Q: Is clarified butter healthy?
A: Clarified butter is actually healthy? Say, it is so, right?
Everyone wants to slab a little butter on their morning toast in the name of health and lately butter has been a getting a much butter, I mean better, rap.
Butter is a dairy product made from churning milk until the buttermilk (liquids) separates from the butterfat (solids). It’s this solid part that’s known as butter, the creamy yellow product that pretty much makes anything and everything taste better.
“Ghee”, a form of clarified butter, is different than regular butter in that it’s made by first boiling traditional butter until the water in the butter has evaporated. What you’re left with is three layers – whey protein, liquid fat, and casein particles.
After skimming off the top protein layer, you’re able to pour off and separate the liquid fat layer.
This liquid fat is what’s known as clarified butter, a more pure version of regular butter. Ghee is a form of clarified butter and only slightly different in that it’s prepared by continuing to boil longer until the butter is caramelized and then strained again.
So, should we all start spreading, melting and drizzling clarified butter or ghee on all of our fave dishes?
One tablespoon of traditional butter offers about 100 calories and 11 grams of fat (7 of which are saturated fat).
Ghee has 90 calories and 10 grams of fat (6 of which are saturated fat).
Not that big of a difference, right?
But, we all know that just like actions speak louder than words, ghee’s health benefits count more than calories.
The traditional yellow butter you know and love might be on par in terms of calories, but ghee is richer in vitamins A, D, and E, which can help repair damaged skin, improve vision, help balance your hormones, and regulate your metabolism.
Ghee also contains 25 percent medium and short chain fatty acids compared to normal butter which contains only 12-15 percent. Butyric acid, one of the short chain fatty acids found in ghee has been linked to overall better gastrointestinal health as well as helping the body use it for fuel more efficiently.
When it comes to cooking, ghee has a higher smoke point compared to it’s traditional butter counterpart. This means that next time you’re whipping up that asian stir fry, you’re less likely to inhale smoke or consume any carcinogenic byproduct that’s produced by drizzling your cooking oil into a searing pan.
Recent science has even shown that people who consumed higher amounts of ghee had a lower occurrence of coronary heart disease, lower LDL cholesterol, improvements in psoriasis, and enhancement of memory, and it even has a positive effect on wound healing.
Now, back to the fat issue.
Even though ghee is high in saturated fat, studies have shown that to think that saturated fat is ‘bad’ for you might be an oversimplification of the cold hard facts.
The relationship between the dietary intake of fats and health is very complicated.
Fats overall, including saturated fats, are important for our health and wellness. Like just about all foods, there’s of course a spectrum of crummy fats (think processed, refined, fried and hydrogenated) and then there’s nutrient powerhouse fats like those found in ghee and avocado.
I’ve seen ghee marketed as a “health food” but even the healthiest of foods can be overdone.
After all, it’s still a form of butter, and butter is a ‘use in proper portion’ kind of fat. A little healthy fat goes a long way, but too much can work against you in attaining or maintaining your health and weight goals.
I’m a big fan of a little bit (think a teaspoon or two) of real nutrient dense fat at every meal. Add ghee to the list next to avocado, coconut or almonds as a fat food that can play a healthy role in your diet.
Just don’t eat with a spoon out of a jar no matter how tempting it may taste and how many health benefits you can rattle off.