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Ghee: The Best Cooking Oil You’ve Never Heard Of

December 19, 2013

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If you’ve never heard of ghee, it is a type of clarified butter that originated in India and is frequently used in South Asian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine.

While it is usually made from cow or buffalo milk, ghee is lactose-free due to the preparation process that removes milk solids. That makes it safe to eat for many who are sensitive to dairy. Ghee is also a highly stable form of natural fat, similar to coconut oil, and therefore does not require refrigeration like regular butter.

Aside from ghee having a deliciously light buttery flavor, it is also quite beneficial for your health! Here’s why…

It’s a healthy fat. Ghee is a saturated fat, and while saturated fat remains controversial, an increasing amount of research shows that having a moderate amount of saturated fats in the diet not only helps to reduce cholesterol, but is generally good for overall health. Consuming 2 Tablespoons or less per day of saturated fats like ghee can help to balance hormones, support brain health, benefit hair, skin, and nails, aid with digestion, and support countless more essential functions. Just be sure not to overdo it, and saturated fat will be your friend.

It contains nutrients. Ghee is rich in omega-3 and omega-9 fats, as well as vitamins A, D, E, and K, and numerous minerals like calcium and potassium. Ghee also contains phenolic antioxidants, which help in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from other foods and strengthen the immune system. It also has butyric acid, which has anti-viral properties that can inhibit the growth of harmful cells.

It can withstand high heat. Ghee has a high smoke point (485°F) and contains an abundance of medium-chain fatty acids. This allows it to withstand high heat cooking where other oils would break down and become toxic.  This makes ghee perfect for sautéing anything from vegetables to meats, baking, or frying (if you must!).

It’s medicinal. While the research on these beneficial effects is limited so far, ghee has been used widely in Ayurvedic healing for treating ulcers, constipation, poor eyesight, burns, impaired memory, low libido, fevers, scar healing, joint pain, and more. It’s hard to doubt ancient wisdom!

You can find ghee in the international or Asian food aisle of many supermarkets and health food stores. Use it in cooking anything that wouldn’t mind a bit of buttery flavor, or simply in place of butter on your toast. Extra virgin olive oil is still your best bet for cold use such as in salads because ghee requires some heat to soften. Give it a try and see what you think!

What is your preferred cooking oil?