As a child – I was not interested in food. My mother even today talks about the efforts it took to get me to have a meal (and she relishes telling the stories to my son who laps it up all with glee!). My bête noire was the plain dal, rice and ghee. In our family, it was just what the name suggests – plain boiled tuvar (arhar) dal, rice and ghee. This would be mashed up to and it was supposed to be the ultimate in nutrition. I could never eat it, but sometimes I would close my eyes and get a whiff of homemade ghee and manage a few mouthfuls. My fascination with ghee continues to this day. The aroma of freshly made ghee can stimulate your appetite and whet your taste buds.
When I started living alone and had to cook for myself – I stopped using ghee. My mother would faithfully send me a bottle of homemade ghee – but that would just sit pretty for c’mon – who doesn’t know that ghee is bad for you? It is fattening, it increases cholesterol, it is for grandmothers! This was not just my opinion, but most people around believed it. Dalda (otherwise known as Vanaspati ghee) was supposed to be healthier and relatively cheaper, if I remember right. The urban Indian kitchen was flooded with Palm oil, Canola oil, Sunflower oil and so on and ghee was relegated to the back of the larder. Despite the reduction in consumption, the incidence of life style diseases was rising. Quite a conundrum, isn’t it?
When I was pregnant, my mother took over my nutrition and insisted that I have a teaspoon if ghee with every meal. She said that it would be good for my baby and I will thank her later! She paid no heed to my protests about ghee making me fat. To my chagrin, the doctors also agreed with her. I was seeing a wonderful Ayurvedic practitioner at that time who explained the benefits of ghee.
What is ghee?
When you simmer homemade (or store bought) unsalted butter for a few minutes, preferably in a thick bottomed pan, you will get a goldenish brown liquid – the kitchen will have a tantalizing aroma! The liquid will have some blackish impurities that need to be strained out. The result is fresh homemade ghee! Ghee dates back thousands of years and ancient Hindus have long used it for cooking, medicinal value and of course for various rituals. Traditionally, ghee was made from cow’s milk.
Ghee does not have lactose or casein – thus making it suitable even for the lactose intolerant. It is rich in short- chain and medium-chain fatty acids, hence is actually good for the health of your heart!
Top Benefits of Ghee
I can see the speculative looks right now! Yes, you read right! Ghee is good for weight loss! Ghee is rich in medium short chain fatty acids and this helps in increasing the metabolism. Rashi Chowdhary, a Dubai based Nutrionist and a regular columnist with Friday magazine is a major advocate of having a teaspoon of organic, pure ghee on an empty stomach. She says that this kick starts the metabolism. (it is implied that you need to have a balanced diet too!)
A healthy gut means a healthy you! Ghee is rich in butyric acid. Butryic acid is needed to eliminate toxins and other fats from the digestive tract. The body does produce its own butyric acid, but ghee aids the process! Ghee also increases the gastric acid which means saying bye-bye to constipation!
We live in the golden age of auto immune diseases.. every second city dweller has some condition related to this – which also means increased inflammation levels in the body. If you have tried Ayurveda, you would have had experience in having medicines that are either or need to be laced with ghee. Ayurveda believes that ghee reduces the leukotriene secretion and prostaglandin – reduces acidity and brings down the overall inflammation levels. High inflammation levels are linked to Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Heart problems, Arthritis etc. Ghee aids in the cure and management of so many health conditions
Healthy cooking Medium
Ghee has a high smoke point – that means that heating ghee does not spoil it. It does not release free radicals like most cooking oils at a high temperature. Cooking and frying in ghee is healthier.
Ghee is rich in Vitamins A, D, E & K2 These vitamins are essential for a healthy body. The lack of Vitamin D leads to multiple health issues. Our ancestors knew this and hence increased the consumption of ghee during the winter months – ghee is needed for strong bones and glowing skin!
As mentioned earlier – ghee is generally safe for people who are lactose intolerant.
Choosing the right brand
It is best to make ghee at home using age old methods. But it may not always be possible. I cannot make it in Dubai as I do not have access to good quality raw milk. The next best choice is to buy good quality organic ghee. Traditionally ghee from cow’s milk is considered healthier. Read the labels on the packet- it should clearly state that it is made from cow’s milk. There should typically not be any trans-fat mentioned
Ghee is healthy! Include it in your daily diet. Add it your rotis, rice, dosas, idlis, kichadis… or just have it plain!