Move over, coconut oil
Don’t get me wrong, I love my coconut oil. All those healthful medium chain triglycerides for the win, right? But a few months ago, my jar of ghee began to usurp the prized position coconut oil had in my kitchen. I now use ghee as my primary cooking fat. Where I would previously use coconut oil or olive oil for sautéing and baking, I now use ghee.
I made the switch primarily due to flavor, but then noticed a welcomed and unexpected shift in a few of my lingering hormonal symptoms. For example, my stress levels had been elevated and I had started to re-experience some PMS symptoms (which surprised me, because I wrote the book on how to naturally quit PMS). I believe I can credit my increased ghee intake with improving the hormonal imbalance that reared its head.
I encourage you to reap the benefits of consuming ghee daily. If you already use it, here are reasons to use more of it. And if you are new to it, be prepared to rock your culinary world!
What is ghee?
Ghee is 100% butterfat… golden, flavorful, nutrient-rich butterfat. Butter contains primarily butterfat, but also milk proteins and water. To create ghee, butter is simmered to separate the oil from the other components, which are strained off.
Ghee traces its roots to the ancient tradition of Ayurveda, where it was considered a sacred, medicinal, cleansing, and nourishing food.
1. Ghee is Lactose Free
The ability to digest lactose – a sugar found in milk – varies depending on the quality of the dairy product, your digestive health, and even your ethnicity. Did you know that 25% of caucasians and up to 97% of Native Americans are lactose intolerant, meaning they lack the enzymes required to breakdown lactose? (Source: The Paleo Approach.)
Traditional cultures knew how to improve the digestibility of dairy. Raw milk, for example, contains enzymes that break down the lactose. Fermenting dairy into yogurt and kefir breaks down much of the lactose. And the process of creating ghee removes the lactose and leaves behind a pure butter oil.
2. Casein Free
Casein, the protein component of milk, is blamed for milk allergies (technically, an allergic reaction occurs to the protein in a food). When gut flora is compromised, casein consumption can actually create an opiate effect on the brain because it is not being properly digested. In the creation of ghee, the milk solids containing the lactose and casein float to the top, where they are removed.
Note that if you are actually allergic to milk, trace proteins in ghee may trigger a reaction.
Pure Indian Foods offers a lab-tested ghee, certified free of trace remnants of lactose and casein (here it is). Culturing – a fermentation process – eats up any traces of these components.
3. Ghee is a stable fat for cooking
Quick high school biology review: in fatty acid molecules, the more double bonds between the carbon chain, the more unstable the molecule. This means that the bonds are more likely to break when exposed to heat or pressure, and the fatty acid oxidizes and becomes toxic to our cells.
Polyunsaturated oils (think plant oils, like sunflower oil and safflower oil) contain many double bonds and are least stable for cooking. Ghee, however, is a primarily saturated fat and is highly heat-stable for sautéing and baking.
Note that the smoking point of oils does not indicate the stability of the oil. Vegetable oils may have a high smoke point, but they are so delicate they actually rancidify with the heat and processing used during the oil extraction.
4. Ghee is a saturated fat
That low fat fad is so 1995. And the saturated fat phobia is so 2005. We now have research showing that saturated fat consumption does not cause heart disease. For example, there are two monstrous meta-analysis from 2010 and 2014 showing consumption of saturated fat does not correlate with heart disease.
5. Ghee boasts bioavailable vitamin A
The dairy products of ruminants (cows, sheep, goats) grazing on grass provides an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin A. These vitamins are stored primarily in the fat portion, so the concentration of vitamins in ghee is higher than in milk. Vitamin A plays an essential role in hormone balance, liver health, fertility, and stamina.
Contrary to popular belief, vitamin A cannot be obtained from plant sources such as carrots. The conversion of carotenes in vegetables to the useable form of vitamin A is insignificant, and made further negligible by health conditions such as thyroid imbalances. The vitamin A in ghee is both immediately useable by the body, and also contains the fatty acid cofactors required for absorption.
6. Ghee contains Conjugated Linolenic Acid
Numerous studies show that CLA inhibits the growth of breast cancer. Supplementation with CLA has also been shown to cause fat loss and improved body composition in humans (source). I believe a nutrient from a whole-food source – in this case, CLA in ghee – is more effective than a supplement due to being paired with naturally-occurring cofactors. Further, the fat content of ghee plays an essential role in weight loss due to satiation quality.
One study done with rats shows why ghee offers health-protective benefits for children. CLA fed to rats before the peripubertal period prevented the growth of tumors, but when the rats weren’t fed CLA until maturity, they had to consume the fatty acid for the rest of their life to prevent tumor growth..
7. Ghee is a good(!) source of cholesterol
Further, the cholesterol in ghee is something to revere, not fear. Science tells us that cholesterol does not cause athersclerosis. As a healing agent in the body, levels of cholesterol rise during periods of stress or when inflammation is present. Providing cholesterol through good quality fats, such as grassfed ghee, allows the body to help address the inflammation.
Interestingly, low blood cholesterol levels are associated with the following:
- A higher risk of mortality (1, 2. 3)
- A higher risk of depression (4, 5)
- A higher risk of committing violent crime and suicide (6, 7)
- A higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (8, 9)
One area of confusion is the labeling of LDL as “bad cholesterol” and HDL as “good cholesterol.” We know that high levels of HDL cholesterol is beneficial and we know there are subtypes of LDL cholesterol. For more discussion on this topic, please read my post 10 Reasons Why Low Fat is Not High Nutrition.
8. Ghee provides Vitamin K
Grassfed ghee contains the highly elusive nutrient vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 is the shuttle than transports calcium into your bones. You can eat as much calcium as you want but it won’t strengthen your bones unless it is accompanied by vitamin K2. (Source: Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox.) As a fat-soluble vitamin, it requires the fatty acids in ghee for absorption.
9. Ghee is a source of butyric acid
Ghee contains a significant level of butyric acid, an anti-carcinogenic short-chain fatty acid. Butyric acid has been shown to inhibit the growth of mammary tumors.
Butyric acid is also a biological response modifier, a substance that arouses the body’s response to infection. Studies show that it boasts numerous healing and soothing properties on the intestinal tract (source, source). Some strains of beneficial gut flora produce butyric acid, and research shows the butyric acid produced may be a potential treatment for Irritable Bowel Disease.
10. Ghee has incredible flavor
“Fat gives things flavor.” – Julia Child
Ghee is like butter on flavor steroids. Enough said.
How to get the benefits of ghee
- Make it your primary cooking fat for sautéing
- Swap it for butter for spreading on baked goods
- Toss steamed vegetables with ghee and sea salt
- Use it in any recipe that calls for cooking oil
- Use it in place of coconut oil or palm oil for baking
- If roasting vegetables, you can melt ghee and then drizzle it on like olive oil before baking
Get your FREE jar of pastured ghee
Thrive Market is my favorite online health food store, and I’ve taken advantage of the steep discounts and the occasional free products they offer members. I can pass on one of those freebies to you today (this is not a sponsored post): Thrive is offering a FREE jar of pastured ghee, with orders over $50 here.
Like Costco, Thrive offers wholesale prices to their members, and this gift is available to both new and returning members. Membership starts with a month-long free trial. The membership fee is worth every penny – I saved so much on my first Thrive order that it canceled out the cost of my yearly membership.
Ready to start enjoying ghee, and 25-50% on healthy living essentials? Click here to get your free ghee at Thrive.
Tin Star Foods Brown Butter Grassfed Ghee is also available at Thrive Market for 25% off – search “ghee” on the website. It has the caramel and hazelnut flavors of browned butter, and is absolutely glorious for both sweet and savory dishes.
You can also make ghee by simmering butter and removing the milk solids. However, I’ve found it isn’t much cheaper than buying it, if you are using grassfed butter.