Ayurveda attributes healing properties to it. Researchers claim it helps to prevent ailments such as Coronary Heart Disease and even cancer. On a lesser scale, it has Anti-Inflammatory properties, bolsters the Immune System, and helps deal with digestive issues and rampaging hormones. It is also a large part of India’s culinary heritage.
Ghee — A simple way to describe this golden ingredient is ‘Clarified Butter’. Ayurvedic practitioners and nutritionists have also conferred it with the ‘Indian Super-food’ moniker since it has all the properties that one associates with food which is nutritionally dense.
In recent times, this desi favourite has made a comeback on the shelves of both gourmands and wellness seekers. If you are the kind who reads about wellness or tracks health trends, you will be able to gauge its popularity just based on how much is being written about this miracle ingredient.
What is ghee?
Ghee is made after clarifying butter (hence the name) in several Indian homes. Cream from the milk’s surface is collected over a period of time and then cultured with a bit of yoghurt. The yoghurt is whipped into butter and melted over slow heat till a deep golden brown liquid is left behind in the pan. The ghee is filtered and stored in air-tight jars, to be added to a plethora of dishes and generously spread on rotis and parathas over several weeks or months.
In mythology and rituals, in religion and folk tales, this golden ingredient has played a crucial role. Tales of Lord Krishna’s childhood are never complete without affectionate mention of his love for ghee. Indian cuisine uses it liberally in several traditional dishes. India is right now celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi and Lord Ganesh’s favourite steamed modak or sweet flour dumplings—stuffed with ghee, coconut, jaggery, nutmeg and saffron — is part of Maharashtra’s culinary traditions associated with the festival.
Ghee owes its super-food tag to its healing properties and its dense nutritional value. Here are 10 reasons why this super-food must be part of your diet.
- Celebrity Dietician and author Rujuta Diwekar, whom actor Kareena Kapoor credits for her stunning weight loss, calls ghee the best super-food you could add to your meal. In her book, Indian Super Foods, Diwekar writes, “The reason why there are such combos as dal-chaawal-ghee, roti-shakkar-ghee, puran poli with ghee and modak in our culture is because ghee reduces the glycaemic index of these meals. The magic of ghee isn’t that it is the world’s most high-functioning fat. It is also that it is a wonderful partner to our food.”
- The all-encompassing Susruta Samhita, an Ayurvedic classic, dubs ghee as an ingredient that deals with several problems stemming from the pitta dosha, such as Inflammation. In ancient India, medicated ghee was combined with healing herbs to create an Anti-Inflammatory potion, a practice that is still followed.
- A study by scientists of the National Dairy Research Institute reported that fat and cholesterol in the blood was at far healthier levels in people who ate more ghee as a source of fat. Results included lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels and higher HDL or good cholesterol levels. They also reported that ghee enhances the availability of enzymes responsible for detoxification of cancer-causing substances and decreases the availability of those responsible for the activation of carcinogens.
- Since ghee has many of its dairy proteins removed while it is being made, it contains much lower levels of lactose than regular butter and is a fabulous substitute.
- Ghee is rich in a fatty acid called Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), known to have a range of health benefits. For instance, it lowers the risk of Coronary Heart Disease. This golden elixir contains a fatty acid called Butyrate Acid that plays an essential role in digestive health and lends it Anti-Inflammatory properties.
- The super-food consists of fat-soluble vitamins, which helps rev-up metabolism and assist in weight loss, says Diwekar. It helps balance hormones and since it has a high heat point, it does not produce free radicals which damage cell function.
- Ayurveda suggests the interesting Nyasa treatment for a cold, which involves pouring a few drops of warm pure ghee into the nostrils, first thing in the morning. The ghee travels all the way down to the throat and soothes it.
- Ayurveda bestows on ghee not just healing properties but also the ability to keep us warm in winter, which is why ghee is ingested in winters. In northern India, where winters tend to be particularly harsh, ghee is added to most desserts and sweets such as gajar ka halwa, moong dal halwa, pinni and panjeeri.
- Indians share a very deep culinary relationship with ghee. It has a higher burning point than butter, which makes it an ideal medium for frying or sautéing foods. For hundreds of years, ghee has been either added in food or used as a cooking medium. In Rajasthan, ghee tops many of the vegetarian dishes and the hard-to-crack baati, which accompanies the dal (lentils), is softened with ghee. Across most of north India, ghee is used in daals, lentil dishes and spread over rotis or Indian breads. In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, ghee tops dosas and kesari bhath. In Kerala, Malabar Nei Choru (ghee rice) uses this ingredient liberally. It is added to several stews and vegetables and is integral to Neyyum Parippum (Moong daal with ghee). Ghee across India is associated with the decadence of not just laddoos, but also Mysore Pak in the south, puran poli in Maharashtra and moong dal halwa in Rajasthan. A dollop of ghee transforms the very flavour of a daal and rice dish. Four tablespoons of oil is an adequate amount of saturated fat required per meal and one percent of the saturated fat could be derived from sources like ghee.
- The super-food is also great for the skin since it contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids along with Vitamin A .
Ayurveda terms ghee as samskaraanuvartana or one that retains its goodness along with the health benefits of the ingredients it is cooked with. It can help rev up your skin, improve memory and strength, as well as Detox your body.
At Niraamaya Retreats
Ghee finds its way into a lot of the food served at the Niraamaya Retreats’ properties, particularly in dishes such as the famous Malabar Ghee Rice. More importantly, it is an important ingredient in some of the therapies offered at the spas. Before Panchkarma (a series of five procedures recommended by Ayurveda to detox the body), an individual has to go through Purva Karma, where the body is prepared for removal of the toxins through a change in diet and other procedures. Among them is Abhyantara Snehana, where you are required to eat non-medicated ghee to aid internal oleation.
Ghee is considered satvik, or spiritually pure, and helps create a positive vibe, which is why at Niraamaya Retreats’ properties a ghee lamp is lit in the evenings.