitates normal immune system function, while Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and improving cognitive ability. These, in combination with butyric acid, which also has a range of benefits from fortifying gut health to cancer prevention to improved insulin sensitivity, can help boost your immune system.

6 Ghee can improve your heart health.

Ghee contains a high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids, which according to a study conducted in 2018 by Christian Medical College, Punjab, contribute to the improvement of risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids cause a reduction in triglycerides, raise your “good” HDL cholesterol levels, and even regulate your blood pressure. Ghee can thus have some great effects on your overall health.

7 Ghee can reduce excess weight gain.

Ghee contains conjugated linoleic acid or CLA, which recent studies have shown to help reduce excessive weight gain, and also reduce body mass fat in some people. CLA is linked to benefits for conditions like high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. The medium-chain triglycerides in ghee help in mobilising stubborn body fat and getting rid of it.

8 Ghee is a healthy alternative for those who are lactose intolerant.

Ghee does not contain milk solids, because of which it has very low levels of lactose and casein. Ghee can thus be a good source of dietary fat for people who are lactose intolerant.


How to Use Ghee in Your Diet

1 Moon Milk: Moon milk is an old Ayurvedic recipe that is traditionally consumed before going to bed to improve sleep. Add 1 tsp each of ground cinnamon, ground turmeric, ground ashwagandha, a pinch of cardamom and nutmeg, 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp ghee to a cup of whole or nut-based (like oat, almond or cashew) milk to make this.



2 Ghee has a nutty flavour when you melt it in tea or coffee. Add ½ tsp ghee to your morning cup in order to make it taste delicious.

3 Make your movie night healthier by pouring 4 tsp melted ghee per ½ cup of popcorn kernels instead of butter, and toss to coat it evenly.

4 Ghee has a higher smoking point than butter, which is why it is great for high-heat cooking methods like stir-frying, sautéing or roasting. Use ghee to cook your vegetables and curries.

5  For gluten-free baking, in any recipe that uses butter or coconut oil, consider switching it out for ghee. Cookies, cakes, bread, pie crusts and crackers all taste great when made with ghee.

6 Try a dairy free version of the classic Indian dish butter chicken—ghee acts as a good substitute for butter.

07 Chocolate Spread: The chocolate spreads available in the market are usually made of palm oils, sugar and cocoa. Consider making a healthier homemade version with ghee instead of palm oils. Mix ? cup cocoa powder, ¼ cup ghee, 2 tbsp honey and a pinch of salt in a blender until smooth to make this. Use half ghee and half coconut oil by quantity if you are unsure about the taste.



Potential Risks of Eating Too Much Ghee

1 The studies on consumption of saturated fat is still ongoing, and there has been no final verdict from researchers. There are some whose LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels tend to increase in response to saturated fat. If this applies to you, consume ghee with caution. You should limit your ghee intake to 1-2 tablespoons per day.

2 The cholesterol in ghee might get oxidised if it is produced at high heat. Oxidised cholesterol is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Butter has shown lesser chances of this happening.

The above information has been verified by Dr Lakshmi K, Ph.D Food Science & Nutrition, University of Georgia (USA), Head Nutritionist, URlife.



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