Ghee is very “in” at the moment. It’s so trendy that, at the end of March, it was included in the Oscars’ famously over-the-top goody bags. The goody bags — worth over $100,000 each — contained black truffle ghee. But ghee isn’t just a food of the rich and famous. Everyday recipes are calling for ghee more and more frequently. But, because it’s not something that is part of a traditional American diet, many of us don’t know what it is, other than some form of fat.
Ghee is a form of clarified butter that contains fewer dairy proteins and is used traditionally in the Middle East and India. Ghee is clarified at a lower temperature and for longer than most other clarified butter, giving it a high burning point and making it attractive for frying food.
In 2008 a study saw that people who ate ghee had better cholesterol levels than people who consumed other types of oil. An animal study with rabbits showed that ghee increased good cholesterol and reduced fatty deposits in arteries. However, it raised blood sugar. A study of 206 healthy adults saw it might aid proteins that help heart health.
In studies, it seems to be no better, nor any worse, than butter. Because ghee has much of its dairy proteins removed, it has a lower lactose content than regular butter. But, overall, they are similar nutritionally, with ghee being ever so slightly more calorific and fattier. After all, it is essentially concentrated butter. It does have a higher smoke point than butter which makes it “healthier” to use while frying. Having been used for thousands of years in Asia, it was initially created to stop butter from spoiling.
For now, it seems like the jury is out on this trendy food. Championed by some for health benefits that have yet to be proven, the medical proof simply doesn’t exist either for or against ghee. Much like margarine, which went in and out of favor for cholesterol health, only time will tell if this fad is here to stay. Dairy fat can be very healthy, but the amount of fat overall may be a worry. Speaking to a health professional and only having something in moderation is generally the best practice when it comes to new foods.
Banner image: Hartej.hundal, Wikimedia