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Nutrition

Ghee, the better butter

What is Ghee?

Ghee, or ‘Minyak Sapi’ in Malay (‘minyak’ means oil and ‘sapi’ means cattle) is a type of clarified butter made from further simmering butter after the evaporation of water and fat from milk solids.
Ghee originated from ancient India and is used for food preparation/ condiments as well as religious purposes for it’s purported sacred properties as product of cows.

This clarified butter has a smoke point of 250°C compared to the average refined vegetable oil at 200°C which makes it way more suitable for deep frying and pan cooking to its stability (saturated fats are less prone to oxidation (a process that turns oil rancid aka poisonous to our body). Refined vegetable oil are also higher in omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids.

Why do you need fat?

So, here’s a little bit on why you need adequate fat in your body quoted from the Diet Doctor:

  • Helping you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K [Reference]
  • Regulating inflammation and immunity [Reference]
  • Maintaining the health of your cells, including skin and hair cells [Reference]
  • Adding richness to food, which helps you feel full and satisfied [Reference]

Isn’t Ghee full of Saturated Fat?

Modern pure ghee that are sold these days are 99% milk fat or above which is a better option compared to butter for your health if you can afford it. This is due to the higher content of saturated fat compared to trans and mono/poly unsaturated fat.

Wait, aren’t saturated fat bad for me?

No, there’s been new data from recent studies showing no evidence that dietary saturated fat causes cardiovascular diseases (CVD). However, there’s growing evidence stating that CVD are most likely due to the oxidized processed vegetable oils that’s loaded of trans fatty acids due to the hydrogenation process during factory production.

Here’s a handy video by Dr Paul Mason explaining why saturated fat is not bad for you.

“In summary, numerous lines of evidence show that the omega-6 polyunsaturated fat linoleic acid promotes oxidative stress, oxidised LDL, chronic low-grade inflammation and atherosclerosis, and is likely a major dietary culprit for causing Coronary Heart Diseases, especially when consumed in the form of industrial seed oils commonly referred to as ‘vegetable oils’ “

DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH. Omega-6 vegetable oils as a driver of coronary heart disease: the oxidized linoleic acid hypothesis. Open Heart 2018;5:e000898. doi:10.1136/ openhrt-2018-000898 [Link]

Effect of Dietary trans Fatty Acids on High-Density and Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Levels in Healthy Subjects
List of authors.Ronald P. Mensink, Ph.D., 
and Martijn B. Katan, Ph.D. [Link]

Use of Ghee in Malaysia

Ghee in Malaysia are typically found at the baking isle in grocery stores as many would use it for baking traditional cookies and snacks (be it Indian, Malay, or Chinese).
No wonder those traditional baked goods from Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, or Deepavali taste so damn good.

Those delicious Raya cookies 😋. Image from The Malay Kitchen

Comparison of Pure Ghee and Palm-Based Ghee-like cooking fat

Although traditionally used by many of the population, the rise of palm oil in Asia (mostly originating from Indonesia and Malaysia) has given rise to palm-based ghee-like cooking fat which in my opinion has significantly less benefits compared to pure ghee. I’ll try to explain the difference between these two.

Pure Ghee

Pure Ghee is based on clarifying butter that are made from milk fat (basically purifying butter). This process dates back to before humans had industrial solutions to refine vegetable oils.
Here’s a video by Blue Apron on how pure ghee is made.

The process of ghee production is fairly natural and simple, no hydrogenation, no detergent, no addition of any foreign substances.
Butter is made from milk fats that comes from raw milk.

Palm-Based Ghee-like cooking fat

Palm-Based Ghee-like cooking fat on the other hand is made from palm oil which are fractionated (an industrial process of oil refinement).
Here’s how it’s made.

Notice the mention of the utilization of margarine production process involved, margarine is also one of the processed oil that’s made it into our dining table and it doesn’t have good reputation of being healthy.

Even with the lack of hydrogenation process in the ghee production, palm oil is still one of the seed oil that has gone through multiple unnatural refinery process, the health effects of palm oil still need more research and the environmental impact of palm oil plantation has been widely criticized.

Being one of Malaysia’s largest export, it doesn’t seem that we are going to see any reduction of palm oil consumption here, but that’s a topic for another day.

What to look for?

Always, always look for the word ‘Pure’ and REMEMBER to turn the packaging around to check.

Milk fat at 99.85% shown in Cow & Calf brand Pure Ghee and basically nothing else.
Never get ghee with these ingredients or any that contains anything other than milk fat in it.
This is Windmill brand GheeBlend.

Where to get them?

Ghee should be available in most supermarkets like Giant, Mydin, Tesco, Aeon, or maybe groceries near you.

I am not a nutritionist, doctor, nor an expert in fat. I’m just a curious guy who’s interested in finding out the best way to achieve peak human health while maintaining quality of life as long as possible. If you’re looking for reputable source of information from professionals, take a look at the links that I refer at the Sources Page.

Maybe it’s time to reconsider your fats

I’m not telling you that switching to using ghee to cook and bake will make you suddenly healthier or stronger, I just hope to share what I’ve learned through trial and error to seek for the healthier food and so far I’ve found that ghee (other than pork lard, beef tallow, and lamb suet) to be the optimum fat source in my daily nourishment.

Removing carbohydrates, sugar, grains, vegetables, and vegetable oils from my diet has allowed me to feel healthier and perform better in my lifts which I will be covering in another blog post soon.

Another disclaimer here, I am not recommending any health or nutritional advice. I am merely sharing my findings and experience regarding nutrition which I find very intriguing. If you have any shape or form of health issue, please seek out medical professionals for help.

Thanks so much for reading all the way here, do let me know if you have feedback or questions in the comment section below.