Ghee: what it’s all about and why you should try it!

Ghee (pronounced with a hard E, as in “he” but with a G in front) is clarified butter. It’s been used in Indian cultures for literally thousands of years. It is also used in other parts of Asia. Recently, it’s gained attention in the US for its health benefits (not to mention its deliciousness).

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What exactly is ghee, or clarified butter?

Ghee is butter (usually from a cow) that has been clarified, or heated slowly to remove the liquid and milk parts.

How do you use it?

Any way you like! It has a high smoke point (450F), so it is great for sautéing veggies and/or meat, cooking eggs, roasting veggies and so on. It’s also nice spread on toast, waffles, pancakes, etc. You can add a little dollop to plain coffee or tea too. It also melts in your mouth right away if you eat it with a spoon…no judgement please 🙂

What does ghee taste like?

Totally different than what I’d imagined. The taste is usually referred to as “nutty.” It reminds me more of a softly sweet yet savory subtle caramel flavor. When you cook with it, the aroma is amazing and will get your digestive juices flowing. The texture is creamy – it’s butter!

What are the health benefits?

Ghee contains more short and medium chain fatty acids, which can be helpful for metabolizing fat. An important short chain fatty acid in ghee is butyrate, which is especially beneficial for colon health.

In addition, ghee may increase levels of super important antioxidants made by the body called glutathione, catalase and super oxide dismutase. These three master antioxidants help the body to neutralize free radicals, deal with chronic stress and reduce tissue damage. Ghee also reduces inflammation in the body by decreasing levels of inflammatory modulators. Studies have shown that ghee may decrease total cholesterol, decrease triglycerides, and increase HDL cholesterol.

But isn’t butter bad for cardiovascular health?

In general, butter contains different types of fats that may affect cholesterol levels, triglycerides, vascular health and plaque buildup. Because of this concern, researchers have studied ghee and found that it is safe in moderation and may confer health benefits. This is largely because the fat content of ghee is different than that of other butters.

Does it contain lactose or casein?

Nope. The lactose and casein are removed in the clarification process.

Is it vegan?

As it is a form of butter, it originates from an animal and thus is not vegan.

Should I look for anything specific when buying ghee?

Yes. Check the label to see that it is from grass-fed cows. Also make sure that no antibiotics or pesticides were used and that it is non-GMO. No other additives. Do not buy “vegetable ghee,” which may contain damaging trans-fatty acids.

Where can I find ghee?

At your local farmer’s market, health food store or online.

Storage?

It doesn’t need refrigeration. Although if you don’t gobble it all up within 3 months of opening the jar, stick it in the refrigerator then.

The information provided here is not intended to replace medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please consult your doctor with specific questions and prior to beginning any significant diet or lifestyle changes.

References:

Chinnadurai, Kathirvelan, et al. “High conjugated linoleic acid enriched ghee (clarified butter) increases the antioxidant and antiatherogenic potency in female Wistar rats.” Lipids in health and disease 12.1 (2013): 121.

Shankar, S. Ravi, et al. “Effect of partial replacement of visible fat by ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid profile.” Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology 46.3 (2002): 355-360.

Sharma, Hari, Xiaoying Zhang, and Chandradhar Dwivedi. “The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation.” AYU (An international quarterly journal of research in Ayurveda) 31.2 (2010): 134.