Ghee is a form of butter derivative, also known as clarified butter. Ghee is a popular alternative to butter, since it’s lactose-free and full of flavor.
Ghee is not difficult to prepare. First, let unsalted butter (from a cow, buffalo, goat, or sheep) heat until boiling point.
Next, allow the butter to boil until all remaining water has evaporated. After all water has boiled away, a mixture of three distinctive layers will remain.
A skin of whey protein, a middle layer of liquid fat, and a bottom layer of casein particles.
The liquid fat is the ghee. Remove the topmost layer of whey protein and pour out the clarified butter.
Ghee can replace traditional butter to prepare foods that cook at high temperatures. As ghee does not casein particles and whey protein, it will not scorch.
Another beneficial aspect of ghee is that it has a long-shelf life. It can last without refrigeration for a period of months, and is much less likely to turn rancid.
Origins of Ghee
Ghee originates from India, and it is the most often used cooking oil in many types of Indian cuisine. It is also used in Hindu religious ceremonies and traditional medicine.
Ghee is also used throughout Africa, albeit under different names. In many Middle Eastern countries and Egypt, the name for ghee is “samneh”. Ethiopians prepare a spiced version, named “nit’r k’ibe”. (Source)
Ghee gained popularity in the north-eastern region of India in approximately 2000 BC.
This was due to a need to be able to transport butter for long distances without it turning rancid.
For that same reason, it became a staple food in the south of India. Sweltering temperatures in the region would render regular butter useless.
Ghee is also mentioned as far back as 1500BC in the Dharmasutra verses. These verses are an ancient Indian code dictating political, religious, and social requirements.
Ghee still plays an important role in Indian society today, and not only for food. Foods as well as people are subject to the Hindu caste system.
This means a high-caste individual cannot eat food that a low-caste individual prepared. One method of making an “inferior” food into a “superior” food is by preparing that food in ghee.
Hindu restaurant owners often prepare their dishes in ghee. This enables individuals of any caste to eat at their establishments. (Source)
Ghee has gained a reputation as being a healthy “super-fat”. It contains healthy fatty acids as well as a range of fat-soluble vitamins.
One tablespoon of ghee is worth 112 calories. That same tablespoon contains 12.7 grams of fat, 8 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, 2 percent of vitamin E, and 1 percent of vitamin K.
A few tablespoons of ghee added to your daily diet can boost your vitamin K levels over time. Vitamin K is useful to maintain strong, healthy bones, brain function, and is good for heart health.
Ghee also contains high amounts of the fatty acid butyrate. Butyric acid is conducive towards promoting a healthy gut.
The clarified butter also contains significant amounts of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Studies have suggested that CLA may help reduce inflammation and lower body fat. (Source)
Ghee has been a staple Ayurvedic medicine for over thousands of years. Ghee has been used for treating conditions such as skin dryness, constipation, allergies, and arthritis. (Source)
Ghee is an ideal alternative to butter for individuals who are lactose intolerant. It is as flavorful as butter but will not cause disruptive symptoms if consumed.
Ghee’s high content of butyrate (butyric acid) may help lower inflammation in the body.
Butyrate also promotes gut health. Ghee is an ideal dietary supplement for individuals with ulcerative colitis.
Studies have also linked butyric acid with stimulating the production of T-cells. These are a type of white blood cell that play a significant role in attacking virus cells in the body.
Ghee contains a variety of fatty acids that the liver can process for the body to burn as energy. For those with high-active, energetic lifestyles, ghee can help promote energy production. (Source)
Ghee’s high smoke point allows it to be used for sautéing, frying, baking and roasting. Unlike butter, high temperatures will not damage its nutritional composition.
A substance’s smoke point is the temperature at which that substance begins to burn. If a cooking fat’s smoke point is exceeded it loses valuable nutrients and causes the oxidization of fat which creates free radicals.
To put it simply, free radicals can damage our DNA and break down tissue in the body. Cellular reactions in the body produce free radicals naturally; some are actually needed for the health of our immune system. But when we start consuming foods that are already oxidized (like using butter at temperatures higher than 300℉), our body has more free radicals to fight. This is when damage can happen.
Although there are cooking oils with high smoke points, they are usually processed. Examples include peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and corn oil. Ghee’s smoke point is 252 degrees Celsius. Butter’s smoke point is a relatively low 177 degrees Celsius.
But there’s one small catch when it comes to ghee: Despite ghee’s health and nutritional benefits, it is still a fat.
If it is consumed in excess it may cause digestive issues, weight gain, and increase risk of heart disease. (Source)
Is Ghee Paleo-Friendly?
Read our guide to the Paleo diet
The Paleolithic diet involves eating foods that are fresh and packed with nutrients.
Basically, the Paleo diet aims to mimic the diet our Paleolithic ancestors consumed.
Many of the foods that are a staple part of our diets today are relatively recent additions.
What about the grain-based products that play a key role in our diets today? They are a result of the agricultural revolution approximately 10,000 years ago.
The Paleo diet cuts out all foods that were not available during the Paleolithic era. The diet consists of eating only what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would be able to get.
On the Paleo diet, you will eat the following:
- Lean meats (preferably grass fed and organic)
- Seafood and fish
- Plenty of vegetables
- Nuts and seeds (in moderation)
- Fruits (preferably less-sugary fruits like berries)
*Check out our Paleo food list *
The following foods are off the table and to be avoided:
- Processed foods (i.e. fast food, frozen foods)
- Sugary foods and beverages (candy, soda)
- Dairy products
- Grain-based products (Source)
As ghee is free of lactose and is a natural oil, it is considered Paleo.
Find paleo meal plans here.
Is Ghee Keto-Friendly?
Read our guide to the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet – or keto diet – is a low-carbohydrate diet that pushes the body into a state of ketosis. In ketosis, the liver breaks down fats and produces ketones to use for energy.
When you eat food that is high in carbohydrates, your body produces insulin and glucose. Glucose is one of the simplest molecules for the body to convert into energy.
The downside is that when glucose is being used as fuel by the body, fats are being stored.
Many of us today eat a diet that is high in carbohydrates. We are store fat unnecessarily and burning glucose instead.
Starving the body to induce ketosis is dangerous! Instead, the keto diet starves the body of carbohydrates. Your primary food source will be healthy fats and vegetables. The fewer carbohydrates you consume, the faster your body will enter ketosis.
On a ketogenic diet, you will be eating:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Meats (preferably grass-fed and organic)
- Fatty dairy products
- Healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, other saturated fats)
Foods that should be avoided are:
- All grain-based products
- Sugar, both natural and raw (Source)
As ghee has a high content of healthy fats and fatty acids, it is an ideal addition to a keto diet. (Source)
Find keto-friendly meal plans here.
Is Ghee AIP-Friendly?
Read our guide to the Autoimmune Protocol
The Autoimmune System Protocol Diet (AIP) is a diet that aims to reduce inflammation in the body. Particularly inflammation due to autoimmune system diseases.
Autoimmune system diseases manifest when the immune system self-attacks. Conditions such as IBS, lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are all autoimmune system diseases.
The AIP diet cuts out foods that are considered irritants to reduce flare-ups of symptoms. The diet consists of two separate phases.
The first phase of the diet lasts for 6-8 weeks. This phase involves eliminating a significant amount of foods from your diet.
The second phase of the diet allows you to slowly re-introduce certain foods. This phase allows you to see which foods are irritants to your gut and immune system.
During the first phase of the diet, the following foods are to be avoided:
- All processed foods
- Grain-based products
- Dairy products
- Nightshade vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetable oils
- Dried fruits
- Alcoholic beverages
- Natural and artificial sweeteners
- Culinary herbs
On the AIP diet, you will be eating:
- Vegetables (except for nightshades)
- Fruit (in limited quantities)
- Meats (preferably grass-fed and organic)
- Fish and seafood
- Non-seed herbs (both culinary and for teas)
- Bone broths
- Healthy fats
Ghee is an acceptable addition to the AIP diet as long as it is cultured and certified to be free of casein and lactose. (Source)
Find AIP-friendly meal plans here.
How To Use Ghee
Ghee is a staple ingredient of many Indian dishes. It is also used throughout the Middle East and North African region.
Ghee has multiple advantages and is versatile. It has multitude of nutritional benefits. Ghee can be incorporated into a variety of cuisines.
For those of you who are lactose intolerant, ghee is the ideal alternative. It has a potent, nutty flavor that compliments both savory and sweet dishes. Butter isn’t the only thing ghee can be substituted for.
Ghee can serve as a healthful, more flavorsome option to cooking oils in most recipes. (Source)
Although ghee can be purchased at most supermarkets, it can also be prepared at home in under an hour.
For the best quality ghee, it is preferable to use a high quality unsalted grass-fed butter.
All you will need is a pan with high sides, a strainer, one pound of butter, and a container for storage.
To make ghee at home:
- Heat the butter in a pan with high sides until it is completely melted, stirring occasionally.
- Once the butter starts bubbling, lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure you do not turn the heat up too high. The butter shouldn’t be jumping out of the pan!
- Once a skin has formed on the surface, remove it carefully with a fine mesh strainer until the butter is clear.
- Keep the butter on a low flame until the lumps at the bottom of the pan (milk protein) begin to brown. Once browned (not burnt), turn off the heat and allow the ghee to cool down.
- Once the ghee is room temperature, strain the mixture again to remove any lumps or remaining skin.
- You can now pour the resultant golden liquid into your container and choice. Ghee may be kept safely at room temperature for several weeks.
It should be stored in an air-tight sealed container as ghee can easily absorb the flavors of other items. (Source)
Ghee is the base of many Indian dishes, from curries to desserts such as carrot halwa. You can also use ghee to prepare side dishes such as saffron rice, naan bread, yogurt rice, and raw mango rice.
A variety of interesting and varied recipes exist that use ghee as a cooking fat. Examples include Bombay potatoes, lemon and ghee chicken, and gluten-free coconut flour biscuits.
For seafood lovers, you can sear scallops and fish in ghee mixed with spices. (Source)
Ghee does not need to be used only for cooking elaborate meals. A simple sweet treat to prepare in under 5 minutes is banana with ghee and cinnamon.
Heat up one teaspoon of ghee under a medium flame, and sauté sliced bananas until firm. Add one or two pinches of cinnamon and ginger for delicious flavor. Source
If preparing ghee at home is too much hassle, you can buy gee at most supermarkets. As with any other food product, origins and quality are important.
Whether you buy or make your own ghee, it is best to source it from organic, grass-fed butter. Butter is the basis of ghee, and the better the cow producing the butter eats, the better the butter is! (Source)
At this stage, you’re likely wondering how much ghee you should eat. Ideally, you’d like to gain nutritional benefits without overloading on fat.
A few teaspoons of ghee per day or several larger servings over the course of one week shouldn’t be an issue. Ghee is a healthful addition to a balanced, nutritionally rich diet. (Source)
If you like this food guide, check out these others:
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- 3-Day Paleo Diet Meal Plan
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