Many people hate to shop for groceries but I have always enjoyed the grocery store. In my prior life and now as a nutrition coach, I am always intrigued by all the choices we have when it comes to food. I appreciate reading labels and being a food detective. I am forever scanning the shelves for new items so when clients ask me “what I think” I have an answer for them. Okay, yes call me weird but that’s alright! Anyway, I had heard of ghee and had seen recipes using it so I was excited when I recently spotted it at the store while shopping. So what is it exactly and is it healthy?
Many might think ghee is new but it originated in India many years ago. Due to the hot climate, they “clarified” butter to keep it from spoiling. Ghee is merely clarified butter from buffalo or cow’s milk (preferable grass fed) that is simmered for a longer period of time to remove the water, milk fats and casein. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine because it is believed to cleanse and support wellness. This clarified butter heals the body inside and out. Many use it topically to treat burns, rashes as well as a moisturizer for the skin. While I’m not sure I want to walk around smelling like butter to each their own. This might sound familiar to coconut oil and all it’s benefits right? Let’s break down the health benefits of ghee and why you might want to add it to your list of healthy cooking oils.
The smoke point of oil is the temperature at which it will begin to smoke when heated. There are two reasons why this is important for us to know. The first is that once a cooking oil reaches its smoke point, the flash point is not far behind meaning it could catch fire. This is the cause of many kitchen fires. Secondly, the smoke point of oil will determine at what temperature it begins to “oxidize” or loose it’s phytonutrients and form free radicals. This is something you want to avoid. Each type of oil has a different smoke point and that is why olive oil (smoke point 325 degrees) should be used mainly for salad dressings or added at the end of cooking. Coconut oil (smoke point 350 degrees) is the safer oil for frying and higher heat cooking. Ghee (smoke point 450 degrees) is even better. Check out our article on Seed Oils to learn more about oils and which ones to avoid for better health.
The cooking process of making Ghee renders it free of the compounds that cause sensitivities or allergic reactions in people. By removing the lactose and casein from butter, ghee becomes a dairy free alternative. It still retains the delicious, nutty flavor of butter for those dishes we love to enjoy.
Fat-soluble vitamins are important to our health. In the winter months especially, we need to supplement our diets with vitamin D due to the lack of sunlight that is unless you live in the south. Those who have gut issues like Crohn’s disease or leaky gut syndrome etc. will have problems absorbing vitamin A from their diets. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps to balance our hormones, great for healing skin issues among other benefits. Cooking with Ghee will help boost the intake of these necessary vitamins in our daily diets.
Fatty acids are strung together in short, medium and long chains. In short, these chains determine the type of fat (such as monounsaturated) and a particular fat’s health benefit. Ghee contains more than 25% short and medium chain fatty acids which are metabolized differently in our bodies than the long chain fatty acids. Short and medium chain fatty acids are also not linked to the development of cardiovascular disease. Ghee is rich in butyrate, an essential fatty acid, that is detoxifying and beneficial for colon health.
In summary, these are just a few of the many benefits of Ghee. When looking at the over all health of the food you are consuming, also consider the types of oils you are cooking with or adding to your food. Make sure you are using the most beneficial type and at the right cooking temperature so as to maintain the oil’s nutritional value. Check the labels of the food you buy for the oils used in them as well. Avoiding industrial or seed oils will go along way in decreasing inflammation that is currently linked to the development of chronic disease. I admit Ghee is expensive to buy prepared so here is a recipe link to make your own. It’s not complicate and I hope you will consider adding it to the coconut and olive oil you should be currently using.