Is ghee good for health?

Ghee has been an integral part of Indian culture. Our forefathers knew the benefits of ghee and it was an important part of their every day meal. Let us take a look at the benefits of ghee as well as its comparison with its other equivalents and clear our minds of the myths surrounding it.

Preparation of ghee:

When butter is heated & simmered, the water content in it evaporates and the milk solids burn out leaving behind fats which have much higher shelf life than butter.

In fact, in ancient days, butter was converted to ghee just to increase its shelf life. While butter also contains milk proteins and lactose along with fats, ghee is pure fats. It consists of around 60 % saturated fats (the part of ghee that stays solid at room temperature) and 40 % unsaturated fats (the part of ghee that turns liquid at room temperature).

The word ‘fats’ certainly sounds an alarm. But hold on! Read ahead to know what these fats actually do for you & how they fare against other fats.

Ghee vs Butter: With respect to nutrition, there is not much difference in between ghee & butter. But if one is suffering from casein allergies (allergies related to some proteins found in milk of exotic cows) or lactose intolerance (intolerance to milk sugars), then ghee is the preferred choice as it does not contain these milk elements.

Ghee vs vegetable fats (dalda/ margarine):

Although both ghee and vegetable fats (or trans fats) are saturated fats, yet they have completely opposite impacts on our heart.

To understand this, let’s first know about the types of cholesterols found in our body. There are mainly two types of cholesterols- the good cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein or HDL) which helps in clearing the passages in arteries and the bad cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein or LDL) which gets deposited in the arteries & blocks the blood circulation.

Trans fats are not naturally occurring fats. They are manufactured from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation. This process increase the shelf life of fats. Trans fats were found to be low cost alternative to other fats. Hence, they became increasingly popular in the last few decades. However, today they are known to increase bad cholesterol in blood and should be strictly avoided.

Whenever you purchase processed foods like cakes, cookies, chocolates and desserts, do ensure that they do not contain trans fats.  

On the other hand, the naturally occurring fats in ghee are found to actually improve the blood HDL & help reduce the blood LDL.

Ghee vs Cooking Oil: Unlike cooking oils, the smoke point of ghee is very high. Smoke point is the temperature at which the fatty acids are converted into harmful carcenogenic compounds. While preparing ghee, all the fatty acids with low smoke point burn out leaving behind fats with very high smoke point. Hence, when it comes to cooking at high flames, ghee should be the preferred choice.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of ghee:

Ghee is good for heart: Ghee improves the blood HDL & help reduce the blood LDL.

Ghee can help lose weight: Though ghee is saturated fat, it’s unique structure (shorter chains of fatty acids, especially the essential fatty acids- omega-3 & omega-6) helps mobilize fat cells to be burnt for energy. If consumed in appropriate quantities, ghee can actually help in losing weight.

Ghee is good for digestion:  Ghee is rich in butyric acid which is widely used in the treatment of digestion related disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis & colon cancer. Butyric acid soothes & reduces inflammation in the intestinal tract and enhances the mucus lining of the stomach. It also helps in balancing the levels of acids in the stomach.

Medicinal ghee, known as गोघृत, go-ghṛta, is widely used in Ayurveda to cure disorders related to digestion.

Ghee enriches our body & helps to heal:

Ghee is rich in essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) which do not get formed naturally in our body and need to be consumed externally.

Ghee is also rich in fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K which are required for performing various functions in the body.

Ghee is also good for our joints as it helps in lubrication of joints and reduce joint friction during movements. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties which help our body heal in many ways. Ghee also helps in detoxification  of cancer causing substances and reduces the substances responsible for activation  of carcinogens.


What is the right proportion of ghee to consume?

Ghee can be added to our  daily meals. Renowned nutritionist Rutuja Diwekar says that the quantity of ghee in your meal should not exceed the amount where the taste of ghee takes over the taste of your main meal.

So next time when you add a spoonful of ghee to your meal, do it without any guilt!

Disclaimer: This article contains generic information about foods and should not be construed as specific advice on diet. Please refer to certified medical professional for diagnosis and consultation.