Is ghee healthy? 6 things doctors want you to know
Ghee is one common, often demonised, fat that most of us use on the regular. But ghee is surprisingly good for you: it's a source of fat, it keeps you full, has some vitamins, and makes food tastier. Here are six reasons you should add ghee to your diet.
Ghee has been used for centuries in Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine. But recently it has caught a lot of attention in the health and wellness space. Far from promoting obesity, ghee is no longer an obvious health risk and even considered part of a healthy diet. But why? What's so special about ghee? Is ghee better than oil? What are the benefits? With so many questions, we knew we needed health experts. We spoke with Mumbai-based dietician and clinical nutritionist Geetanjali Shah and Dr Anubhav Gupta, a general physician from Delhi, who told us all the possible benefits of adding ghee into your diet:
Ghee might be anti-inflammatory
A healthy, balanced diet requires healthy fats, says Shah. “Different types of fat can be more or less beneficial. Ghee, when sourced from grass-fed cows is rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fats and in short and medium-chain fats which help modulate inflammation,” says Shah. So what does that mean for you? "These fats are easily broken down and digested by the body and support normal digestive, gallbladder, and cellular activity," explains Shah.
Ghee has less chance of triggering an allergic reaction
If you're lactose intolerant or sensitive, this is chief among the reasons you'll want to stick to ghee. "Ghee, or clarified butter, is made by heating butter and allowing it to separate into liquid fats and milk solids. Once separated, the milk solids are removed, which means that ghee has less lactose than butter," says Shah. This is important because those solids that are left behind are those that usually trigger an inflammatory response in some people. Removing these proteins allows for us to get the benefits of the fat and nutrients that are in butter without any reactions, she says. But keep in mind: "Not everyone who is allergic to dairy can tolerate ghee, but many can,” says Shah.
Ghee is loaded with vitamins
Did you know this healthy fat also has some of the vitamins your body needs for healthy function? "Nutritionally, ghee contains high amounts of vitamin A, conjugated linoleic acid, and butyric acid," says Dr Gupta. Vitamin A is great for your immune health, your vision, and your reproductive organs, but it can also contribute to better heart health. "Ghee also contains small amounts of vitamin K and vitamin E, as well as small amounts of vitamin B12," says Dr Gupta.
Ghee has antioxidant properties
As noted, you can find a lot of vitamin A, and some vitamin E in ghee. "Vitamins A and E are fat-soluble vitamins, which are efficiently absorbed when they arrive in an already fat-rich food," says Dr Gupta. That means by taking your vitamins with a side of fat, you're making them more readily available for your body to use. Here's why that's important: "They are strong antioxidants within the cells, protecting the cell from oxidative damage," says Dr Gupta. "Oxidative damage occurs when free-radical production within a cell is excessive. This can occur with excess sugar presentation, excess metabolic stress, toxin exposure, poor mitochondrial function, and insulin dysregulation. Excess oxidative damage has been associated with inflammatory disorders and cancer," says Dr Gupta. So there's a chance that adding ghee to your diet might stave off disease thanks to the bioavailable antioxidants.
Ghee could support healthy bones
But don't forget about the vitamin K content, either. Though not an antioxidant, it still plays an important role. "Vitamin K also works with calcium to maintain healthy bones and structure," says Dr Gupta.
Ghee could help your body's overall function
Bonus from vitamin K: it can also "help with healthy insulin and glucose management within the cell," says Dr Gupta. Moreover, Shah says, ghee from 100 per cent grass-fed cows has health benefits that come from higher levels of CLAs (conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat with health-protecting properties) and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. "Conjugated linoleic acid has been shown in studies, both animal and human, to reduce adipose (fat) tissue, support healthy bone remodeling, and support healthy digestive function, especially of the colon, potentially reducing colon cancer risk," explains Shah. Even if you don't already have ghee in your diet, it might be a good time to start now. "Adding ghee to the diet can provide a healthy source of fats supporting a balanced metabolism, digestion, gallbladder function, and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins," says Dr Gupta, adding, "The specific benefits of feeding the cells of the digestive tract and supplying rich levels of vitamins and CLA make ghee a potentially therapeutic food."