If you had to pick the first food item to go from your fridge when starting a diet, you would probably go for the butter. With so much information about the benefits of alternative fats like coconut oil or olive oil, it may be hard to believe butter is considered a health food in some cultures. But it's not the butter in a tub you usually pick up from the grocery store -- clarified butter, or ghee, has been used for centuries for its health benefits.
What Is Ghee?
Clarified butter is different from regular butter because of how it's made. Traditional butter is made by churning cream, resulting in a rich dairy product. Ghee, on the other hand, takes it a step further. The butter is put in a pot and heated until it simmers and begins to separate. The solid parts that remain, known as milk solids, are removed and once the liquid clarified butter cools, you have ghee. This process removes nearly all the lactose and milk protein (casein) found in the butter.
Ghee is a staple in Indian and South Asian cooking and in the practice of traditional Indian medicine, also known as Ayurveda. One of the reasons ghee is so praised is because it contains butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid with reported health benefits. Because of how it's prepared, ghee is well tolerated by those with issues digesting dairy products (lactose intolerant).
Suggested Benefits of Clarified Butter
What else can clarified butter do? Here are some of the traditional reasons for using ghee:
- Combat inflammation
- Support digestion
- Strengthen the immune system
- Mild burn remedy
- Source of vitamins A, D, E and K
- Provides conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) to support weight management
- Topical dry skin and hair treatment
- Keeps the joints lubricated and flexible
A 2013 animal study published in the medical journal Lipids in Health and Disease found the CLA in ghee had antioxidant and cholesterol-lowering effects. However, it's important to remember ghee is still butter, which means it's high in saturated fat. This means more research will be needed to determine its effects on cholesterol. Make sure to keep your diet balanced in order to reap its benefits.
How to Use It
First of all, you can make your own ghee by simmering unsalted butter until in separates and then removing the solids. It doesn't need to be refrigerated. After that, you can use it in as many ways as you can traditional butter when cooking -- clarified butter has a higher smoking point, which makes it a more versatile cooking agent.
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