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. It 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. But what is ghee butter, and why should you add it to your pantry?
What Is Ghee?
Ghee is similar to clarified butter, which is produced by heating butter to remove the milk solids and water. However, in comparing ghee vs clarified butter, ghee is simmered longer to bring out the butter’s inherent nutty flavour and is left with a higher smoke point than butter, meaning that it can be heated to a higher temperature before it starts to smoke.
Not only that, but ghee is rich in beneficial nutrients and contains several fatty acids that are important to health. Plus, ghee has numerous benefits, and some of its components have been shown to do everything from boost weight loss to improve digestion and relieve inflammation.
1. It Has a High Smoke Point
The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to burn and smoke. Not only does heating a cooking fat above its smoke point put it at a greater risk of hitting its flash point and causing a fire, but it also breaks down important phytonutrients and causes the fat to oxidize and form harmful free radicals.
Unfortunately, most cooking oils with a high smoke point are less-than-stellar for your health. Canola oil, peanut oil, corn oil and soybean oil are usually genetically modified and often partially hydrogenated to increase their stability.
On the other hand, Ghee is an excellent choice for cooking because of its high smoke point and beneficial effects on health. 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.
2. It’s Packed with Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Adding a few servings of ghee into your day is an excellent way to squeeze in some extra fat-soluble vitamins. It can help boost your vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K intake, all important nutrients that play a role in everything from maintaining healthy vision to keeping your skin glowing.
This can be especially crucial if you suffer from any conditions like leaky gut syndrome, IBS or Crohn’s, as your body may have difficulty absorbing these fat-soluble vitamins. Ghee benefits your health by providing a boost of these nutrients to help you meet your daily needs.
3. It’s Free of Lactose and Casein
One of the best ghee benefits is that it’s free of lactose and casein protein. Some individuals have a milk allergy, which may stem from a heightened sensitivity to casein. Others may be hypersensitive to lactose. For individuals with a casein allergy, the reaction may include swelling of lips, mouth, tongue, face or throat; hives; or congestion.
Those with lactose intolerance have a difficult time digesting the milk sugar lactose. Still, symptoms are generally much less dangerous than a casein allergy. Symptoms of lactose intolerance may include bloating, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, gurgling and cramps. The majority of people who have sensitivities to either casein or lactose don’t have an issue with ghee, as these elements have been removed through skimming and straining.
4. It Strengthens Your Bones
Regularly incorporating a few servings of ghee into your diet can help you meet your vitamin K needs. Vitamin K is essential to many aspects of health, such as blood clotting, heart health and brain function. It’s also essential when it comes to keeping your bones healthy and strong.
This is because vitamin K is directly involved in bone metabolism and increases the amount of a specific protein required to maintain the calcium in your bones. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the diets of 2,591 adults and found that a low intake of vitamin K was associated with a reduced bone mass density in women. Ghee supplies a small amount of vitamin K but can make a big difference when combined with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle — not to mention all the other ghee benefits you can get.
5. It Promotes Healthy Weight Loss
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 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. Not only that, but CLA, one of the primary fatty acids found in ghee, has been associated with reduced body fat mass as well.
Curious about 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 favourite healthy dishes to get the most out of these ghee benefits.
6. It’s Loaded with Butyrate
Butyrate, or butyric acid, is a short-chain fatty acid that plays a central role in gut health. Some studies have suggested that it may help support healthy insulin levels, fight off inflammation, and provide relief for individuals suffering from conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
This important fatty acid is also made by the gut flora when you eat fibre. As the primary source of energy for the cells in your colon, butyrate is key to promoting a healthy gut microbiome, which plays an integral role in health and disease.
7. It Relieves Inflammation
Although inflammation can be a normal immune response to help defend the body against foreign invaders, long-term inflammation is believed to contribute to chronic disease development.
Ghee contains butyrate, a type of fatty acid that has been shown to inhibit inflammation in some test-tube studies. This could have far-reaching benefits when it comes to preventing inflammatory conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and even certain types of cancer.
8. It Contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Ghee is jam-packed with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid associated with a long list of health benefits. Some studies have found that CLA may reduce body fat, prevent cancer formation, alleviate inflammation, and even lower blood pressure.
Keep in mind that grass-fed dairy provides a higher concentration of this important fatty acid. Opt for grass-fed ghee whenever possible, or be sure to use grass-fed butter if you’re making ghee at home.
9. It Improves Digestion
As mentioned above, ghee is an excellent source of butyrate, the short-chain fatty acid crucial to maintaining optimal digestive health. Butyrate provides energy for the colon cells, helps support gut barrier function and fights off inflammation.
Additionally, some studies have suggested that butyrate may provide relief from constipation. A review out of Poland, for example, noted that butyric acid has been shown to reduce pain during defecation and improve peristalsis, or the contraction of muscles in the intestines, to help propel food through the digestive tract.
10. It Has a Strong, Buttery Flavor
By removing the milk solids and water from butter, ghee is left with a stronger, more intense flavour 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 flavour.