In Ayurvedic Philosophy, Ghee (popularly known as Clarified Butter in the west) is indispensable towards maintaining healthy living. If you study deeper into Ayurveda, ghee appears almost everywhere which clues on its importance. Not only that, but It also appears a lot in all ancient Indian cooking methods as a foundation stone. Today we delve deeper into what makes ghee so amazing!
What is Ghee?
Ghee is a healthy fat which is generated by melting white butter and heating it to high temperatures. It has a beautiful golden color with a nutty aroma which fills the room. You can call it a more purified and much more nutritious version of butter. It has been part of Indian cuisine for thousands of years and is now also being recognized by the west as best fat for cooking.
Ghee Benefits – Importance Of Ghee In Ayurveda
According to Indian Shatras (scriptures), ghee is revered as life itself. It is known as आयुर्घृतम् (aayu ghritam) in Sanskrit, where आयु (aayu) means ‘life force’ and घृतम् (ghritam) means ‘ghee’. It is the most important “dravya” or substance, which works as a foundation for nutrients and medicinal properties of herbs to be carried to all cells in the body.
1. High Nutritious Value
Ghee is extremely high in nutritious value. It contains essential vitamins like Vitamin A, E, D, and B12. Due to the lifestyle choices of the current generation, Vitamin E, D, and B12 deficiencies are highly common and they are the main causes of bad skin problems, hair fall and premature greying of hair. Vitamins D and B12 help in maintaining healthy and strong bones.
2. Helps Maintain A Healthy Gut
Ghee is rich in Butyric Acid (BTA) which is highly beneficial in maintaining a healthy gut. BTA is a saturated short chained fatty acid, which is created when the fibre we consume is broken down by healthy bacteria in our intestines. Since Ghee is naturally rich in BTA, our gut absorbs it straight away, maintaining good health for the gut. It contains anti-inflammation properties and can aid in the treatment of crone’s disease and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). BTA is also found beneficial in regulating diabetes, as it is good for maintaining steady insulin response. BTA has also been found to increase immunity.
3. Regulates Blood Sugar Level
Ghee reduces the glycemic index (GI) of the food it is consumed with. When we consume food, it is digested and broken down instantly into glucose. The foods with high GI create a large amount of glucose, which makes the body produce equal amounts of insulin. Too much insulin and sugar in the blood is very unhealthy
Ghee regulates blood sugar and makes sure that it increases steadily, which gives you constant energy throughout the day rather than making you feel tired in the middle of the day. A steady rise of blood sugar also ensures that the nutrition of food is properly being absorbed by the cells.
4. Aids In Weight Loss
Regular intake of cow ghee is also great for weight loss. The Butyric Acid (BTA) in ghee helps prevent metabolic syndrome which is a metabolic disorder and is most common these days. It includes issues like high blood sugar, high triglycerides levels, low HDL (good cholesterol), obesity. If you would like to know in detail about metabolic syndrome, click here.
Ghee is highly effective in weight loss. One might wonder how a “fat” can reduce weight. Ghee is essentially a “healthy fat” which contains rare medium chain fatty acids which are highly beneficial in burning other forms of fats in the body. Medium chain fatty acids are also found in Coconut Oil which has also been recognized as a superfood for weight loss. For losing weight though, it needs to be consumed in moderation. It is advisable to eat about 2-4 tsp of ghee daily for aiding healthy weight loss. It is also advisable to consume cow ghee rather than buffalo ghee as it contains less fat and has more nutritional value.
5. Great for Lactose Intolerant People
Ghee is Lactose and Casein free. It is an excellent healthy fat source for lactose intolerant people.
6. Has High Smoking Point
Ghee has the highest smoke point compared to all other cooking mediums like different types of oils, butter. The smoke point is referred to as the temperature at which the oil (or any other cooking medium) used starts to burn and smoke. If the temperature is higher than the smoking point, the nutrients in the oil get destroyed. Since ghee has a high smoking point, the nutrients remain intact and it becomes an excellent medium for transporting nutrition to the body.
Below is a chart of smoking points of different types of fats used for cooking.
7. Beneficial During Pregnancy For A Healthy Baby
It is also beneficial to consume ghee during pregnancy as it contains all vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids for healthy growth and development of the baby. It prevents the baby from developing birth disorders like malnutrition, bone disorders.
8. Great Bone Supplement
Ghee is a great supplement for the development of healthy bones. It helps increase bone density and muscle mass giving definition to the body structure. It improves bone strength and stamina.
9. Improves Immunity And Help In Bodybuilding
Ghee is the highest natural source of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) when prepared from organic grass-fed cows’ butter. CLA is a compound which is commonly used for weight loss and bodybuilding. It is known to work on fat deposits and help reduce body weight as well as improve immunity.
Difference Between Cow Ghee And Buffalo Ghee
Ghee obtained from a desi cow (Bos Indicus breed) is considered far more superior in Ayurveda, compared to one obtained from buffalo milk. Ghee in itself is great to add in your daily diet but Desi cow ghee is much more valued in the Ayurvedic system and it is also said that the older the ghee is, the greater its nutritional value. Cow ghee older than 1 year is potent medicine.
Buffalo Ghee has almost double the amounts of fats than Cow Ghee. If losing weight is your primary reason for consuming ghee, buffalo ghee might not help you as much. It is more difficult to digest in comparison to cow ghee.
Also, a few treatments like nasya and panchakarma performed in Ayurveda can only be done using cow ghee.
How To Make Ghee?
Generally, ghee making which is done using the traditional method is best for health. These days ghee which is made using industrial process is not beneficial as it is made by the simple fat separation process. The fat from milk is separated using machines and then boiled until all water is evaporated. This method lacks the necessary culturing of milk which is an important step in giving the ghee its medicinal qualities. It is best to make ghee at home. Follow the steps below
1. Get 1lt of whole fat cow milk. If you can get desi cow milk, that will be great but if not, use any other.
2. Boil the milk so there are no bacterias left.
3. Leave the milk aside till it cools down to lukewarm. After that, add 1tbsp of curd and mix well. Cover with lid and leave for about 7-8 hours till it turns into curd. This is called curd making or culturing of milk. The curd should not be too shaky and should look solid from above. Put it in the refrigerator for 4 – 5 hours.
4. You will now see a thick layer of cream mixed with curd on the top. Use a spoon to scrape out the top layer.
5. Store it in a steel or glass container and repeat steps 1 to 4 for a few days, until the container is full. It should be about 400 – 500 gms.
6. Add the cream mixture to a bigger container and add some cold water. Churn with a wooden spatula for 15 – 20 mins till the butter separates from the water. Take out the butter being formed at the top of the container. Add more water slowly and repeat the process until the water becomes clearer. Collect the butter in a heavy bottom pan or wok. The residual water is called buttermilk and can be consumed as a drink to be consumed with lunch. It aids digestion and is great for a healthy gut.
6. Heat the butter in a medium to low flame. Lower to flame to lowest when the butter starts to boil. Let it boil till you start seeing a golden brown liquid being separated from the milk solids. Be careful of the crackling and stay a bit away from boiling butter as it is can be dangerous.
7. Turn the heat off and filter the ghee into a glass bottle. Do not use plastic. After cooling down, you can store it anywhere in shade or even in the fridge.
How long does ghee last and how to store it?
Cow Ghee can last as long as hundred years. It doesn’t go bad and works as a medicine if it is older than a year. You should be storing it either in a glass container or chini mitti container (They are kind of like earthen pots – see image below). Make sure you store the ghee in a dry and cool place.
How Is Cow Ghee Used In Ayurveda?
Cow ghee is used in making many medicines. It is generally combined to make medicated ghee, for example, if combined with the herb Brahmi, it will be called Brahmi ghee. Since ghee is used as a medium for herbs and other substances, it delivers the qualities of herbs to deeper into tissues and cells.
Cow ghee is also used in cleansing procedures used in panchakarma treatment. Panchakarma is a group of 5 treatments for detoxification of body from all kinds of toxins. It restores the immune system and brings balance to all tridoshas (vata pitta and kapha). The procedures Basti (colon cleansing using herbal enema) and Nasya (nose administration) in panchakarma are done using Cow Ghee as the medium.
A treatment for improving the eye strength called Tarpana also uses a herbal ghee mixture. There are many other preparations worth mentioning but I will not go too much in detail here.
Ghee or clarified butter is quite easily available in abundance, but it’s always better to choose an organic version (although pricey), or make your own ghee. Here are a few options that I found
Buffalo ghee should be avoided for overweight people. There are no side effects to cow ghee as long as it is taken in a controlled manner. Too much of something good is also bad. Since ghee is a kapha food, if taken too much, will increase the kapha dosha in the body and hence can result in weight gain or heart disease.
Also, it is advised to have ghee with warm food.