Ghee vs. Butter

For years, my yogi friends have been talking about the magic of ghee.  Frankly, I was only ever half listening to the conversation – until recently when I became obsessed with buckwheat pancakes.  That obsession could take up another article but suffice it to say that for the past 4 weeks I have been having a pancake a day – and it’s now one of the main reasons I get out of bed.  I could not resist having butter with my pancake but every day as I slathered it on  I began to wonder – is this healthy? Are my thighs exploding?  My pants have been feeling a little tight lately…

During a weekend prowl of the most expensive grocery store in Geneva – Globus – I came across a jar of ghee.  It cost $20 and yes – I bought it.  After spreading it on my pancake this morning, I can report: I am hooked.  (Although for $20 I think I can make it myself…) A little research brought me to this fascinating article by Delia Quigley:

The Health Benefits of Ghee

Known in the West as “clarified butter”, ghee has a long history as a staple of Indian cooking and medicine. According to the Bhavaprakasha 6.18.1, an ancient 16th Century Ayurvedic text, “Ghee is sweet in taste and cooling in energy, rejuvenating, good for the eyes and vision, kindles digestion, bestows luster and beauty, enhances memory and stamina, increases intellect, promotes longevity, is an aphrodisiac and protects the body from various diseases.”

With its delicious buttery flavor ghee can be used in place of butter or other oils in cooking. Traditionally, ghee is made by slowly melting butter over a low heat. This creates three separate layers, a watery layer that is the first to be skimmed off, than the milk solids are removed leaving a deep golden colored saturated butterfat. This golden liquid contains conjugated linolenic acid, which is known to aid the body in weight loss and helps to lubricate the body’s connective tissues. Because it is so rich in antioxidants and lacking in milk solids, ghee does not have to be refrigerated, which makes it great for travel and for use in herbal medicines.

Ayurveda uses ghee both internally and externally as a massage oil in treatment for dryness, arthritis, and to loosen toxins from the fatty tissues. The Ayurvedic detoxification program, Panchakarma, recommends eating ghee with meals, along with daily massage treatments to help bring the toxins out of the tissues and out to the surface. Since the body excretes mostly water soluble chemicals the ghee works to dissolve the lipid soluble toxins for elimination through the digestive tract.

Easy to digest, ghee is alkaline forming in the body helping to calm inflammation that is fed by an acidic Standard American (SAD) Diet. Since the milk solids are removed in the cooking process ghee is lactose free; good news for individuals who cannot digest dairy products.

Medicinally ghee is highly touted for its benefits to the nerve tissue and the brain. Improving memory function is only one benefit as it is also prescribed in cases of depression, anxiety, dementia, and epilepsy. The ancient Indian masters attributed the rich fat in ghee with the properties to regenerate brain cells and should be eaten by pregnant women to insure the development of the fetus’s brain.

According to Ayurveda practitioner, Dr. Vasant Lad, burning eye issues, eye stress or eye disorders such as glaucoma, can benefit from incorporating ghee into the diet. A popular eye treatment he recommends is to place one drop of lukewarm liquid ghee in each eye at bedtime to soothe and strengthen weak eyes.
Ghee is easy to use in cooking, has a high smoking point, meaning it won’t burn at high temperatures; contains no artificial ingredients or trans fats. It is, however, a saturated fat weighing in at 14 grams of fat per tablespoon. A “little dab will do ya”, so less is more when using the rich flavor of ghee in cooking.

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