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GHEE – the golden elixir. What's the hype about?

Ghee, also known as clarified butter, has been a part of Indian cooking for centuries.  Indians traditional Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest medical systems in the world, claims many medical uses for Ghee.

In recent years, ghee has gained a lot of attention globally as a superfood packed with nutrients, especially hyped by the keto and paleo diet community.

While there are many good reasons to add ghee to your nutrition, it’s important to know the facts and not get swept up in the hype.

What an interesting history you’ve got.

Ghee, also known as "liquid gold" or "sacred fat", usually prepared from cow’s milk or buffalos milk.

It originates in ancient India when the domestication of cattle and the consumption of butter first began, about 1500-500 BCE. Due to the hot climate in India, butter would often go rancid before it was consumed. So people began clarifying butter as a way to extend its shelf life. 

Fat based products comparable to ghee have been produced by other cattle of Africa such as Uganda, Ethiopia and the Sudan.

In the Middle east Ghee is commonly made from goat, sheep or camels milk and is known as Maslee or Samn and in Iran its called Roghan.

Fits for the Gods

Ghee has not only been in traditional Indian cooking, but also Ayurvedic rituals and Hindu religious ceremonies. The story goes that Prajapati, lord of the creatures, rubbed his hands together to create the first ghee, which he then poured into flames to create his offspring. As a result, ghee is poured into sacred fires by Hindus to this day, a practice thought to be auspicious for marriages, funerals and other ceremonies.

Ancient Sanskrit literature describes ghee as fit for the gods. Foods cooked in ghee are considered superior. Vedic cooking divided all food into kacha khana – food not cooked in ghee –  and pucca khana – food cooked in ghee.

In Hinduism, cows are considered sacred, as well as the dairy products produced from their milk. Ghee, in particular, is held in very high regard, both for its taste and for its nourishing properties.

Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest medical systems in the world, revered ghee for its medicinal properties. According to Ayurveda Ghee is as a cooling food, meaning it lowers the body’s temperature, and for that assists inflammation. Ghee promotes healthy digestion and also nourishes the nervous system, which translates into calm energy throughout the day.

Ayurveda believes that people who are primarily vata dosha – a mind body constitution that represents air, ether and dryness – benefit greatly from consuming ghee due to its grounding, nourishing and lubricating qualities.

Nutritional values of ghee

Ghee is primarily fat. Although, many of us think that the high content of fat in ghee is bad for health but, if you don’t know this, fat is something which is one of the major nutrients that is required by our body to function properly. It is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good fats and are essential for improving the brain and heart health. Ghee also contains butyric acid made of short chain fatty acid, which is a natural supplement for maintaining a healthy colon. In addition Ghee also contains fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K. You would have to eat more fat than is recommended to get enough of these nutrients through ghee. So it’s best to use a small amount of ghee in cooking vegetables and other foods with fat-soluble nutrients so your body can better absorb the nutrients.

So, overall, we can say that ghee is quite nutritious and healthy. Now, let’s move on to its health benefits!

Health benefits of ghee

Ghee is a rich source of vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fats. While fat should be consumed in moderation, studies show that eating fatty foods such as ghee can help the body absorb some essential vitamins and minerals. Cooking healthy foods and vegetables with ghee may help you absorb more nutrients.

Research has found several potential health benefits to consuming ghee: 

Helps the Digestive system – Ghee consumption is strongly related to a health. It is a great source of butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that has been linked to lower levels of inflammation and improved digestive health in human and animal studies.

When you having a tough time with your bowl movements Ghee can aid by healing your digestive tract, which in turn relieves constipation. You can have one tablespoon of ghee at night before bed or have a spoonful of ghee before every meal.

Support Heart Health – Though ghee is rich in fat, it contains high concentrations of monounsaturated Omega-3s and CLA. These healthful fatty acids may help to decrease inflammation and  support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Studies show that using ghee in small quantities as a part of a balanced diet can help for lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.

Reducing fatigue – It is medically proven that our adrenal + endocrine system love healthy fats and get invigorated by its healthy nutrients. When you feel tired in the morning you can try to add a tablespoon of ghee to your morning coffee and perk you energy level in a healthy way.

Combats Obesity – Ghee is a significant source of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. Studies show that CLA may help combat obesity. Research indicates that the CLA found in ghee may help reduce excessive weight gain reduce as well as reduce the mass of body fat in some people. 

Strengthens Immune System – Ghee is rich in Butyric Acid, which helps the body in producing T cells in the gut that stimulates immunity and helps fight diseases. Ghee is also loaded with antioxidants, which boosts the immune system by increasing the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. When your body effectively absorbs nutrients, your chances of falling ill reduces.

Helps You Keep Warm From Within – Ghee is an integral part of Indian winters. According to Ayurveda, ingesting ghee helps you keep warm from within.

Ghee cures cough – Cough comes with winter and to treat it quickly, you would need an effective remedy. Ghee has been used for many years for the treatment of cough as it is quite effective. All you need to do is have a teaspoon of warm ghee directly or you can mix it with ginger powder and have it.

Ghee improves eyesight – According to Ayurveda, ghee can improve your eyesight and protect your eyes from many eye-related diseases.

Soothes and Heals Skin – In addition to eating ghee, some people apply it topically as a creamy salve for wounds, burns, or rashes. Research has confirmed that ghee does contain healing properties for skin due to antimicrobial and antioxidant activity, most likely because of its vitamin A and E content. However, some studies looked at ghee in combination with honey, which has its own beneficial properties

Weight Gain – Though the CLA in ghee has been shown to reduce weight gain in some people, it is also a calorie-dense and fat-rich food. Despite its health benefits, consuming too much ghee can lead to increased weight gain and elevate the risk of obesity

Ghee vs. Butter

Because ghee and butter both derive from cow’s milk, their nutritional profiles and fat content are very similar. These fats are not only used to cook with, but have therapeutic and cosmetic purposes, as well.

Ghee contains a higher concentration of fat than butter. Gram for gram, it provides slightly more butyric acid and other short-chain saturated fats.

It’s also slightly higher in conjugated linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat that could help increase fat loss.

Ghee has a higher smoke point when compared to butter, so it doesn’t burn as quickly. This is perfect for sautéing or frying foods. Butter can smoke and burn at 350°F (177°C), but ghee can withstand heat up to 485°F (252°C).

Ghee also produces less of the toxin acrylamide when heated compared to other oils. Acrylamide is a chemical compound that develops when starchy foods are prepared at high temperatures and can increase risk of cancer.

Ghee is also completely free of the milk sugar lactose and the milk protein casein, whereas butter contains small amounts of each. For people who have allergies or sensitivities to these dairy components, ghee is the better choice.

But is Ghee really healthy ?

Well, it’s a type of fat. And until recently, fats had a universally bad reputation. Fat is a calorie-dense macronutrient, so eating all types of fatty foods was thought to promote weight gain and obesity. Ghee and other types of butter are also high in saturated fat, which was long associated with heart disease.

But the thinking on fat has shifted and foods like olive oil and avocado are now considered satisfying additions to a healthy diet.

Despite its saturated fat content, ghee is often considered to be healthier than other fats since it has short chain and essential fatty acids. Short-chain saturated fatty acids typically come from plants and are generally considered to be healthier than long-chain saturated fatty acids, that you would find in animal products.

This viewpoint is in line with some recent studies tying the consumption of some saturated-fat-rich foods to health benefits.

All this suggests that if you’re healthy and looking to add more fat to your diet, ghee may be a fine option. But there’s not strong evidence to suggest that ghee is a “superfood” that should replace other cooking fats in your diet. People with risk factors for heart disease should advice with a professional and consume it in moderation as a part of a balanced diet.

How ghee is prepared

Ghee is cooked longer than the typical clarified butter you would find in French kitchens. This long, slow-cooking process results in a rich, nutty, caramelized flavour and removes the lactose and casein. Without those perishable milk solids, ghee is completely shelf-stable and can last for a very long time without refrigeration.

Ghee is easy to make at home using just one simple ingredient: unsalted butter.

Ghee is made by heating butter to separate the liquid and milk solid portions from the fat.

To get started, cut 400 grams of butter into cubes and add them to a large skillet or pot on low heat.

First, butter is boiled until its liquid evaporates and milk solids settle at the bottom of the pan and turn golden to dark brown.

Next, allow the butter to melt and bring it to a simmer. Using a slotted spoon, remove any foam or milk solids that float to the surface.

Allow the ghee to cook for 15–20 minutes, until the milk solids begin sinking to the bottom and turn a deep golden color. The ghee should also become very fragrant, with a rich, nutty aroma.

Once it’s ready, turn off the heat and let the ghee cool for a few minutes.

Finally, use a cheesecloth or coffee filter and strain the ghee into a glass container with a lid.

Homemade ghee can be stored at room temperature for 3–4 months or refrigerated for up to 1 year.

Conclusion

For thousands of years Ayurveda has considered ghee to be the healthiest source of edible fat. 

Nowadays, ghee has been widely embraced as a nourishing butter alternative. Ghee is lactose-free, easy to digest, and contains a higher smoke point than butter or oil and does an excellent job of bringing out the best in other healthy foods.

Feel good about adding it to you diet and enjoy the vast variety of health benefits.

Important to note that this essay is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for profession care by a qualified medical profession or doctor.

Sources

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