Clarified butter, which is popularly known as ‘ghee’ in India, is of great importance and is always celebrated as a symbol of purity, healing and nourishment. Ghee has a delicious nutty flavor and this is the reason as to why it is added to almost all food preparations in India starting from sweet to savoury food items. Besides enhancing the taste, ghee also provides various medicinal and nutritional benefits.
There are many different types of cooking fat available in the market, but till date ghee is considered to be one of the healthiest fat if used in moderate amounts. However, the excess of everything is not good for the body. In a similar way ghee when used in excess may cause some harm to the body, whereas moderate amount of ghee consumption offers an array of health benefits.
Production of Pure Ghee (How Ghee is made)
Pure ghee is made from cow’s milk. The milk cream is separated in a cream separator during the process of pasteurization. Pasteurization is a process in which milk is heated at a high temperature (boiling point) to kill all the bacteria and microorganisms that may otherwise cause spoilage. This milk cream, which is separated, contains around 50% to 70% fat.
Cream is then churned in a butter churn in order to produce butter. This butter contains 84% fat. Whey, which is a liquid remaining at the end, is drained in a whey tank. The butter, which is formed, is placed in a cold room (lower temperature). Once sufficient butter is available for further processing it is transferred in a ghee kettle.
Agitation and evaporation
A steam valve, which is present in the ghee kettle, is opened and steam is applied to it slowly. Once most of the butter is melted, the agitator is started. At this point of time, butter oil will start boiling and all the moisture/ water will evaporate from the butter. Once all the water is evaporated, the steam supply is stopped slowly.
The vent valve is then opened and all the condensate gets drained. Allow the ghee to cool down. Once it reaches 70 degree Celsius, the ghee is drained in a filter tank. The ghee is then filtered with the help of a strainer. During this process, most of the burned protein is filtered out.
The filtered ghee is then transferred to a ghee clarifier (a high-speed centrifuge), where it is further clarified. During this process, all the milk solids are removed. Once the ghee is clarified, it is then transferred to a storage tank. This storage tank has a water heater with an electric heater. During cold climate, the electric heater is switched on so as to keep the ghee in a free flowing condition.
The final product is ready which is then packed in consumer packing.
Cow’s Ghee Vs Vegetable (Vanaspati) Ghee
Vegetable (Vanaspati) Ghee
Vegetable ghee (also known as VANASPATI) is made out of vegetable oil, which is hydrogenated to make it solid. Hydrogenation is done to mimic the texture and flavor of pure ghee.
Increase in the Trans fatty acid content is the result of hydrogenation. Trans fatty acid is further linked to risk of increased levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases.
Vegetable ghee can be produced with single oil or a mixture of oils. This oil or mixture of oils is heated in a mixing vessel at 70 degree Celsius. It is continuously stirred to ensure a homogenous melt.
While it is continuously being stirred color, flavour, vitamins and antioxidants are incorporated. These ingredients are optional and are added as per food regulations in the country.
The most commonly used vegetable oils for making ghee include:
- Soybean oil
- Palm oil
- Cottonseed oil and
- Rapeseed oil
Cow’s Ghee (Clarified Butter)
Cow ghee is considered purest form of ghee. It is true that excess of saturated fatty acid in the diet increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. However, cow ghee comprises of short chain saturated fatty acid, which in turn helps to strengthen and develop cell membranes.
A research published in 2013 showed that cow ghee is safer and healthier than peanut oil in terms of lipid profile and cardiovascular diseases.
Ghee has a smoke point between 375 to 485 degrees Fahrenheit. This is of great advantage in terms of cooking as ghee can be used at higher temperatures for cooking food. Heating above the smoke point may cause damage to some of the components of ghee and consuming food cooked in such a fat may cause damage to the body too. Therefore, it is recommended that ghee should always be heated below its smoke point.
Tips to store ghee
- Use colored bottles or jar (amber or green) if you need to store ghee for a long period.
- If ghee is stored in a clear glass bottle or jar, make sure you cover the bottle with a paper completely, leaving no scope for the sunrays to come in contact with ghee.
- Make sure the jar or bottle has a tight-fitting cork.
- Store the ghee away from the sunlight. A direct contact with the sun may make it rancid.
Ghee can be stored at room temperature without any refrigeration.
Nutritive Value of Ghee
100 grams Ghee provides:
|Nutrients||Ghee/ Clarified butter|
|Total fat||99.48 grams|
Fat and Fatty Acid Composition
|Nutrients||Ghee/ Clarified butter|
|Total fat||99.48 grams|
|Of which saturates||61.9 grams|
|Polyunsaturated fat||3.6 grams|
|Monounsaturated fat||28.7 grams|
|Trans fatty acid||5.8 grams|
Health benefits of ghee
Decreases the risk of coronary heart disease
Milk fat is a very rich source of conjugated linoleic acid. It is very well known that pure ghee is made from milk fat. This makes ghee a good source of conjugated linoleic acid.
High cholesterol levels and increase in the oxidation are the two major risk factors for the onset heart diseases. Ghee with high amount of conjugated linoleic acid has shown to increase the activity of certain enzymes that scavenges free radicals and reduces oxidation.
It has further shown to improve the antioxidant enzyme system. Ghee enriched with conjugated linoleic acid has also shown to modulate lipid metabolism and reduces the deposition of cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver.
Further research has also shown that ghee when used as a cooking oil decreases the chances of getting cardiovascular diseases as it increases the HDL (good or healthy) cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol lowering effect of ghee
Research has shown that ghee may lower the levels of LDL (bad or unhealthy) cholesterol as well as total cholesterol levels. These positive effects of ghee are attributed to the presence of conjugated linoleic acid in it.
In addition to this, consumption of ghee has also shown to increase the excretion of dietary cholesterol and bile constituents from gastrointestinal tract, which further lowers total cholesterol levels.
Rich in Nutrients
Ghee is valued because of the presence of short chain fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K, essential fatty acid such as LINOLENIC ACID and ARACHIDONIC ACID. The body cannot synthesize these essential fatty acids and ghee is the easiest source through by which one can achieve them in their diet.
Ghee is a dense source of energy. One gram of ghee provides 9 calories. Besides being energy dense, ghee is easily digested and absorbed. Athletes, sports-players and individuals with high-energy requirement can easily meet their recommended high calories by consuming ghee. Furthermore, people with a diseased condition, underweight and malnourished individuals who need to consume more calories can surely add ghee to their diet.
Lactose intolerance is a clinical condition in which an individual cannot tolerate lactose. Lactose is a sugar, which is found in dairy products. Therefore, each time an individual with lactose intolerance consumes dairy products, he/she may experience diarrhea, bloating, abdominal cramps and nausea.
Ghee does not contain lactose, as all the milk solids are removed during the process of clarification. Therefore, individuals with lactose intolerance who cannot enjoy butter (butter contains milk solids) can surely add some ghee to their diet.
Caution: However, in extremely sensitive cases, if a lactose intolerant experiences diarrhea, abdominal cramps and bloating after consuming ghee, he/she must immediately seek medical advice.
Improves Digestion and Absorption
Ghee improves digestion, absorption and delivery of certain nutrients to the target organ system and final delivery inside the cell as the cell membrane also contains lipid.
Herbs and herbal extracts have various positive effects on the body and overall health. Research has showed that the efficacy of these herbs and herb extracts increases when they are used with ghee as compared to their usage in form of powder or tablet. Therefore, many Ayurvedic preparations are made by cooking herbs in ghee.
Packed with Antioxidants
Oxidative stress is associated with the onset of various diseases and disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, hyperglycemia, cancer, arthritis, aging, cataracts and so on. Ghee is completely packed with antioxidants and is considered to be very superior as compared to other sources of fat. These antioxidants scavenge the free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, which in turn reduces the risk of onset of various diseases and disorders.
Ghee is a rich source of short chain fatty acids. One of the most beneficial short chain acids present in ghee is butyric acid. It reduces gastrointestinal inflammation and reduces the risk of irritable bowel syndrome, which is the most common gastrointestinal disorder. It is easily absorbed by the stomach cells and used as a source of energy. Furthermore, it improves gastrointestinal tract motility, improves the growth of healthy bacteria and possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
Recently dietary fat has gained a great attention as a risk factor in the onset of breast and colon cancer. Research has showed that cow ghee protects against cancer cells and certain chemicals that may otherwise activate the cancer causing cells. Cow ghee contains both saturated as well as monounsaturated fatty acid that modulates the cell membranes and protects the body against cancer-causing chemicals. In addition to this, cow ghee is also rich in conjugated linoleic acid, which is a potent anti-cancer agent, thus it protects against cancer.
NOTE: These health benefits are limited to the consumption of cow ghee (not vegetable ghee).
Medicinal Uses of Ghee
Dry, Red, Inflamed & Scaly Skin
One can get rid of dry, red, inflamed and scaly skin by applying ghee on it. Melted ghee must be applied on the affected areas of the skin just 15 to 20 minutes before bath. This will greatly help in controlling the redness and inflammation and will make your skin smooth and supple.
Anti-aging – Wrinkle & Dark Spots Treatment
Dark spots and wrinkles are the first indicators of aging. Aging is a natural process, which cannot be controlled, but it can be delayed with the help of ghee. Massaging with melted ghee will lighten the dark spots and give you a wrinkle free skin.
Dark Circles under Eyes
One can get rid of dark eye circles by applying ghee around it. Apply ghee and massage properly around the eyes. Leave it for 10 to 15 minutes and then wash your eyes. This will not only lighten your dark eye circles but will also give your eyes a moist and bright look.
Ghee not only makes your eyes look good, but it also helps in improving your eyesight. Putting a drop of melted ghee in each eye before going to sleep helps to relieve burning sensation. Ghee also plays a very important role in the treatment of various eye disorders.
Hair – Hair Fall, Dry Hair & Split Ends
Excessive use of hair products may make your hair dry and may affect the overall hair quality. Applying ghee will strengthen your hair, reduce hair fall, improve the texture and will reduce the dryness. In addition to this, applying ghee at the bottom of your hair is an effective remedy for split ends.
Ways to Incorporate Ghee into Your Diet
- Enjoy your dal and rice with a small spoon of ghee
- Spread ghee on Indian flat breads such as chapatti or parathas
- Add some ghee to your smoothie to make it calorie dense
- Add some ghee to your favorite rice preparations
- Ghee can also be used for stir-frying
- It can also be used to sauté garlic and some spices
- Spices and herbs can be mixed in ghee and applied to chicken and fish
- It be added to porridges to improve its caloric content
- Melted ghee can be tossed into fresh popped popcorn
- Mix ghee with some western herbs and spread it over pita bread
- Just before serving, stir some ghee into piping hot soup
- Ghee can also be used in the preparation of various bakery products
Though consuming ghee offers various health advantages, anything in excess becomes dangerous for the body. A healthy individual without any clinical condition who is having normal weight can replace a teaspoon of cooking oil or butter with ghee. Consuming oil, butter as well as ghee will increase the overall fat intake and may not provide any health benefits. The maximum daily consumption of Ghee should not exceed from 7 to 10 grams per day.