Ghee is also known as clarified butter which is made by heating butter until the curds sink to the bottom and brown. The foam is skimmed off, and the pure butterfat is also poured off which leaves milk solids behind. As it cools and solidifies, the pure fat left behind is ghee.
Revered as a prized superfood in India, ghee is supremely flavorful and contains a number of health-boosting properties. Ayurvedic practitioners consider ghee to be a top-notch health tonic that is recommended, in small amounts, as the first food for newborn babies, even before breast milk. It is given to kick digestion into gear, supply foundational nutrients for building a healthy brain and nervous system and give the body a life force (or ojas).
These incredible benefits are not just for newborn children – ghee is a delicious and health-boosting tonic that can benefit every system in the body.
What exactly is ghee?
Ghee is clarified butter – which is butter that has been simmered lightly on a stovetop which causes the milk fats, water, and other impurities to separate out to the top and bottom of the pan. The impurities are then filtered out removing the lactose and leaving the highly purified medicinal fat known as ghee – which becomes solid at room temperature.
Ghee vs. Butter
Clarifying butter into ghee changes it from a very delicious and nutritious fat into a potent and powerful elixir because clarification has both a purifying and concentrating impact on butter. Think of ghee as all of the best of butter without any of the substances that cause allergies like casein and lactose. In fact, the process of making ghee removes 99% of the lactose and the casein making it an excellent option for people who are lactose and casein sensitive.
Health Benefits of Ghee
This ancient and nourishing fat boasts many medicinal properties including:
Ghee nourishes and protects the brain: Saturated fat is essential for proper brain health. Ghee is indeed a high-quality and healthy source of saturated fat. The neurons and nerve fibers in the brain are coated in a myelin sheathing which is made of saturated fats like those found in ghee. Without this sheathing, neurons, axons, and nerve cells would not be able to fire and communicate with each other. When our diet is lacking in healthy saturated fat, this communication can’t happen. In addition, saturated fat is a necessary building block for brain cells.
Ghee is also a rich source of cholesterol, another important brain-boosting nutrient. Dr. David Perlmutter, a functional medicine doctor and author of Grain Brain, explains how cholesterol is necessary for healthy brain function and also prevention of disease:
“Cholesterol is vital for a well-functioning brain. Cholesterol functions as a brain-protective antioxidant. It is the raw material from which our bodies make vitamin D, a fundamental player in preserving brain function. In addition, cholesterol is the precursor for the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone ¾ all of which contribute to healthy brain function. While the brain constitutes about 2-3% of our total body weight, an impressive 25% of the body’s cholesterol is found in the brain. So when the FDA last year began requiring consumer warnings on certain cholesterol-lowering medications related to memory decline and other cognitive issues, it wasn’t surprising. Indeed, it has now been shown that in the elderly, those folks whose cholesterol levels are the highest may have as much as a 70% risk reduction for dementia.”
Ghee also contains choline and omega-3 fatty acids – both essential brain nutrients. Choline is a precursor to neurotransmitters like acetylcholine which is extremely important for memory and learning. Persons who suffer from a choline deficiency may experience decreased concentration, hampered memory, changes in mood and cognitive impairments. Omega 3-fatty acids help reduce inflammation, increase gray matter and slow the rate of aging while improving cognitive health, memory as well as overall mood and wellbeing.
Ghee helps with a healthy digestive tract: Ghee is a rich source of butyrate (butyric acid). This short-chain fatty acid encourages the growth and repair of new tissues in the digestive tract. This can protect against colon cancer and repair leaky gut syndrome, IBS, ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease.
Over time, toxins, gluten, allergens, pollutants, and antibiotics can cause holes and scarring in the intestinal wall. Butyric acid reverses this damage and can reduce inflammation in the digestive tract while healing damage in the mucus lining of the stomach and intestines.
Butyric acid balances and strengthens colonies of healthy gut bacteria making ghee a great option for persons suffering from candida overgrowth and other dangerous pathogens.
Even if you don’t have any significant gut issues, consuming ghee regularly can help improve digestion by allowing for greater nutrient absorption and overall health and wellbeing of the digestive system.
Did you know that a large portion of your nervous system is located in your gut?
The enteric nervous system is also known as our “second brain,” and is located in our intestines. More than 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut along with about 50% of the body’s dopamine. In addition, the intestines produce and co-regulate 30 other neurotransmitters that are identical to those that are in the brain and used by the central nervous system for regulation of mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, and other mental and bodily processes.
This helps to explain why a poorly functioning digestive system – due to overuse of antibiotics, diet, and lifestyle or simply overconsumption of irritating foods can interfere with the functioning of the second brain. This can lead to issues like depression, a disrupted immune system and a number of other common diseases. Ghee nourishes, protects and strengthens the second brain.
Ghee also encourages bile production in the liver, which is necessary for proper digestion, especially digestion of fatty foods.
Ghee is rich in essential, vitamins, minerals and nutrients
Ghee is rich in vitamins and nutrients that are often hard to get in a regular diet
When you consume ghee, Vitamin A comes in retinol form which is the best form. Most vitamin A in our diet comes in a beta-carotene form that requires the body to convert it to retinol form before it can be used. Vitamin A is essential for a healthy immune system along with healthy eyes, skin, and hair.
You will find plenty of vitamin E in ghee, which is the most powerful and important antioxidant in the human body.
Vitamin K2 is needed for a healthy heart and bones. Because it is hard to get and rare in most foods, ghee is a great option. Adequate levels of vitamin K2 protect you from tooth decay and hardening of the arteries while supporting the growth and development of bones.
Although it may sound like a bad thing, cholesterol is necessary for overall health and wellbeing along with the production of hormones, brain function, and nerve function. Contrary to old ideology, cholesterol does not cause heart disease or blood clots. Ghee contains superior quality cholesterol that is good for both brain and body.
Omega-3 and Omega-9 Fatty Acids
As long as it is from grass-fed cows, ghee contains omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids, which play vital roles in the human body and are particularly important for mood and brain health, among other things.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Ghee that is made from grass-fed cow’s milk contains CLA which can help reduce tumors, decrease cholesterol and high blood pressure and reduce inflammation while burning body fat.
Ghee can rejuvenate the mind and body
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine that identifies ghee with its ability to increase the life-force in the body – also known as ojas. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, ojas is primordial life energy that everyone has that keep us alive and healthy. This life force can be depleted as we age, are under stress, carrying toxnis or have a poor diet. Ayurvedic doctors feel that there are a number of foods, including ghee that can give the body the ojas it needs and help promote strength.
Additionally, according to Daoist herbal tradition, ghee is a jing-enhancing food that can nourish the entire mind and body.
Ghee is great for cooking
Ghee makes an amazing cooking oil because of its high smoke point. It can handle temperatures up to 450 degrees F and provides food with a rich and buttery flavor to food. Because ghee is a saturated fat it is quite a bit more stable than other fats/oils which means it holds its nutrients well.
Selecting the best ghee
The most important thing to consider when buying ghee is that you purchase ghee made from 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. An additional plus would be if it is organic. Purchase ghee packaged in glass jars for the best freshness.