With the surge in popularity of health trends like the ketogenic diet, healthy fats have garnered a lot of attention lately. Right alongside familiar favorites like olive oil and coconut oil is ghee, a type of fat made by heating butter — ideally grass-fed butter — to boost its natural nutrient profile and flavor. Ghee is full of fat-soluble vitamins and healthy fatty acids, and ghee benefits can range from building stronger bones to enhancing weight loss.
Used for thousands of years and a staple in Ayurvedic healing practices, ghee is one of the most powerful healing foods out there.
The ability to digest lactose – a sugar found in milk – varies depending on the quality of the dairy product, your digestive health, and even your ethnicity. Did you know that 25% of caucasians and up to 97% of Native Americans are lactose intolerant, meaning they lack the enzymes required to breakdown lactose?
Traditional cultures knew how to improve the digestibility of dairy. Raw milk, for example, contains enzymes that break down the lactose. Fermenting dairy into yogurt and kefir breaks down much of the lactose. And the process of creating ghee removes the lactose and leaves behind a pure butter oil.
Casein, the protein component of milk, is blamed for milk allergies (technically, an allergic reaction occurs to the protein in a food). When gut flora is compromised, casein consumption can actually create an opiate effect on the brain because it is not being properly digested. In the creation of ghee, the milk solids containing the lactose and casein get separated and later filtered.
Polyunsaturated oils (think plant oils, like sunflower oil and safflower oil) contain many double bonds and are least stable for cooking. Ghee, however, is a primarily saturated fat and is highly heat-stable for sautéing and baking.
Further, the smoke point of ghee is 485 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much higher than the smoke point of butter at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 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.
We now have research showing that saturated fat consumption does not cause heart disease. For example, there are two monstrous meta-analysis from 2010 and 2014 showing consumption of saturated fat does not correlate with heart disease.
Fortunately, the low fat dogma of the late 20th century and early 21st century is slowly being accepted as the awful nutrition advice it really is. As a matter of fact, Sweden recently became the first Western nation to adopt a low-carb, high-fat approach to nutrition.
The dairy products of ruminants (cows, sheep, goats) grazing on grass provides an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin A. These vitamins are stored primarily in the fat portion, so the concentration of vitamins in ghee is higher than in milk. Vitamin A plays an essential role in hormone balance, liver health, fertility, and stamina.
Contrary to popular belief, vitamin A cannot be obtained from plant sources such as carrots. The conversion of carotene in vegetables to the usable form of vitamin A is insignificant, and made further negligible by health conditions such as thyroid imbalances. The vitamin A in ghee is both immediately usable by the body, and also contains the fatty acid co-factors required for absorption.
Ghee and butter are the best dietary sources of this fatty acid. As with all nutrients in ghee, concentrations of CLA are drastically higher in ghee from grassfed cows.
Numerous studies show that CLA inhibits the growth of breast cancer. Supplementation with CLA has also been shown to cause fat loss and improved body composition in humans. I believe a nutrient from a whole-food source – in this case, CLA in ghee – is more effective than a supplement due to being paired with naturally-occurring co-factors. Further, the fat content of ghee plays an essential role in weight loss due to satiation quality.
Further, the cholesterol in ghee is something to revere, not fear. Science tells us that cholesterol does not cause athersclerosis. As a healing agent in the body, levels of cholesterol rise during periods of stress or when inflammation is present. Providing cholesterol through good quality fats, such as grassfed ghee, allows the body to help address the inflammation.
Interestingly, low blood cholesterol levels are associated with the following:
Grass fed ghee contains the highly elusive nutrient vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is the shuttle than transports calcium into your bones. You can eat as much calcium as you want but it won’t strengthen your bones unless it is accompanied by vitamin K2. As a fat-soluble vitamin, it requires the fatty acids in ghee for absorption.
Ghee contains a significant level of butyric acid, an anti-carcinogenic short-chain fatty acid. Butyric acid has been shown to inhibit the growth of mammary tumors.
Butyric acid is also a biological response modifier, a substance that arouses the body’s response to infection. Studies show that it boasts numerous healing and soothing properties on the intestinal tract. Some strains of beneficial gut flora produce butyric acid, and research shows the butyric acid produced may be a potential treatment for Irritable Bowel Disease.
By removing the milk solids and water from butter, ghee is left with a stronger, more intense flavor than regular butter. Its taste is also often described as nuttier, richer and deeper than butter. When you’re cooking with ghee, you may find that you’ll need even less to get that same satisfying, buttery flavor.
The medium-chain fatty acids found in healthy fats like ghee and coconut oil can boost fat burning and help ramp up weight loss. A 2015 review comprising 13 trials actually found that medium-chain triglycerides helped decrease body weight, waist and hip circumference, total fat, and belly fat compared to long-chain triglycerides. (Source)
Not only that, but CLA, one of the primary fatty acids found in ghee, has also been associated with reduced body fat mass as well.
Curious how to use ghee for weight loss to achieve maximum results? Swap out unhealthy fats like vegetable oils for ghee instead, and try roasting, sautéing or baking your favorite healthy dishes to get the most out of these ghee benefits.
Ghee benefits come from nutrition ghee provides. It’s high in fat and provides an extra dose of several fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin K. One tablespoon of ghee butter contains approximately:
In addition to the nutrients above, ghee is also a good source of butyric acid and CLA, both of which have been associated with a number of health benefits, such as reduced inflammation and increased fat loss.
Ready to start adding this healthy fat into your diet and wondering where to buy ghee? Fortunately, ghee is widely available at most grocery stores and health shops and can typically be found in the ethnic food section or next to other oils, such as coconut oil. You can also easily purchase ghee online from many major retailers or even try your hand at making ghee at home.
Be sure to look for grass-fed, organic ghee whenever possible to ensure you’re getting the maximum amount of nutrients without extra added ingredients.
Ghee is a very versatile ingredient, and there are a multitude of potential ghee uses. In fact, it can be used in place of just about any other cooking oil or fat. Try swapping it in place of butter, vegetable oil or coconut oil in your favorite recipes to add a burst of flavor and get all the wonderful ghee benefits.