Ghee, also known as desi ghee, clarified butter or anhydrous butter oil, is a common ingredient in traditional Indian cooking. It is used to sauté spices, coat rice before cooking, and brown and sear meats. While ghee, like other fats, needs to be consumed in moderation, it differs in that it is safe for those with dairy allergies. That's because the casein and lactose have almost been entirely removed during the clarification process.
Like all fats, ghee is relatively high in calories, containing 112 calories per 1-tablespoon serving. A serving contains 12.7 grams of fat, minimal amounts of protein, and no carbohydrates, dietary fiber or sugars. Ghee is high in saturated fat, with 7.9 grams per serving. The American Heart Association recommends that your total fat intake be between 25 and 35 percent of your calories, and that saturated fats make up no more than 7 percent of your calories. This means that a person on a 2,000-calorie diet can consume between 56 and 78 grams of total fat, no more than 16 grams of which should come from saturated fats.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Because ghee is clarified butter — with the milk solids removed — it contains only a minimal amount of calcium -- 1 milligram per tablespoon. Ghee also contains 108 micrograms of vitamin A, which is a significant amount for such a small serving size. One tablespoon provides 12 and 15 percent of the recommended daily intakes of vitamin A for men and women, respectively.
Potential Protectant Against Carcinogens
A study published in September 2012 in “The Indian Journal of Medical Research” reported that ghee, when compared to soybean oil, decreases enzyme activity responsible for activating carcinogens in the liver. The study also showed that ghee helped increase carcinogen detoxification — the expulsion of carcinogens from the body. This animal study indicates significant potential health benefits in terms of protecting and defending against cancer, but further research, particularly on humans, is still required.
Preservation and Fat Consumption
Ghee contains significantly less water — or moisture — than butter does, with only 0.03 grams per 1-tablespoon serving, compared to more than 2.5 grams per same-size serving with butter. This lower moisture content means that ghee will stay fresher for longer than butter, making it well-suited for travelling, high temperatures and storage. Like all fats, ghee needs to be consumed in moderation.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Butter Oil, Anhydrous
- IndiaCurry.com: What Is Ghee?
- Indian Journal of Medical Research: Effects of Cow Ghee (Clarified Butter Oil) and Soybean Oil on Carcinogen-Metabolizing Enzymes in Rats
- Yoga Journal: Ghee
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Daily Mail: A Spoon of Ghee Full of Health