Giddy for Ghee!
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
I get it. . . sometimes you just don’t have time to make it yourself.
That’s why I like to share my recommendations and reviews for food you can purchase while aiming to achieve your desired optimal health and wellness.
This month: ghee
When I graduated college, unorthodoxly in the middle of winter, over half a lifetime ago, my friends threw a party for me.
Generously, they tried to identify my favorite food to serve at the gathering. But they were all a bit flummoxed. Each of them knew that my favorite food was not typical party-fare.
My favorite food at the time? Buttered Toast.
I would sit for hours reading, studying, drawing up plans for new projects fueled only by tea and thick slices of German rye bread that I’d toast in the oven then slather with butter and finish with a sprinkling of salt.
Then life happened. Decades of it! First the dairy left the dietary picture. Gone was the butter. Then it was goodbye gluten (and the rye along with it.)
My favorite food no longer favored me!
Can you relate?
So when I found ghee (pronounced with a hard G and rhymes with glee), I was in heaven. Who knew that clarified butter had significantly less lactose and casein, and was considered a healing agent in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) practices for centuries?
Let’s get clear
That’s exactly what ghee does. It’s butter that’s gotten mostly clear – clear of almost all the milk proteins and solids. Ghee is traditionally made from either cow or buffalo’s milk.
The milk is heated which causes it to separate into three parts. The milk fat solids (which contain the dairy’s proteins) sink to the bottom. The water rises to the top. What’s left in the middle is a clear golden, healing and delicious oil.
This is ghee.
Three great things about ghee
It’s butter for those of us who can’t have it.
Ghee is very low in both lactose and casein. When I prepare a grain-free muffin or scone to satisfy a hankering, ghee seals the deal.
The fat soluble vitamins it contains can help with bone growth and organ integrity. (As for taste, when I first found my way to ghee after not eating dairy for a good many years, I might just have uttered “I can’t believe it’s not butter.” If you’re transitioning right from butter to ghee, you may more readily decipher the difference in taste.)
While ghee may not be for those who have a true dairy allergy (or should be tried carefully and sparingly), those of us with dairy sensitivities or intolerances can usually tolerate the small amount of milk proteins that are left lingering in ghee.
Ghee is a higher heat oil.
A higher heat oil means it reaches its smoke point later than many commonly used cooking oils, like olive oil. It oxidizes less readily, is less likely to cause free-radical damage, and is ultimately more healthful at these higher temperatures.
In France, as I understand it, they cook their eggs in clarified butter precisely because it won’t turn brown and overheat, retaining the integrity of the look and taste of the dish.
Ghee is used for its healing properties in the Ayurvedic tradition.
Among ghee’s healing properties is its ability to ignite the digestive fires to help break down your food.
It’s said to do this in several key ways, from stimulating and balancing the secretion of necessary stomach acid that facilitates the breakdown of our foods, especially our proteins, to helping to deliver the nutrients within the food to the cells.
The Ayurvedic tradition would expand upon this list considerably. It’s the go-to substance for supporting immunity, healing wounds, improving mind power, softening the skin and remedying what ails you.
If you’re dairy or lactose-free, ghee is for thee!
Where do I buy ghee?
In your local health food store you might find jars of ghee on the shelf near the Indian foods and coconut milks. Sometimes it’s stored in the fridge. If you don’t find any, ask them to carry one of these!
Here are a few brands in keeping with our concerns for quality. The first four are clearly grass-fed and organic. The one that follows is organic but I was unable to find anything verifying the feed for the animals.
- Pure Indian Foods
- Green Pastures their coconut ghee is also a great option!
- Purity Farms
- Ancient Organics
It’s important to note that ghee is an end product. This means that it’s a concentration of the quality from which the original product, the milk, has come. Antibiotics, hormones and chemical pesticides will be concentrated in the ghee if they were in the butter and previously the milk. For this reason, be sure to look for ghee from organic and ideally pastured butter (or look for pastured butter if making your own!).
How do I store ghee?
One of my favorite things about ghee is that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
This keeps it soft, spreadable and easy to use and measure. In fact, when I was making my own ghee some years ago, I could use the cupboard storage to illuminate whether I had done a sufficient job removing the milk proteins. If any mold appeared in the jar, I hadn’t been careful enough. It’s those milk proteins that are turning rancid!
If you have favorite ghee making tips or uses for your ghee, or if you go out and try it and have a story to tell, let us know! Consume your ghee with glee.
Portnoi PA, MacDonald A. The lactose and galactose content of milk fats and suitability for galactosaemia. Mol Genet Metab Rep. 2015;5:42-43. Published 2015 Oct 22. doi:10.1016/j.ymgmr.2015.10.001
Ahmad N, Saleem M. Studying heating effects on desi ghee obtained from buffalo milk using fluorescence spectroscopy. PLoS One. 2018;13(5):e0197340. Published 2018 May 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0197340
Sharma H, Zhang X, Dwivedi C. The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation. Ayu. 2010;31(2):134-140. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.72361
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