The virtues of Ghee

  • Ghee, otherwise known as clarified butter, is a healthy cooking oil due to its content of essential fatty acids which are an essential part of our diets. It is rich in easy-to-digest short chain fatty acids and vitamins A, D, E & K. It also contains 3% linoleic acid which has anti-oxidant properties.
  • Ghee has a high smoke point which makes it great for cooking. It also means that it does not produce damaging free radicals.
  • Ghee is suitable for people who are sensitive to lactose as the heating procedure used to clarify the butter removes the lactose content.
  • Use ghee as a delicious oil for cooking or stir into rice and vegetables for a nourishing flavoursome taste.


Extolling the wondrous benefits of ghee fats may appear contradictory. We know that poor quality fats (i.e. non organic, heat treated, solvent extracted, transfatty, hydrogenated) can cause the production of free radicals that cause oxidative damage to cells. This means that poor quality fats damage our health.

However, fats are essential to life. The vital substances vitamin A, D, E and K are only made available to the body when taken with fats. Fats also provide essential fatty acids (EFAs). They are essential because the body cannot make them and we need them to live. EFAs (Omega 3 and 6) are now famed for their ability to provide anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, assist with inter cellular signalling and regulate DNAs production of inflammatory cytokines. In general fats help to nourish the skin, cell membrane and hair. Fats help to protect the internal organs, maintain a healthy body temperature, store energy and nourish the brain.


Saturated fats have a bad public image as excessive consumption of them has become associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis, stroke and coronary heart disease. There is a controversy regarding these findings as much research has not differentiated between true saturated fats and synthetically generated saturated transfatty acids. However, this is a misunderstanding of the nature of the saturated fats as some are healthy, such as ghee and coconut oil. Saturated fats are made from both short chain fatty acids and long chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids are easy to digest whereas long chain fatty acids are not. Long chain fatty acids are associated with blood clotting, thrombosis and cancer. So, short chain fatty acids are healthy and help to promote the production of hormones and strengthening cellular membranes.

Unsaturated fats are divided into monounsaturated fats (olive, mustard) and polyunsaturated fats (sesame, sunflower). Both are required for healthy life. Polyunsaturated fats that are not handled properly pose a health risk as their cell structure leaves many ‘bond’ sites that are potential sites for oxidisation to occur. Essentially this means that under the right conditions (i.e. heat, light) they can become oxidised and, when consumed, allow for the release of free radicals in the body. Sesame does not become oxidised under heat, its linoleic acid content actually improves its anti-oxidant status but hemp seed does oxidise easily under heat and light. Certain polyunsaturated fats are intentionally hydrogenated to make margarine which contains up to 40% transfatty acids. Transfatty acids are not found in nature and are associated with an accumulation of the potentially harmful LDL and the increased risk of heart disease. Also lipid peroxides (oxidised lipids) actually take up residence on cell walls and obstruct the correct working metabolisms of cells.


Ghee’s chemistry holds the secret to its health benefits. Humans need both saturated and unsaturated fats as part of a healthy diet. Ghee is made from a combination of saturated and unsaturated fats. It is about 65% saturated fat and 25% monounsaturated fat with about 5% polyunsaturated fat content. Its saturated fat is primarily (89%) made from the easy-to-digest short chain fatty acids and it contains 3% linoleic acid which has anti-oxidant properties. It also contains the fat soluble vitamins Vitamin A, D, E and K.

Because ghee has such a high ‘smoke point’ (485°F or 252°C) it is a very useful oil to cook with. The smoke point determines when an oil actually starts to burn and generate oxidisation and the potential of free radicals. As it has a very low oxidisation rate ghee stays fresh even unrefrigerated for a long time. Another benefit of using ghee is that the heating procedure removes the lactose content making it tolerable to those sensitive to lactose.

It has been suggested that ghee actually benefits the HDL:LDL ratio. One study has even shown that ghee can lower high cholesterol. As part of a lacto-vegetarian diet ghee offers important nutritive benefits. As a healthy oil ghee can help replace oxidised fats populating cell membranes and help the body in maintaining a low state of oxidation.

5 Responses to Ghee

  1. Ryan says:

    Where do you get it? I’m assuming. Foodmaxx doesn’t have it.

    • Leena says:

      You can make ghee, aka-clarified butter.
      It is easy!
      Pre-sterilize/boil and dry some glass jars and tops
      Melt a bunch of sticks of butter (the better the quality, the better quality ghee) slowly.
      Let melted butter simmer for about 20 minutes? It should make a hissing sound and bubble a little. Don’t burn.
      When the hissing slows, turn off heat and let sit to cool a bit.
      The solids on top will sink. Other solids will sink naturally.
      Strain with fine mesh strainer into containers.
      Store at room temp. Extra containers can be stored in refrigerator.
      Ghee gets better with age. You can cook with it like olive oil. It does not smoke. Still, don’t overdo it!
      AND…do check in case something pollutes container and toss if it smells like some funky cheese.
      Enjoy in health!

    • Frenchie says:

      Your post is a timely cotbirtunion to the debate

  2. Adam says:

    Its also called clarified butter, most natural food stores will have it…

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