Ghee: Medicine, Moisturizer and Meal Powerhouse
I learned about ghee recently, and I must say I am in love! In case you don’t know what ghee is, I will give you the skinny. Ghee is a type of clarified butter. The most beneficial form of ghee is made from organic, unsalted butter, from grass fed cows. The butter is heated on a medium heat to the point that the milk proteins and impurities contained in the butter are separated from the milk fat, so that you are left with a lactose-free, casein-free, easy to digest, delicious golden substance which turns out to be a multipurpose superfood.
Ghee has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as a part of ancient Indian tradition for thousands of years and has been recognized as an agent which promotes longevity and protects the body from numerous diseases. I know what you're thinking, how can something that is derived from butter be so healthy? It turns out ghee is full of nutrients that can boost memory, prevent cancer, improve digestion and boost immune function (Sharma,Zhang & Dwivedi, 2010.) Ghee is rich in vitamins A, D, E and K. It contains numerous antioxidants and minerals. When made with butter from grass fed cows, ghee contains omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is linked to improvements in insulin resistance and is potentially cancer fighting. Ghee also contains butyric acid which boosts the immune system and aids in digestion and promotes a healthy gut flora. Ghee has been used for centuries to promote proper digestion and elimination, energy, sexual vitality, skin and eye health, as well as, lubricating the joints and alkalizing the blood. With all these wonderful benefits, I only wish I knew about ghee sooner.
Ok, so we can all agree that ghee is great, but how do we use it. The good news is that ghee can be used in a few ways. My personal favorite use and the latest discovery is to use it as a moisturizer. My daughter and I have eczema and although our flare-ups are rare we are both prone to having dry skin. I believe in using natural skin products, but I have always had trouble finding a natural moisturizer that would work for us, especially during a blistery cold winter such as the one that we are experiencing this year. Many people recommend coconut oil, but in my experience coconut oil does not penetrate the skin like I need it to. When used on its own coconut oil tend to sit on my skin in an uncomfortable oily film, while the skin underneath remains relatively dry and irritated. Don’t get me wrong. Coconut oil has numerous wonderful benefits as well, but as a moisturizer it needs to be mixed with other ingredients to get the job done. Ghee on the other hand truly penetrated the skin, and even better, it has anti-inflammatory properties, which means it can counteract the inflammation of an eczema flare up. Yay! Finally, my daughter and I can experience baby soft skin in the winter. Some people use it to moisturize the hair and scalp, but the primary and most popular use for ghee is for cooking and baking. Ghee is delicious and aromatic. Surprisingly it tastes nothing like butter, but when it comes to cooking you can use it in all the same ways as butter. Another bonus is that Ghee has a very high smoking point (about 485ºF) which makes it great choice for high temperature cooking, such as sautéing and frying. Ghee actually beats olive oil and coconut oil for high temperature cooking. So eat it, cook with it, or slather it on your skin. It’s all good.
I have just one small note of caution. Ghee, like butter, is fat, which is essential for the body to function, but when taken in excess can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. When incorporating ghee into your diet moderation is definitely key. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that fat should make up approximately 20 to 35 percent of a person’s daily calories, and the fats which you choose should be healthy fats. Healthy fats are essential to cell health, nutrient absorption and immune system function. Ghee is made up of mostly saturated fats, which is not a bad thing; however, the CDC advises limiting total daily calories from saturated fat to a maximum of 10 percent. Don’t get nervous. Some studies have actually shown that Ghee lowers cholesterol when taken in the proper amounts (Sharma,Zhang & Dwivedi, 2010.) Like many things in life a little goes a long way.
Ghee is definitely a “Goldie” (A.K.A. Good Oldie.) From thousands of years of Ayurvedic tradition, this golden food is coming back as a staple in the kitchens of health food enthusiasts everywhere. For a family like mine that has struggled with inflammation, eczema and digestive issues, ghee seems to be a key to wellness. I am happy to spread the news and eat the golden goodness. Give it a try and comment below.
Sharma, H., Zhang, X., & Dwivedi C. (2010). The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation. AYU,31,134-140.