Ghee is a type of clarified butter commonly used in South Asia and the Middle East. Clarified butter is produced by melting butter to separate solids and water from butterfat. During the process, water evaporates; a few solids float to the surface while others sink to the bottom. What remains after the solids are discarded is called clarified butter.
Ghee and butter both come from cow’s milk, so their nutritional content is similar. The main differences are:
- Ghee does not contain the same amount of dairy proteins, making ghee more digestible for people with lactose intolerance.
- Ghee has a higher smoke point than butter. Butter can burn at 350°F, but ghee’s smoke point occurs at 485°F.
- Ghee contains more fat and calories than butter does.
With so many healthy unsaturated fats and vitamins, ghee is a highly nutritious cooking staple.
Ghee is high in calories, so moderation is key to capitalizing on ghee nutrition. One tablespoon contains about 110 calories, plus saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and protein.
Ghee is notably rich in saturated fat, with almost 8 grams per serving. The American Heart Association established guidelines on saturated fat intake and recommends getting no more than 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. This means that saturated fat intake above 13 grams a day may increase the risk of heart disease.
Ghee also contains vitamins A, E, and K, and traces amounts of calcium.
Is Ghee Healthy?
Ghee contains both saturated fats and unsaturated fats. These two types of fats have different effects on the body. Unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats because they lower bad cholesterol. In contrast, saturated fats may increase the risk of heart disease when not consumed in moderation. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, your total fat intake, regardless of the type of fat, should not be more than 20 to 35% of calories per day.
Let’s break down some of ghee’s key benefits.
Casein and Lactose-Free
This benefit applies mainly to people who have a sensitivity to casein or who are intolerant to lactose. Ghee is free of casein and lactose, so it is easier to digest than milk.
People with a casein allergy may experience strong reactions to dairy, including swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue. Those who are milk intolerant find it hard to digest milk sugar lactose, and symptoms are less severe; they include bloating, cramps, and headaches.
As casein and lactose are removed during the process that results in ghee, people with allergies or intolerances usually do not experience issues. Even if you are not intolerant, you might feel heavy if you eat butter, especially at night. Ghee is a lighter option.
Contains Healthy Fatty Acids
Ghee is loaded with butyrate and conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid that offers great benefits. Studies suggest that conjugated linoleic acid may have a positive effect on cancer, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and diabetes. Additional research showed that long-term intake of linoleic acid may reduce body fat mass in healthy overweight adults.
Butyrate, also called butyric acid, is a fatty acid that supports the gastrointestinal system. Studies found that butyrate may have a therapeutic effect on inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer. Additional research showed that butyrate may help to inhibit colonic carcinogenesis and improve inflammation and intestinal motility. Another study concluded that butyrate intake may prevent and treat insulin resistance in mice. Butyrate also plays a key role in promoting a healthy microbiome.
Improves Digestive Health
The fatty acid butyrate is essential for gut health. Studies found that butyrate can help patients with inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. In the past few years, research has been investigating the stimulating effects of butyrate-producing bacteria on the human colon. This activity promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Additional studies have shown that butyrate may have therapeutic effects on constipation, such as reducing pain during defecation. Researchers have also discovered that butyrate may decrease visceral sensitivity in healthy humans. This condition plays a role in intestinal motor abnormalities and abdominal discomfort. In addition, butyrate may reduce intestinal inflammation and support mucosal barrier function by stimulating intestinal mucus production.
Supports Bone Health
Ghee contains vitamin K, which is crucial for heart, brain, and bone health. Vitamin K plays an important role in bone metabolism. A study that analyzed the diet of more than 2,000 people found that low dietary vitamin K intake was linked to low bone mineral density in women, increasing the risk of hip fracture. No association between dietary vitamin K intake and bone mineral density was found in men. Ghee does not contain a lot of vitamin K, but it can offer great benefits when combined with other good sources of vitamins.
Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Butyrate in ghee may inhibit inflammation. Long-term inflammation may lead to the development of chronic diseases. A study conducted in France showed that butyrate may reduce inflammation by decreasing proinflammatory cytokine expression. These anti-inflammatory properties could be applied to a variety of diseases connected to the gastrointestinal system, and possibly help patients with other diseases such as arthritis and even cancer.
Where to Buy Ghee Butter and How to Use It
It is easy to find ghee in grocery stores. Although ghee can be placed on shelves because it does not contain the dairy proteins found in butter, it is usually found in the refrigerated section close to butter. If you do not find it there, take a look in the oil section.
Ghee is usually sold in jars. If you do not find it in your grocery store, you can easily order it online, or you can make your own ghee.
Look for grass-fed organic ghee to get the all-natural nutrients without artificial additives. You can use ghee for sautéing vegetables and replace butter with ghee when you bake. You can also use it for recipes that call for cooking oil. As ghee is widely consumed in India, why don’t you try an Indian recipe to start? Like samosa!