What is Ghee?

You know that golden, dripping stuff you dip lobster into? That’s clarified butter. You obtain it by heating butter until it separates into two parts: liquid butterfat and the milk solids that float to the top. Skim the milk solids off and viola, you’ve got clarified butter. To obtain ghee, let the clarified butter cook a bit longer. Because the few remaining milk solids caramelize and more moisture evaporates, ghee has an incredible nutty flavor. It also has a longer shelf life than butter or clarified butter and can actually last for years without refrigeration.

GheeGhee is great for cooking because it is very stable cooking fat. It can be heated to 485 degrees before it starts to burn. That makes it great for pan-frying and cooking at high heat. It also happens to be a staple in Indian and Thai cooking because it holds up well to strong spices, which makes it ideal for curries, sauces and other slow-cooking dishes. In addition, heating ghee seems to produce much less of the toxic compound acrylamide that is produced when heating vegetable and seed oils. Finally, while ghee can be substituted for butter in a 1 for 1 ratio, butter is sweeter, so it may be better to use in baking.

That brings us to the topic of lactose intolerance. Trace elements in the milk solids called casein and lactose are responsible for all those dairy allergies that cause rashes and sneezing, wheezing and coughing, itching and abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, to name just a few. There are plenty of reasons why people become lactose intolerant:

  • Celiac or Crohn’s disease causes reduced levels of the lactase enzyme that helps us digest dairy products, making it difficult for sufferers to tolerate any products that contain lactose or casein (dairy protein)
  • People of Asian, African, Native American and Hispanic heritage are more likely to develop lactose intolerance at a young age
  • Antibiotics can trigger temporary lactose intolerance by interfering with the gut’s ability to produce the lactase enzyme
  • As we age, our bodies stop producing the lactase enzyme, causing a lot of us to become less tolerant over time

Since the milk solids are skimmed away, ghee has virtually no dairy protein, and that means people who are sensitive to dairy can usually eat it with no problems.

Nutritional Details in one tablespoon of Ghee versus butter

  • Ghee has 112 calories vs. 110 in butter
  • There are 13 grams of fat in ghee, while butter has 11 grams
  • Both have roughly 8% of recommended daily intake of Vitamin A, 2% of Vitamin E and 1% of Vitamin K
  • Both contain butyric acid and other short-chain saturated fats that some test show help with gut health

Health Details

Studies are still being conducted on animals and humans, but some early results show:

  • Consuming ghee may lead to favorable changes in heart health markers
  • It may increase HDL “good” cholesterol and reduce fatty acid deposits in the arteries
  • Ghee may increase fasting blood sugar levels
  • Ghee may also lower the risk of certain types of cancer
  • There is such a thing as vegetable ghee also known as vanaspati ghee and it may be contributing to the rising heart disease rate in Indian and Pakistan.
  • Ghee doesn’t seem to affect LDL “bad” cholesterol levels much, although folks whose LDL increases in response to high saturated fats may want to limit their intake of ghee.

At this point, there’s no evidence to suggest that ghee is better in your diet than butter. As long as you aren’t allergic to diary proteins, butter and ghee can both be consumed in moderate amounts in a healthy diet.