Ghee: Is It Good for You?

Ghee is a variation of clarified butter that is popular in the culinary traditions of the Middle East and India. It is made from cow milk butter, which is treated with low heat until the water evaporates, leaving behind milk solids. The solids are skimmed off or strained if needed. What remains is only clarified liquid fat known as ghee. Because ghee is treated with low heat, usually under 100 degrees, it retains more nutrients than standard clarified butter. 

Ghee is used in tandem with herbal medication as a part of Ayurveda, a centuries-old form of alternative medicine practiced in India. Beyond its believed spiritual and medicinal properties, ghee has recently gained traction as a healthier alternative to standard butter. However, while there is an increase in scientific studies confirming its health benefits, more research is needed.

Nutrition Information

One teaspoon of ghee contains: 

  • Calories: 42
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Ghee is a good source of: 

Ghee is also an excellent source of Vitamin E. Studies have shown that Vitamin E has significant antioxidant properties. Antioxidants like Vitamin E have been linked to lowering the risk of cancer, arthritis, and cataracts. Vitamin E can also help reduce the risk of heart disease

Potential Health Benefits of Ghee

Ghee is a rich source of vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fats. While fat should be consumed in moderation, studies show that eating fatty foods such as ghee can help the body absorb some essential vitamins and minerals. Cooking healthy foods and vegetables with ghee may help you absorb more nutrients.

Research has found several potential health benefits to consuming ghee: 

Anti-Inflammatory Effects 

In alternative Ayurvedic medicine, ghee has been used topically to treat burns and swelling. While this is not scientifically proven, ghee does contain butyrate, a fatty acid that has known anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that the butyrate present in ghee can soothe inflammation within the body.

Combat Obesity

Ghee is a significant source of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. Studies show that CLA may help combat obesity. Research indicates that the CLA found in ghee may help reduce excessive weight gain. It may also help reduce the mass of body fat in some people. 

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Support Heart Health

Though ghee is rich in fat, it contains high concentrations of monounsaturated Omega-3s. These healthful fatty acids support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. Studies show that using ghee as a part of a balanced diet can help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Healthy Alternative for Lactose Products

Ghee is created by removing milk solids. Because of this, it contains only trace amounts of lactose and casein, which are milk sugars and proteins. Ghee is a good source of fat for people who are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies. 

Potential Risks of Ghee

Because ghee is so rich in fat, you should consume it in moderation as a part of a balanced diet. Consult with your doctor when considering the best dietary choices for you. Keep the following in mind before adding ghee to your diet:

Heart Disease

While ghee can help lower the risk of heart disease in moderation, too much saturated fat can elevate the risk of heart disease. People with other risk factors for heart disease should exercise caution when introducing ghee into their diet. 

Weight Gain

Though the CLA in ghee has been shown to reduce weight gain in some people, it is also a calorie-dense and fat-rich food. Despite its health benefits, consuming too much ghee can lead to increased weight gain and elevate the risk of obesity

Healthier Alternatives

SOURCES: 

AYU: An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurved: “The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Ghee.”

The FASEB Journal:“Anti-inflammatory effects of sodium butyrate on human monocytes: potent inhibition of IL-12 and up-regulation of IL-10 production.”

International Journal of Obesity:“The role of conjugated linoleic acid in reducing body fat and preventing holiday weight gain.”

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Dietary fat increases vitamin D-3 absorption.”

Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine:“Beneficial effect of ghee consumption over mustard oil on lipid profile: A study in North Indian adult population.”

Journal of the Indian Medical Association: “Association of dietary ghee intake with coronary heart disease and risk factor prevalence in rural makes.”

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Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism: “Considerations for development of lactose-free food.”

Journal of Pakistan Medical Association: “Pragmatic selection of cooking oils.”

Lipids in Health and Disease: “High conjugated linoleic acid enriched ghee (clarified butter) increases the antioxidant and antiatherogenic potency in female Wistar rats.”

National Institutes of Health: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

Nutrition Journal: “A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion.”

Open Medicine Journal: “Standardization of Dhatryadi Ghrita: A Herbal Ghee Based Ayurvedic Medicinal Preparation.”

Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal: “The Role of Vitamin E in Human Health and Some Diseases.”

World Health Journal: “View Point: Saturated Fatty Acid and Sugar: How Much Is Too Much for Health? A Scientific Statement of the International College of Nutrition.”

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 30, 2020
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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