Is it or isn’t it? Is saturated fat the big evil that dieticians have been proclaiming it is over the past few decades, or not?
According to dieticians, saturated fat it is a major proponent of cardiovascular disease. But now, a well respected British cardiologist, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, has announced that this is not the case, and he cites the fact that the biggest saturated fat consuming nation in Europe – France – has the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease than any of the world’s other nations!
Have we been led astray?
Dr Malhotra says that since saturated fats first started being demonized back in the 1970s, the world obesity crisis has worsened. He maintains that what the food industry has done is to replace the saturated fats that some so-called “low fat foods” contain, with sugar, or artificial sugar and refined carbohydrates, which medical science now tells us (and has been telling us for several years) is bad for our health. To read more on this you can follow this link to an article by the BBC.
The scene is set
Whichever side of the debate, you may wish to take, it does at least set the scene for a discussion on the benefits of Ghee, a clarified butter, which is 60% saturated fat, and that is used extensively in Indian cuisine, and is recommended as part of a healthy diet by the Indian Ayurvedic medical fraternity.
What is Ghee?
Ghee is ostensibly clarified butter, and clarified butter, is butter that has had most of the moisture remove from it. This is done by heating the butter to a certain temperature, and holding it there for a period of time to allow the moisture it contains to evaporate. This causes the milk solids to caramelize, after which they can be removed by straining. The best quality Ghee, after simmering for a long period, is then allowed to cool, and after it has cooled, the top layer only is then skimmed off. It is this layer, which becomes the best quality Ghee that is used in Indian cuisine.
What consistent tests say about Ghee
Whilst the amount of research that has been carried out on Ghee is somewhat limited, the tests that have been conducted have consistently shown favorable results. They indicate that whilst Ghee can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease if it is consumed at too high a level, (experts suggest this to be 3 tablespoons or more per day); when consumed at more moderate levels, (experts suggest between 1 and 2 tablespoons per day), that it can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly when any other fats consumed are fats from plants or plant oils.
Now let’s take a look at some of the specific benefits to be had from adding ghee into our diet.
Benefit of ghee # 1 – An anti-inflammatory agent
Ghee has the characteristics to work as an anti-inflammatory agent. It can reduce the production of 2 substances which can incite inflammation. These substances are leukotriene and prostaglandin, both of which can create inflammatory reactions such as irritation, redness, and swelling. They are also thought to contribute to the signs of aging.
Benefit of ghee # 2 – Improves the health of arteries
Ghee is a good source of vitamin K2. This vitamin (rarely found in food) has the ability to activate the body’s mechanism for removing calcium from your arteries. It then deposits this calcium, where it belongs, i.e. in your bones. This decalcification helps to keep your arteries, supple and healthy.
Benefit of ghee # 3 – Enhances your metabolism
Another ingredient of ghee is a nutrient known as CLA. CLA is a particular type of fat that is thought to be able to provide benefits similar to that of antioxidants, thereby helping to enhance your metabolism.
Ghee also contains a substance known as Butyrate, or Butyric acid, a substance which according to Dr Jianping Ye, can prevent, and perhaps even reverse. the adverse metabolic reactions that eating a high fat diet can cause. His research, carried out on laboratory mice, found that this short chain saturated fatty acid was successful in controlling inflammation, metabolic rate, and stress. For more (scientific) information on Butyric acid, and its many possible benefits, which could include helping to prevent Crohn’s disease and cancer, follow this link to an article written by American neurobiologist Stephan Guyenet.
Benefit of ghee # 4 – Boosts immune system health
Ghee is also a rich source of antioxidants. As well as being able to neutralize free radicals, antioxidants can also aid with the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals from the foods that we eat. This helps to boost the efficiency of our immune systems.
Benefit of ghee # 5 – Friendly for those who are Lactose intolerant
Because when ghee is prepared, the milk solids are boiled out, many people who are lactose intolerant, find they are able to digest ghee far easier than butter of other vegetable oils.
Benefit of ghee # 6 – Aids digestion
Ghee is linked with being able to enhance the body’s production of stomach acids, thus aiding and enhancing better digestion.
Benefit of ghee # 7 – Ghee’s role in Ayurvedic medicine
Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest and most respected alternative natural medicine doctrines, alongside doctrines such as Ancient Chinese Medicine. It originated over 3,000 years ago in India and uses a number of natural herbs and spices (including spices we now recognize here, in the US for their health benefits – spices such as Chili, Cinnamon, Cumin, Ginger, and Turmeric).
Ghee’s role in Ayurvedic medicine is at a root level. It is contained and used in many medications, and as well as having an important role to play in the preparation of healthy Indian cuisine, it is also reputed to have the following health benefits:
- As a massage oil promoting detoxification
- For rejuvenating “ojas” – the body’s life force
- As an aphrodisiac
- For nourishing tissue and nerves in the brain
- As a wound dressing
- As a treatment for eye disorders (including glaucoma)
What’s the truth?
As you can see from what we’ve written, Ghee is reputed to have many health benefits, some which seem to be based in scientific fact, and some that are of a more apocryphal nature; that is often the way when it comes down to alternative medicine cultures and natural product benefits. In the end, only you the reader can decide which roads you will follow. But I think we’d all agree that those who follow a holistic health lifestyle hold great store in Mother Nature’s ability to provide us with some great, healthy nutrition.
We’re still learning
In many instances, although the scientific medical community still prevaricates, some of the ancient medical cultures did have something real; something which in many cases is only now being proven through the latest advances in modern medical science and our better understanding of diet and how our bodies work.
The debate into the pros and cons of saturated fats will undoubtedly continue to rage on. In terms of Ghee in particular, most people seem agreed that it is beneficial for holistic health.