The Growth of Ghee and Potential Benefits
Ghee is a type of clarified butter alternative than is rising in popularity in both the culinary and alternative medicine worlds. It has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.
The name for ghee is derived from the Sanskrit word for sprinkled. Ghee is traditionally used in Asian cooking and has a higher fat content than most butters and margarine. It was originally created as a way to prevent butter from going bad during hot weather in South Asia.
Potential Benefits of Ghee
Ghee is still used in Ayurvedic medicine today, especially as a massage oil base mixed with herbal remedies. It has been found to have soothing benefits for dry and cracked skin as well as to treat burns.
Ghee has anti-inflammatory benefits because it contains a fatty acid called butyrate acid. This fatty acid has also been shown to be helpful in gastrointestinal health. The body can make butyrate acid in the gut through bacterial fermentation of fiber. This means it does not have to be taken in through the diet, which would make it an essential fatty acid, but for those with a low fiber diet this could be helpful.
Butter is more than 50 percent saturated, which is the type of fat known to increase heart disease. With this knowledge it is understandable that heart disease is a concern for those who eat a large amount of ghee. However, a 2018 study showed that people living in North India who ate ghee on a regular basis had lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in their blood than those who ate alternative oils.
If used in place of soybean oils studies suggest ghee may be more likely to reduce a person’s risk of cancer. This is more due to eliminating soybean oil from the diet rather than any cancer preventative effects ghee may have. However, it is nice to have an alternative to traditional vegetable oil or butter.
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Ghee Compared to Butter and Other Oils
Ghee and butter are both sourced from cow’s milk which means their nutrition content is very similar.
The biggest difference between butter and ghee is that ghee has had its milk solids removed during the preparation process. This makes ghee lactose and milk protein free which means it is a great alternative to butter for those with cow’s milk protein allergy or on a lactose free diet. Butter is a sweeter and creamier solid oil than ghee. This may make butter a preferred source for baking.
Due to its highly concentrated state it is stable at room temperature, this means it does not melt when unrefrigerated, and it does not require refrigeration. This is not the case with butter as it has to be refrigerated and melts easily. When other oils, like vegetable and seed oils, are heated they produce a potentially toxic compound called acrylamide. Ghee produces a substantially lower amount of this compound.
Ghee has a higher smoke point than most other oils and butter. This means it takes much higher temperatures to produce volatile smoke. It also makes ghee more convenient for frying and sautéing foods than regular butter.
Ghee can be made at home by using unsalted butter. In a pan, heat the butter slowly while skimming off the solids on the surface. Continue this process until all the solids have come to the surface and been removed or sunk to the bottom.
What is left is clear clarified butter. Continue cooking allowing the milk solids on the bottom to turn brown. This browning of the milk solids are what give ghee is rich flavor. Once the solids are completely brown sieve the clear clarified portion into a jar and allow to cool and solidify.
Many people have had success in making their own at home using grass-fed butter.
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Final Thoughts on Ghee
In the end, ghee is simply another form of butter much the same as margarine. It has some definite and supposed benefits that are worth making the trade to ghee. It is simple to make and could be a fun activity or learning project with children or friends.
Ghee is more versatile in the kitchen for higher cooking temperature recipes, but butter is preferable over ghee for baking. For those who have a dairy intolerance or allergy ghee may be just the oil replacement you’ve been needing.