ghee and its benefits

Ghee & its Benefits

Ghee or clarified butter is an effective Rasayana. In the Ayurvedic kitchen ghee is used in place of butter or oil. According to Ayurveda, ghee strengthens the digestion (agni) and is ideal for good health. (The protein and lactose that milk contains are removed during the preparation of ghee).

The Benefits of Ghee:
Traditional ghee is clarified butter – butter from which water and milk solids have been removed by gentle heating. Ayurveda considers ghee to be one of the most health promoting of all foods.

Ghee is said to balance all three doshas, the fundamental principles of Nature.

Ghee is said to strengthen the body, the eyes and the mental functions, improve memory and promote longevity. If taken with meals ghee strengthens the digestive fire. In addition ghee can be usefully applied to burns.

When other fats are not being used one teaspoon of ghee per meal is considered about right; 2 tablespoons would be the maximum.

The fatty acid story
Fats fall into two categories – saturated and unsaturated.

Saturated fatty acids are of two kinds: long and short chain:
Short-chain fatty acids are easily assimilated, absorbed, and then metabolised so that they release energy. Long-chain fatty acids are not completely metabolised and are associated with cancer and blood clots (thrombosis). Most animal fat consists of long-chain fatty acids.

Unsaturated fatty acids can be either monounsaturated, polyunsaturated or trans fatty acids:
Monounsaturated fats are considered to be very healthy and are associated with prevention of heart disease and cancer. Their chemical bonds are single and resistant to oxidation. Olive, mustard and rapeseed oils contain predominantly monounsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats were once considered healthy but are now known to have negative factors. They have chemical double bonds, which are liable to become oxidised producing free radicals. Most vegetable oils contain predominantly polyunsaturated fatty acids. Sesame oil is an exception in that it contains powerful anti-oxidants. Trans fatty acids: most commercially sold margarine and other hydrogenated fats are especially unhealthy as they typically contain 30-40% trans fatty acids, which have been shown to increase low-density lipoprotein as much as saturated fats do.

With this information the claims for the value of ghee can be better understood
Most of the saturated fats in ghee are short-chained and only 11% are long-chained. Up to 27% of its total fatty acid is monounsaturated and only 4-5 % polyunsaturated fatty acids. Finally we require both saturated and unsaturated fats in the right ratio and ghee comes closest to having this ideal ratio (60-66% saturated fats, mostly short-chain and 27% monounsaturated fats). Also ghee contains a considerable number of antioxidants and 2-3% conjugated linoleic acid, which has anti-carcinogenic properties.

And cholesterol?
Does ghee raise cholesterol levels in the body? One loosely constructed scientific study suggested it does but this study drew scientific criticism. A tighter study showed the opposite. Clinical experience is that if it is used in moderation as appropriate to ones body type it does not raise cholesterol levels.

Maharishi Ayurveda Bioland Butter Ghee
Bioland is a certification more stringent than Bio/Organic in that Bioland certification requires that 100% of the cows’ food be certified organic while Organic certification allows up to 10% of the food that’s given to the cows to be not certified organic. Maharishi Ayurveda Bioland ghee is made strictly according to Ayurvedic guidelines. The butter comes from the Allgau, the traditional diary region of Germany. The butter is not homogenised and the ghee produced from it therefore has a natural crystalline, grainy structure that is easier to digest. No industrial procedures – centrifuges, vacuums and adding gases – that allow ghee to be made quickly and cheaply, are used. The production is not done under EC Butterfat subsidy that requires adding a foreign tracer substance (stigmasterine) to mark the butter.

Commercial Ghee
In the EU it is legal to use the term ghee as a synonym for butter oil – that is cream or butter from which moisture and non-fat solids (proteins and lactose) have been removed.  BUT in the commercial ghee generally available tracers are added and the moisture and non-fat solids are removed by centrifuge and not by gentle heating. (Some, perhaps purist, ghee experts say one should not even stir the ghee when it is being made let alone centrifuge it violently).

The Flavour
The milk from which the Bioland butter comes is collected from a region of many small farms (around the Wodensee). It has a characteristic flavour and it is said that the smaller the farm the greater the flavour. The more metal piping the milk passes through the less the flavour. Big farms seem to have dairies with a lot of piping. The country people are used to the flavour of milk from small farms and take it as an indication of ‘the real thing’.

This information is based on: Contemporary Ayurveda, Sharma & Clark, p66-67. Contemporary Ayurveda: Medicine and Research in Maharishi Ayurveda by Drs Hari Sharma and Chris Clark is listed by the publishers Elsevier Health as a Best Seller. Published in 1998 it is now in its 5th impression.