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Using Ghee vs. Butter in Cooking

Get Some Ghee Into Your Indulgent Meals

Last night, I was treated to a homemade tikka masala. It was delicious, spicy, and especially creamy — the recipe included yogurt, whipping cream, and a couple tablespoons of ghee for sautéing. With all that saturated fat, you're not going to see this meal in the Healthy Recipe group, but I took small comfort in the health benefits of ghee.

Clarified butter is used in many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Cooking advantages include its high smoking point, very long shelf life (it doesn't need to be refrigerated), and nutty taste, but the amount of calories and saturated fat in this cooking oil may have you running as far away from it as possible. Actually, there are a number of health benefits to using clarified butter as a substitute for regular butter. Read on to find out what they are.

Although ghee contains 112 calories per tablespoon to butter's 102 calories and a slightly higher percentage of cholesterol (11 percent vs. 10 percent), it contains 0 trans fat. In addition, all the milk solids are removed from ghee during the clarifying process, so it's ideal for a lactose-intolerant diet. And its purported health properties are endless: ghee supposedly brings out the medicinal qualities in spices that are sautéed in it, aids in digestion, and restores brain function and immunity. In other words, in Aruyvedic circles, ghee is more than good.

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Of course, limiting your saturated fat intake is a good idea, but if you cook with butter every now and then, try substituting with ghee. You can make your own by boiling and simmering unsalted butter and skimming off the scum at the top (the milk solids will fall to the bottom of the pot, leaving the clear yellow clarified butter), or buy a jar of it at your local specialty market.

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