Ghee is a type of clarified butter that contains fewer dairy proteins than regular butter. This ingredient can be used in place of regular butter, but is it healthier, and does it have any benefits?
Ghee can be used as a substitute for butter, and many people think that ghee might be a more healthful alternative for using in cooking.
In this article, we look at the differences between ghee and butter in terms of production, nutrition, and healthfulness, as well as the risks associated with these products.
Ghee is a form of highly-clarified butter that is traditionally used in Asian cooking. Like butter, ghee is typically made from cow's milk.
Ghee is made by melting regular butter. The butter separates into liquid fats and milk solids. Once separated, the milk solids are removed, which means that ghee has less lactose than butter.
Traditionally, ghee has been used as cooking oil, an ingredient in dishes, and in Ayurveda therapies. Ghee is still used in Ayurvedic massage and as a base for herbal ointments to treat burns and rashes.
Ghee is heated for longer than other types of clarified butter, which contributes to a stronger and nuttier flavor, as well as a darker hue.
Ghee has a higher burning point than standard clarified butter, which means it is ideal for frying or sautéing foods.
A person can make ghee at home using regular unsalted butter. Melt the butter slowly and skim off the solids that gather on the surface. Continue to cook the butter until all the milk solids have sunk to the bottom and the liquid is clear — this is clarified butter.
Continue to cook for a few more minutes until the milk solids at the bottom of the pan turn brown. The cooked milk solids give the ghee its flavor and color. Sieve the liquid into a jar or bottle and let it cool and solidify.
Because ghee and butter both derive from cow's milk, their nutritional profiles and fat content are very similar.
However, because ghee does not contain the same levels of dairy proteins as butter, it may be better for people who do not tolerate dairy products well.
Benefits and risks of ghee
Various research studies have looked at the possible benefits and risks of including ghee in a person's diet. These include:
However, a 2018 study looking at 200 people in north India suggests that the fat and cholesterol in the blood was healthier in the people who ate more ghee and less mustard oil as sources of fat in their diets. Results included lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels and higher HDL or good cholesterol levels.
This study only compared results between ghee and mustard oil and not butter. Some forms of mustard oil are banned for consumption in the United States, Canada, and Europe because they contain erucic acid.
Lower levels of milk sugars and proteins
Because ghee has had many of its dairy proteins removed, it contains much lower levels of dairy proteins, such as casein, and lactose than regular butter.
A person who is sensitive or intolerant to lactose and casein may find that it is beneficial to use ghee as a substitute for butter.
Ghee contains a fatty acid called butyrate acid, which plays an essential role in digestive health. It may also have anti-inflammatory effects.
However, as butyrate is produced by bacterial fermentation of fiber in the colon, a person does not need to consume saturated fat to obtain this.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), real butter does not contain any trans fats. However, it does contain high levels of saturated fat, which can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels and heart disease if not eaten in moderation.
However, fats are essential for a healthful diet. A person should limit their intake of saturated fats and increase their intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are healthful fats.
Good sources of healthful fats include fish, nuts, seeds, and olives.
Ghee is another form of butter, and the nutritional profile and fat content of the two are similar. However, ghee may be better for people who are sensitive to lactose and casein because it contains less of both.
While ghee and butter should be limited, a person can occasionally include both foods in a varied and balanced diet.