Ghee is a type of clarified butter that contains fewer dairy proteins than regular butter. From a pure nutrition point of view, ghee has 63% saturated fat, 26% monounsaturated fat and about 4 % polyunsaturated fat. This shows that it has predominantly saturated fat so though it is an incredibly flexible ingredient, it consists entirely of fat, so it’s not healthy to eat in large amounts.
Scientifically looking at the fats and oils reveals:
- Heating polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils and butter will form oxidation, which is unhealthy.
- When ghee is compared to the other forms of fats, it is almost entirely made of saturated fatty acids, and thus can withstand very high smoking points, making the food even healthier.
- The saturated bonds in ghee are very stable and thus will not form free radicals when heated.
- Ghee has short chain fatty acids and these types of fatty acids are readily metabolised by one’s body.
- Ghee contains a high concentration of butyric acid and thus possesses anti-viral properties that inhibit the growth of tumours and other cancers.
Although desi ghee is similar to clarified butter, which is produced by heating butter to remove the milk solids and water, ghee is better than butter. Some of the advantages being:
- The saturated bonds in ghee are very stable and unlike butter will not form free radicals when heated. This means that you can easily use ghee for baking, sautéing and roasting without the risk of destroying the important nutrients that it contains, that provide all these wonderful ghee benefits.
- It can withstand very high smoking points, making the food even healthier.
- Ghee contains significantly less water — or moisture — than butter. This lower moisture content means that ghee will stay fresher for longer than butter, making it well-suited for traveling, high temperatures, and storage.
- The smoke point of ghee is 485 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much higher than the smoke point of butter at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Ghee can help boost your intake of vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin K, all important nutrients that play a role in everything from maintaining healthy vision to keeping your skin glowing.
- Ghee is jam-packed with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid associated with a long list of health benefits.
However, if you’re worried about an expanding waistline, it just comes down to following the basics, which include reducing junk, fried food and sweets, eating in moderation, exercising more often, and making fruits and vegetables a part of your daily diet.
While desi ghee may be good for your body in moderate quantities, too much of it can raise your cholesterol levels as it is rich in saturated fats. Similarly, avoid having processed butter that may contain trans-fat and also a lot of sodium that raises your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Consuming 1-2 teaspoons of ghee in your daily diet is helpful to burn down extra weight and to keep your hormones flowing right. It is also useful in a number of ways as mentioned above. Exceeding moderation is when the problem sets in.
The very famous coronary artery disease (CAD) is indicated as a disease from excessive intake of fats and oils, which includes ghee as well.
It has been believed for so many years that intake of saturated fats leads to cholesterol oxidation in the body, hence coronary arteries get blocked. Thereby, the blood flow and supply from and to the heart is hassled. However, recent studies have shown that there is not enough evidence to support this claim.
While in a healthy person consuming ghee may reduce your cholesterol or not affect it at all, it is not advised for people already suffering from obesity, high cholesterol or any other metabolic disorders.
Indians attach special importance to ghee, especially cows ghee, because of its importance in Ayurveda. Ghee has dominated most Indian kitchens for centuries.
But, the metabolic epidemic comprising of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and hypertension (metabolic syndrome X) which have emerged in the recent decades in India has put a question mark on this Indian favourite cooking medium. There is a difference of opinion among health professionals of different fields (Medical, Ayurvedic, Naturopathic etc) about the goodness (or badness) of ghee. To add to the chaos some babas, gurus, bapus and other godmen advocate usage of ghee in the diet. A layman is confused by these conflicting streams of advice. His medical doctor advises him to avoid ghee whereas his spiritual guru/ baba advice him otherwise. Some babas even claim that consumption of ghee reduces blood cholesterol, which is contrary to a conventional medical school of thought.
The data available in the literature do not support a conclusion of the harmful effects of the moderate consumption of ghee in the general population. Factors that may be involved in the rise of CAD in Asian Indians include psychosocial stress, insulin resistance, altered dietary patterns and also increased use of vanaspati (vegetable ghee) which contains 40% trans fatty acids,
Previous research on Sprague-Dawley outbred rats, which serve as a model for the general population, showed no effect of 5 and 10% ghee-supplemented diets on serum cholesterol and triglycerides. However, in Fischer inbred rats, which serve as a model for genetic predisposition to diseases, results of the Previous research showed an increase in serum total cholesterol and triglyceride levels when fed a 10% ghee-supplemented diet.
The point is: what should you do?
Even though the answer is not easy, practical advice is that consumption of a small amount of naturally prepared ghee (about a teaspoonful) may not pose a serious risk to your heart health. However, an individuals biochemistry varies and the response of an individual’s body to different food items is different. So to be on the safe side, discuss with your doctor before the consumption of ghee. This is mandatory if you are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, atherosclerosis, and other metabolic disorders.