Ghee, the clarified butter has been used for generations for the taste, aroma and flavour it adds to the food. My memories of cow ghee consumption dates back to my childhood where my grandmother considered it as an essential ingredient to be added in foodstuffs such as boiled rice, dal, vegetables etc. as she believed that besides enhancing the taste, it also provides strength, vigour and vitality to the body. I remember a small cow shed at my hometown where cows were raised with loving care of my grandmother and we used to enjoy fresh home-made ghee made by churning curdled whole milk with an indigenous corrugated wooden beater, separating the butter and clarifying it by open pan heating.
It has been used traditionally in cooking various mouth-watering food items such as halwa, laddu, poori and parantha which helps satisfying the taste buds of Indian community. Indian cooking is incomplete without the use of ghee and is considered as the main source of energy which helps in survival during extreme periods of starvation.
I still see my grandmother relishing home-made desi-ghee laddus and has an immunity much stronger than most of us today. I believe most of us must have experienced the same in our families where we have seen our mothers and grandmothers being energetic the entire day managing family and household chores with the same dynamism and vivacity. Have we ever wondered what could be one of the possible reasons behind it?
Health Benefits of ghee:
- Ghee is rich in saturated fats but contains more of short- chain fatty acids which are easily assimilated, absorbed and metabolized to provide energy.
- It also contains higher quantity of mono – unsaturated fatty acids (MFA) which is more desirable as it results in reduction of bad cholesterol, the LDL and increases the good cholesterol, the HDL.
- Cow ghee has got adverse publicity due to its high content of saturated fatty acids (SFAs) which are linked to abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, diabetes, CVD and cancer. However, a recent research has emphasized the much neglected aspect of cow ghee being rich in CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) which is a potential therapeutic agent and helps in providing protection from cardiovascular diseases, builds up the immunity and has anti- carcinogenic properties.
- Ayurveda also plays great emphasis on healing properties of ghee ranging from lubricating the joint to providing smooth, soft skin and lustrous hair.
- Since ghee has a higher smoke point of around 250 degree Celsius, it does not deteriorate and tends to stay in its original form at a much higher cooking temperatures thereby maintaining its nutritional properties.
- Ghee is also rich in vitamins A, D and riboflavin as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Just like the phrase – All good things remain good only when done until certain extent; dangers of consuming cow ghee as saturated fat become potent when it is consumed in higher quantity than the prescribed limit. For a person consuming 1800 Kcal in a day, approx. 10% of energy can come from saturated fat. Since 5g (1 tsp) of fat is equivalent to 45 Kcal, 20g (4tsp) of saturated fat can be consumed by an individual with no special medical condition.
Thus it is essential to not replace the coveted cow ghee with oils such as sunflower, sesame, soybean, olive etc. but practice discretion in use to minimise harmful effects and maximize the health benefits. The recommendation is to consume various SFAs, PUFAs and MUFAs in the diet and avoid high heat and harsh cooking practices.