Ghee has always been a part of the Great Indian diet.
In fact, our ancestors used ghee in several ways- from sweets to medicines (Ayurveda prescribes use of ghee in several forms).
However, sometime during the 80s, a marketing trend successfully deceived people into believing that consuming ghee led to an increase in body weight. Interestingly, it is around the same time that refined oils gained popularity as a healthier substitute .
After nearly 3 decades of living through the trend, we are now getting back to our roots.
So, why is ghee good for your health?
Lets dig deeper into this, but first things first.
We've abused the term "Fat" to an extent that any food that contains fat is considered unhealthy...And, ghee is a fat. So, let's understand Fats before we explore the benefits of ghee.
What's a "Fat"?
Fats are high energy nutrients;
Our bodies use fats (from food) to provide energy, make tissues, produce various hormones and so on.
Fats act as shock absorbers- protecting the various organs from an injury
It also sheathes the nerve cells, and enables electrical signalling to and fro the brain;
It is a part of every cell membrane- holding them together.
So, that's great, isn't it? Fats are essential.
Now that we understand the importance of fats in our bodies, let's talk about Ghee.
Ghee, Short Chain Fatty Acids, and their influence on Gut Health
Ghee contains Butyric Acid/ Butyrate- a short chain fatty acid (SCFA); (Other major SCFAs are Acetate & Propionate);
SCFAs are produced when fiber (that we take in through food) is broken down by the bacteria in the colon (top part of the large intestine);
Butyric acid is one of the main sources of energy for the colon cells , and is therefore important in maintaining the gut health (read metabolism);
According to studies, SCFAs play an important role in burning fats, and decreasing fat storage;
This means that the SCFAs help in reducing the free fatty acids- thereby resulting in fat loss;
While the amount of Butyrate in ghee is smaller compared with what's made by the microorganisms in the body, it nevertheless aids in this process;
Therefore, to all those who said adding ghee would add to the fat, research seems to point to no such correlation; in fact, ghee aids in burning fat (lipolytic)-not retaining it.
Cholesterol and the influence of Ghee
What's cholesterol? It's a fatty substance that has no calories, and provides no energy.
Cholesterol is essential for the body- it is involved in the absorption of certain vitamins, and in the synthesis of hormones.
It sticks to the walls of blood vessels, and prevents flow of blood through the arteries thereby increasing the risk of heart attack/ stroke.
Does Ghee increase cholesterol? Not really. Ghee contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) that plays a key role in keeping the cholesterol levels in check.
Once again, there is no evidence regarding ghee leading to unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Pregnancy, and Ghee
Ayurveda is replete with dishes made out of ghee for pregnant, and lactating mothers;
Why is ghee important during this phase?
The answer lies in thyroid;
Thyroid is an important hormone that plays a key role in supporting the growth of the fetus;
Vitamin D is a nutrient that regulates the functioning of the thyroid gland, and interestingly, Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient;
This means that it is absorbed better in the presence of fats, and Ghee is one of the best known fats...
Deep Frying, and Ghee
One of the factors to consider while deep frying is the smoke point of the oil;
Smoke point is a measure of how quickly the fats oxidise when heated;
On oxidation, oils produce harmful compounds that make the oil unfit for consumption.
Ghee has one of the highest smoke points- making it a great source for deep frying (the other recommended oil is the coconut oil).
Lower Glycaemic Index (GI) and Ghee
Now, Glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of how different foods affect the blood sugar levels in the body;
A high GI indicates greater impact on blood sugar levels;
People with insulin resistance (diabetes, PCOS etc.) are prescribed low GI foods;
Ghee aids in lowering the GI of the food that we consume thereby regulating the blood sugar levels;
Note: Generally speaking, adding fat to the food lowers the GI.
How? Fats are nutrients that get digested very slowly; while digestion of carbohydrates begins at the tongue, fats are acted upon much later in the stomach, and the intestines.
For decades, we've made a devil out of ghee by claiming that it adds to weight, cholesterol etc. However, these claims are far from being true.
As we've seen in this article, ghee prevents fat gains, and provides multiple benefits to those suffering from various conditions.
However, while understanding the multiple benefits, it is important to consume ghee in moderation. And, by moderation, we mean to say that you need to "use it wisely".
We do not recommend drinking 4 glasses of ghee a day.
However, we do recommend adding generous quantities to your meals such as adding ghee to your rice, rotis, dals etc.
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