Ghee, a class of clarified butter, is formed when butter is boiled and the milk solids are removed. The concentrated residue of pure fats that is left behind is ghee.
Traditional clarified butter is created as soon as the water evaporates and the fat is separated from the milk solids. Whereas, while making ghee, the butter (churned from cream) is simmered for a longer time, until the milk solids caramelize.
Ghee has a distinct nutty taste, and does not contain any trace of milk proteins, sugars or water.
It is one of the highest food sources of butyric acid and is also packed with short-, medium- and long-chain fatty acids, both unsaturated and saturated. It also has omega-3 and omega-9 essential fatty acids as well as vitamins A, D, E and K.
In Asia, especially in India, ghee has been used for thousands of years. Apart from culinary uses, it is also used in many religious rituals and for medicinal purposes.
In recent years, ghee has gained popularity across the globe due its potential health benefits.
But like butter, ghee needs to be consumed in moderation to reap the benefits. Moderate use of ghee (prepared from grass-fed cows) is equivalent to about 3 to 4 teaspoons or less per day. When consumed in large amounts, ghee can be harmful to the body.
Here are the top reasons why ghee (clarified butter) is good for your health.
1. Builds Strong Bones
Ghee is one of the few foods that is rich in vitamin K, especially vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is essential for the body to help utilize minerals, including calcium. In fact, this vitamin builds bones better than calcium and a proper level is needed to protect against tooth decay.
Ghee also helps lubricate the joints and connective tissues and promotes flexibility.
A 2001 study published in Nutrition reports that vitamin K can modulate bone metabolism. Besides the gamma-carboxylation of osteocalcin (a protein believed to be involved in bone mineralization), increasing evidence also indicates that vitamin K positively affects calcium balance, a key mineral in bone metabolism.
The study notes that the Institute of Medicine increased the dietary reference intakes of vitamin K to 90 microg/d for females and 120 microg/d for males, which is an increase of approximately 50 percent from previous recommendations.
2. Immune System Booster
Clarified butter is also good for your immunity.
Butyric acid, an important element in ghee, helps stimulate T-cell production, which is important for the immune system to function properly.
Also, the antioxidant activity of ghee due to the presence of vitamin A aids in eliminating free radicals in the body. Vitamin A also helps reduce oxidative stress throughout the body, which can otherwise make the immune system weak.
Vitamin A is also a powerful antioxidant that may help with cancer prevention, especially in cases of ulcerative colitis that could otherwise lead to colon cancer.
3. Boosts Energy Level
Ghee can even give a boost to your metabolism as well as energy level.
The medium-chain fatty acids in it are especially useful for the body to increase your energy level. These fatty acids are quickly processed by the liver and burnt as energy. They do not pass into adipose tissue, which can contribute to weight gain.
At the same time, ghee aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, which are important for better energy and stamina.
Experts recommend athletes use ghee as a consistent energy source.
4. Has High Smoking Point
Ghee has a higher smoking point compared to other oils like coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. This is because heat sensitive components like milk solids are removed from the clarified butter.
This means that till the temperature of 482 degrees Fahrenheit or 250 degrees Celsius, it won’t break into free radicals and release acrolein, the substance responsible for making food smell and taste acrid.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause all sorts of health problems, from premature aging to cancer.
Since ghee has a higher smoke point, it won’t be broken into free radicals easily. This means, you are at a low risk of ingesting those harmful unstable molecules and causing harm to your body.
5. Improves the Digestive Tract
Good digestion is a key to good health, and ghee can support healthy digestion by healing your gut lining.
Being rich in butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid, it nourishes the cells of the intestines. It also reduces inflammatory conditions, reduces leakage of undigested food particles and aids in repair of the mucosal wall.
A 2000 study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology shows that people with unhealthy digestive tracts do not produce butyric acid. This shows that you need to eat foods rich in butyric acid to aid digestion.
A 2013 study published in Przeglad Gastroenterologiczny reports that butyrate supplementation seems to be a promising therapy for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, data on its effectiveness is still very limited.
6. Reduces Inflammation
The butyric acid in clarified butter is one of the most beneficial short-chain fatty acids that the body needs to fight inflammation.
Butyric acid can actually reduce inflammation in parts of the body, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. This is why patients suffering from ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel diseases should include ghee in their diet.
A 2011 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology highlights the potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases, such as inflammatory bowel diseases including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
According to Ayurveda, gentle rubbing ghee on cranky joints can help soothe inflammation, lubricate joints and banish arthritis stiffness.
7. Improves Eye Health
Due to the high amount of vitamin A in ghee, it helps improve eye health and protects against several eye-related health problems.
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that aids in eliminating and neutralizing free radicals that attack the macular cells. This in turn reduces the risk of macular degeneration and the development of cataracts.
The best part about the vitamin A in ghee is that it is immediately useable by the body, and the fatty acid in ghee aids the body’s absorption of this important vitamin as well as other nutrients.
8. Benefits Skin Health
Clarified butter is also beneficial for skin health.
Its moisturizing nature can hydrate dry skin and keep it moisturized for a longer time. It contains all good fatty acids that penetrate deep into the skin and keep it hydrated.
It even prevents premature aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines and saggy skin.
- Warm up a considerable amount of ghee and apply it all over your body. Massage thoroughly for 5 minutes. Wait 10 minutes before taking a bath. Do it daily to enjoy healthy and glowing skin.
- You can also apply a little ghee on your lips and leave it on overnight to prevent and treat chapped lips.
- Due to its high smoke point, ghee can withstand higher temperatures, which is helpful when roasting or frying foods.
- You can store ghee without refrigeration for years and it will remain fresh.
- Since the milk solids have been removed during the process of making ghee, it can be safely consumed by people who are lactose intolerant.
- Ghee is also casein free. Casein, the protein component of milk, is blamed for milk allergies.
- Eating ghee before taking your vitamins may help increase your absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K.
- Ghee can be a good choice for people who are looking for a healthy substitute for butter.
How to Use Ghee:
- Use it as your primary cooking fat for sautéing.
- Swap it for butter for spreading on baked goods.
- Toss steamed vegetables with ghee and sea salt.
- Use it in place of coconut oil or palm oil for baking.
- Add a spoonful of ghee to milk before drinking it.
- Put a little bit of melted ghee in warm soups.