Ghee has been used for centuries in Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine, but recently has caught lots of attention in the health and wellness space. But why? What's so special about ghee? Is ghee better than butter? What are the benefits?
With so many questions, we knew we needed an expert. We spoke with Dr. Amy Chadwick, ND at Four Moons Spa, a new modern space for healing and wellness in San Diego, CA, who told us all the possible benefits of adding ghee into your diet.
It Might Be Anti-Inflammatory
"A healthy, balanced diet requires healthy fats," said Dr. Chadwick. "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." 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."
It 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 switch to ghee. "Ghee, or clarified butter, is made by heating butter to about 100 degrees and allowing for the proteins to settle to the bottom of the pan, leaving only the fat," said Dr. Chadwick. This is important because those solids that are left behind are the parts of butter that usually trigger an inflammatory response in some people.
"Butter contains casein and lactose, which many people have a hard time digesting or to which they have an allergic response. Removing these proteins allows for us to get the benefits of the fat and nutrients that are in butter without these reactions," she said. But keep in mind: "Not everyone who is allergic to dairy can tolerate ghee, but many can."
It's Loaded With Vitamins
Did you know this healthy fat source also has some of the vitamins your body needs for healthy function? We didn't! "Nutritionally, ghee contains high amounts of vitamin A, conjugated linoleic acid, and butyric acid," said Dr. Chadiwick. 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 (about five percent or the daily recommended intake) of vitamin K and vitamin E. It also contains small amounts of vitamin B12."
It Has Antioxitant 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," said Dr. Chadwick. 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," she said. "Oxidative damage occurs when free-radical production within a cell is excessive. This can occur with excess sugar presentation [guilty!], excess metabolic stress, toxin exposure, poor mitochondrial function, and insulin dysregulation. Excess oxidative damage has been associated with inflammatory disorders and cancer." So there's a chance that adding in ghee to your diet might stave off disease thanks to the bioavailable antioxidants.
It 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," she said. Your bones will also get some support from CLAs (which we'll explain in just a second).
And It Could Help Your Body's Overall Function
Bonus from vitamin K: it can also "help with healthy insulin and glucose management within the cell," said Dr. Chadwick.
We also got a tip from Melinda Hemmelgarn, registered dietitian with Organic Valley and host of Food Sleuth Radio Organic; she told POPSUGAR that "ghee (and butter) from 100 percent 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."
Dr. Chadwick expanded on this, saying, "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."
Even if you don't already have butter in your diet, it might be a good time to add ghee into the mix. "Adding ghee to the diet, even if you are not currently eating butter, can provide a healthy source of fats supporting a balanced metabolism, digestion, gallbladder function, and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins," said Dr. Chadwick. "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."