Ghee, or clarified butter, is the latest health craze out of Hollywood that’s set to replace hot water and lemon as the new morning ritual.
While drinking fat to stay healthy seems contradictory, if you’re looking for a new tonic to give your gut some love, a warm cup of healthy fat has been said to do just that.
An oil with a rich history in ayurvedic medicine, ghee is said to have powerful properties and gut-healing benefits that have been known in India for centuries. However, it’s only now Kourtney Kardashian has revealed she drinks a spoonful a day to maintain mental clarity and overall wellness that it’s reached mainstream appeal.
The star claims on her blog that ghee can heal the gut, strengthen the immune system, improve hair growth and hydrate skin. And if you’ve ever noticed the Kardashians’ supple skin, you can’t help but wonder if ghee could well be their trade secret.
Ghee’s key nutrient is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is said to help weight loss, prevent cancer and counter ageing, so the golden liquid could hold serious street cred.
But is it worth drinking? We talked to leading naturopathic and nutrition experts to find out more about the ancient superfood and whether drinking pure fat can be medically good for us.
WHAT IS IT?
“Ghee is a type of clarified butter, which means the milk fat is rendered from the butter to separate the milk solids and water,” explains Anthia Koullouros, Sydney naturopath and founder of Ovvio Organics.
“By separating the milk it removes the lactose as well as casein (a protein people can be sensitive to) and leaves just the fat, which has a high smoke point and is good for sauteing, stir frying, grilling and barbecuing,” says Koullouros.
“Day-to-day ghee is India’s preferred cooking oil,” explains naturopath and nutritionist Kirsten Shanks, founder of Orchard Street. “They regard it as the healthiest source of edible fat.”
So, not only is ghee a welcome addition to our fry pan, it’s a dairy-free alternative for the lactose-intolerant too.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
“Ghee has been used for thousands of years as a longevity enhancer,” explains Shanks. “It’s believed to nourish the body’s vital essence (the ‘ojas’) by lubricating every tissue and cell and kindling the digestive fire (the ‘agni’).”
Health-wise it contains butyric acid, “which supports a healthy microbiome – the pinnacle of good digestive health – as well as maintaining the integrity of the stomach lining, which can benefit inflammatory bowel conditions and may be a supportive nutrient in colon cancer treatment,” says Shanks.
Gut-healing wonder remedy aside, it contains truckloads of vitamins, backing Kardashian’s long list of claimed benefits.
“With fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K2 and omega 3, it’s not only anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich, but can assimilate water-soluble vitamins and minerals, maximising the health of our hair, skin, nails and bones,” says Koullouros.
Ghee’s state of the art antioxidant profile doesn’t end there either. “The vitamin A and butyric acid support a strong immunity and its medium fatty acids act as a direct energy source, bypassing the usual pathways for deposition into fat cells – which may contribute to weight loss, along with hydrating of the lips and skin,” says Shanks.
WHAT ABOUT THE FAT?
Forget the F word, it’s all about knowing the good from the bad.
“Ghee is approximately 65 per cent saturated fat, 25 per cent monounsaturated and 5 per cent polyunsaturated,” says Koullouros.
“While Australian guidelines currently recommend limiting the saturated fat in our diet, recent research shows promising results for ghee lowering the effects of cholesterol and triglyceride,” says Shanks.
“Saturated fat also contains easily digested conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – which as mentioned – may be one of our most potent defences against cancer,” notes Koullouros.
It’s also not so much the percentage we should take note of, but the source of the fat.
“The cow’s milk influences the quality of fat. Saturated, essential fats and fat-soluble vitamins are healthier if from a pastured or grass-fed cow,” says Koullouros. “In fact, grass-fed animals have three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed on conventional diets.”
Plus, latest studies show steering clear of saturated fat might be an outdated belief.
“A recent cohort study found substituting linoleic acid (found in vegetable oils) in place of saturated fats actually increased rates of death of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease,” says Koullouros.
Based on this, Koullouros says the worldwide dietary emphasis is likely to shift away from polyunsaturated fats and seek to re-examine saturated fats, which currently constitute 50 per cent of the cell membranes and play an important role in the body’s chemistry.
“Simply put, saturated fats – such as ghee – are no worse than man-made food,” says Koullouros. “Eat butter instead of margarine and avoid polyunsaturated oils that are highly processed such as soy, corn and sunflower oil,” she advises.
However, this isn’t a recommendation to douse meals in ghee either. Sydney-based dietitian Jo McMillan warns we need to be wary of the trend: “I wouldn’t drink it just because a celebrity swears by it! It’s not magical and there is definitely no evidence it will make hair grow stronger.”
“While a tablespoon of ghee provides 160 micrograms of vitamin A (men need 900 a day and women 700) and a tiny amount of vitamin E, a quarter of an avocado would give you more than double the amount,” says McMillan.
She also adds, while saturated fats are not directly linked to heart disease, they’re yet to be proven beneficial either. “I think there’s still much we don’t know about its impact. We do know, however, that a high-sat fat diet is associated with greater risk of cognitive decline with age.”
Overall, it all comes down to moderation. “In cooking, a moderate amount is unlikely to do harm. Ghee is traditionally used in Indian cooking, so if you want an authentic dish by all means use it, otherwise there are far more nutrient-rich foods you could have and without adding kilojoules,” says McMillan.
Shanks agrees while it’s no “cure-all”, like any dietary fad it all comes down to balance and adopting principles that suit your health status.
Want to test it for yourself? Start by adding 1-2 teaspoons of warm ghee to your morning cup first thing on an empty stomach “to loosen up and liquefy toxins,” recommends Shanks.
Source : stuff.co.nz
By : SAM BAILEY