Gee, I wonder if ghee is better for me? 😉
With recent health trends, there has been a large focus on fats. High-fat diets that have yielded positive results for many, such as the keto diet, have brought a huge spotlight to the debate of ghee versus butter. Whereas 10 years ago, mentioning the word “saturated fat” had people running for the hills. With all the dieting trends and constantly changing information and recommendations, it is hard to really know what is “good” and what is “bad.” Some sources will tell you to stay away from all saturated fats and others believe that it is not so simple, such as the case of coconut oil, that some saturated fats may be beneficial to our health.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is butter that has been heated to separate the milk solids from the liquid fat, which is then removed and the remaining product is ghee.
History of Ghee
Although ghee has more recently taken the spotlight, it has been used for thousands of years. Ghee comes from ancient Indian medicinal practices, such as Ayurveda, an Indian science dating back roughly 5,000 years. Ayurveda believes ghee promotes purification, both mental and physical, through its ability to cleanse.
Benefits of Ghee
1. High Smoke Point for Cooking
Ghee has a noticeably higher smoke point compared to butter. Butter will start to smoke at around 350 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas ghee will not start to smoke until it reaches about 485 degrees Fahrenheit. Since ghee does not burn as easily as butter, it is perfect for frying and sautéing foods. Rice bran oil, refined safflower oil and avocado oil are the only oils with a higher smoke point than ghee.
2. Safety in Cooking
Since ghee has such a high smoke point, it releases less acrylamide, a chemical that forms when starchy foods are prepared with oils at extremely high temperatures. Though unclear about its effects on humans, acrylamide has been found to increase risk of cancer in lab animals.
3. More Tolerable for Those with Lactose Intolerance
Ghee is prepared by heating butter to extremely high temperatures, which then separates the milk products from the liquid oil, which are then filtered out. Since most of the lactose and casein are filtered out of ghee, it is generally more tolerable for those who have sensitivities to dairy. If one has a severe allergy to dairy it is advised that they stay away from ghee, as ghee is not guaranteed 100% dairy-free.
4. Increases Nutrient Absorption
Ghee will help increase your uptake of important fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, and K, which need to be accompanied by a fat molecule to be absorbed into the body.
5. Improves digestion
Ghee can be beneficial for those with digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, and Crohn’s disease. When the digestive system is in distress, it does not absorb the nutrients needed. Ghee can help make that process a little easier and smoother for the body. Ghee is also a great source of butyrate, a short chain fatty acid that plays a key role in the gut health. Butyrate helps to maintain gut-barrier function, essentially lining the guy and reducing inflammation. Butyrate is also produced by the gut when fiber is consumed and the cells of the colon use butyrate as their main fuel source. Reducing pain and improving peristalsis, the contraction of muscles propelling food through the digestive tract, may lead to relief from constipation and/or pain during bowel movements. A healthy digestive system is vital to healthy functioning of many of the other systems in the body.
Who is the Winner? Ghee vs Butter?
The debate between ghee and butter is a hard one because ghee technically is butter. Butter has a lower smoke point and when cooking at high temperatures, ghee would be the best option to prevent any oxidation and formation of free radicals. Those with sensitivities or intolerances to dairy generally tolerate ghee more than butter, since much of the milk products are filtered out. Ghee contains almost twice the amount of short and medium chain fatty acids as butter. These shorter chain fatty acids are metabolized easier by the body and are not associated with the risk of heart disease. Lastly, the taste is a little different and this is purely personal preference. The flavor of ghee is a lot more intense than butter. Where butter is creamy and sweet, ghee is deep and rich in flavor. So, with all of this information, ghee has a bit of an advantage over butter.
Where to Find Ghee?
Ghee is becoming more and more common in traditional grocery stores, tending to be located near the other oils. Ghee is not often refrigerated in the grocery store, so head over to the section with coconut oil and olive oil, and ghee will be close by. Due to the recent increase in popularity of ghee, the price point tends to be a little on the high side. Heading to a more traditional Indian or Fijian foods store will result in the best bang for your buck when it comes to buying ghee. If neither of those options suit you, you can always buy it online. I definitely recommend you make sure that the ghee is made from grass-fed cows only, such as Bulletproof Grass-Fed Ghee, which is made from pasture-raised cows.
How to Cook with Ghee
Ghee is versatile and since it tastes similarly to butter, it can be a wonderful butter substitute. The higher smoke point actually makes ghee a little more favorable to cook with, rendering it a popular choice when it comes to sautéing or frying foods. Ghee can be used in a variety of ways: Melted over popcorn to provide flavor, scrambled into eggs to prevent sticking, mixed into mashed potatoes…. Ghee adds a richer and nuttier butter flavor, making it wonderful for dishes with high flavor profiles.
Since the nutritional profiles of both ghee and butter are virtually the same in the calorie and fat categories, I don’t think one has a very large advantage over the other. However, for those with lactose intolerance, ghee has an advantage as it is generally tolerated more in those individuals. So, those with dairy intolerances or allergies should choose ghee over butter. Lastly, the high smoke point of ghee compared to butter makes it a better choice for cooking at high temperatures.
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