What's Ghee All About?
What’s ghee all about?
I played around with the whole Paleo thing for a while. It was fun, until I regained consciousness and decided I needed cheese back in my diet*. Charcuterie boards became my appetizer of choice and suddenly I was back on the “everything in moderation” bandwagon.
I have never been that dietitian (or person in general) to follow specific diets, but I do like to occasionally test meal plans on myself. Over the past few years I have sampled dozens of diets, from Primal to Paleo and Ketogenic, in an attempt to get a deeper understanding of what works best for me and what could work best for you, depending on your goals.
Despite years of experimentation (and my leanings toward Paleo), I had never touched ghee. When I am Paleo I use coconut oil, and when I am not following a Paleo diet, I use a combination of butter and extra virgin olive oil. That was until this past weekend.
Following a lengthy afternoon hike with Nixon, my canine buddy, I felt desperately in need for one of those “breakfast for dinner” evenings (this wasn’t about to be some fancy dinner night). I settled on a simple mushroom scramble with a little crab and avocado. I assembled all of the ingredients, only to realize that I was out of butter. To my surprise, I found a jar of ghee in the far corner of my fridge. It was a product that I had purchased some time ago out of curiosity but had never used.
I knew ghee was “clarified butter” but what does that even mean? Is that healthier? Does it taste better?
Let’s learn a little more…
Ghee is prepared by heating butter or cream to just over 100°C to remove water content by boiling and evaporation, then filtering out the precipitated milk solids. Ghee was originally made popular in Ayurveda as a therapeutic agent and healing tool.
Because ghee is made from the precipitated solids of butter, it is more nutrient dense than butter (hence it’s more intense yellow color). It is higher in fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) as well as in fat. Ghee has approximately 14 grams of fat and 112 calories in 1 tbsp. whereas butter has approximately 12 grams of fat and 102 calories in 1 tbsp.
Although ghee has a higher fat concentration than butter, it is composed of more medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a unique form of saturated fat. Unlike most saturated fat, MCTs are rapidly absorbed in the body (if you want to get real geeky and learn why, then read here) and more quickly metabolized into an energy source. This means that instead of being stored as fat, they are used as fuel by your body’s organs and muscles.
Some studies have shown that MCTs can lead to appetite control and decreased body weight (but there is conflicting evidence) and some have shown they do not lead to adverse health effects.
One of my favorite parts about ghee is that it has a higher smoke point than butter. This means that, despite not having a fan above my stovetop, I won’t set my fire alarm off while cooking.
The foods with higher percentages of MCT are (found here):
- Coconut Oil: 15%
- Palm Kernel Oil: 7.9%
- Cheese: 7.3%
- Butter: 6.8%
- Milk: 6.9%
- Yogurt: 6.6%
In terms of taste, I couldn’t tell a difference between ghee and butter!
My takeaway: ghee is definitely something to mess around with! Although it’s higher in calories, it’s more nutrient dense, more satisfying (which can lead to weight loss), a more efficient source of energy, and a safer saturated fat option.
Do note that ghee isn’t some magical food that’s going to solve all your weight loss concerns and provide miraculous amounts of energy (you may still need that coffee or tea or whatever is your caffeine of choice).