If you love Indian food, like I do, I am sure you have heard about ghee, or clarified butter. Many tend to consider this to be unhealthy, but I dare to challenge that.
In this time and age, we have become very afraid of everything that contains fat, and fat reduced foods are reckoned to be the healthier option. The problem occurs when you remove the (tasty) fats from the foods, you are left with a very bland food, and therefore have to substitute with even more sugar and refined starches to make it edible.
I dare say that fats are good for you. Saturated fats contain good amounts of energy. Problems arises when you ingest too much of it, and especially with large amounts of refined starches and sugars. If you look at epidemiological studies, and compare it with our food trends, you will see that after we started eating less fats and more starches, the obesity rate went up. There are many reasons for obesity, but what I will say is that solely reducing saturated fats is not the way to go to cure people from this epidemic that is causing so many health issues down the line.
So what is Ghee? In short, ghee is butter that has been clarified, meaning you remove the dairy proteins and lactose, and are left with only fat. What is interesting about the fat in ghee and butter is that it is the richest food source of small chain (saturated) fatty acids you can get hold of. This fat is the main fuel for intestinal cells, primarily in the colon. Granted, this can also be produced from bacteria breaking down starches called Fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS), from foods such as Jerusalem artichokes and Chicory, but still I consider ingesting good amounts of small chain fatty acids to be very good to preserve good intestinal health.
Ghee also contain great amounts of medium chain fatty acids, almost to the same extent as coconut oil. You may have heard about all the health benefits of coconut oil, but I think it is less commonly known that ghee have many similar health benefits. Medium chain fatty acids are considered to give the body, muscles and mind a great boost of energy.
Ghee and butter contain quite a bit of cholesterol, but studies have shown that the cholesterol we ingest doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in cholesterol in the blood, but rather work as fuel, and conversion to other essential hormones in the body including cortisol and the sexual hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Too low ingestion of cholesterol could also be a health risk.
I am not saying that you should start eating huge amounts of ghee from now on, just that this food is in many ways considered a healthy option. Also, for people suffering from lactose intolerance and dairy protein intolerance (make sure there are no traces of dairy protein in the ghee) this clarified butter can be a great food source in your cuisine. Besides, when cooking with ghee, the amount of saturated fats renders this fat very stable, and is from my point of view the best oil you can use for high heating.
There are many ways to make ghee. The easiest is to just take a block of butter (preferably from grass fed cows) in a pot, heat it up slowly, and after a few minutes when the butter has melted the fat goes up and the dairy protein and lactose falls as sediment to the bottom of the pot. It is now safe to pour the oil over in another container, careful not to get any of the sediment with you. If you want a ghee with a smoother texture, you can try to add olive oil to it. Otherwise, it works perfect on itself.