Ghee is a clarified butter often used in Indian cooking. It is a healthy oil that may be used for cooking stir fry or to flavor dishes. Its high smoking point makes it a suitable cooking oil and also means that it doesn't produce tissue-damaging free radicals in the body. This oil may be appropriate for people who are lactose-intolerant since the required heating process for clarification destroys the lactose content. Ghee does have a high fat content, but may be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
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Combination of Fats
Ghee contains both saturated and unsaturated fats. The total fat content of ghee consists of approximately 65 percent saturated fats, 25 percent monounsaturated and 5 percent polyunsaturated. Its saturated fat content consists of easily digested short-chain fatty acids for approximately 89 percent with an additional 3 percent from linoleic acid. This acid is a source of antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals and helps prevents serious health diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
The Benefits of Fat
Contrary of common belief, fats are essential to the diet. They help in normal body functions, hormonal balance, reproductive health, skin health and the absorption of essential vitamins. In particular, vitamins A, D, E and K are only able to be used by the body when they are take with fats. Fats also supply essential fatty acids to the body, including omega-3s and omega-6s, which have a role in anti-inflammatory processes such as regulating the DNA's production of inflammatory cytokines in the body.
Saturated Fat Content
Ghee is comprised of saturated fat primarily that has often been referred to as an unhealthy fat. Indeed, excess saturated fats in the diet cause the buildup of plaque in the arteries, contributing to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. However, not all saturated fats are unhealthy such as ghee and coconut oil. These oils are a source of short-chain fatty acids which are easier to digest than long-chain acids. Short-chain fatty acids actually help to strengthen and develop cell membranes while long-chain acids increase risks of blood clots and cancer.
May Lower Cholesterol
Ghee may be beneficial in decreasing cholesterol in the blood. It does this by improving the ratio of high-density lipoprotein, HDL or good cholesterol, to low-density lipoprotein, LDL or the bad cholesterol. Increased HDL in the blood may decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and heart attacks among other conditions. Free Radical Federation.com reports findings from a 2000 Kumar et al. study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemisty that supports this belief. The researchers concluded that ghee lipids in the diet could lower serum cholesterol levels.