Ghee- The golden elixir!
All those lovely people, my Nutrition & Ayurveda students, who know me personally would remember me saying this all the time! “Ghee is my life!” I can live without food but I cannot live without Ghee! I am sure there is a smile on your face while you read this, if you are one of them!
Believe me, it’s blissful to experience the aroma of ghee melting over that delicious khichari (Basmati rice & mung bean one pot meal) or that homemade roti/chapatti (Indian whole wheat flat bread)! Yum!
If you’ve ever been lucky to experience the rich, nourishing, and sumptuous qualities of this golden nectar, you’ll understand why ghee is a must-have in every Ayurvedic kitchen!
What exactly is Ghee?
Ghee is made from butter. When you start heating butter, the golden yellow fat that is left after the impurities of butter settle at the bottom of the pan is known as Ghee. Therefore, Ghee is also known as clarified butter.
When you simmer butter on low to medium heat, this process gets rid of all those components of butter that are the most difficult to digest, such as lactose, whey & casein proteins. So, people who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to casein can give it a try! But if you are severely allergic to milk proteins, I would recommend you stay away from Ghee!
Removing the milk solids from ghee does offer additional benefits. Ghee has a higher smoke point as compared to butter, so it doesn’t burn as quickly. This is perfect for sautéing or frying foods. Butter can smoke and burn at 300-350°F (150-170°C) approx.., but ghee can withstand heat up to 485°F (252°C). For that reason, Ghee also produces less toxins when heated as compared to other oils.
Ghee has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for cooking as well as for religious ceremonies. It is also used therapeutically, both internally and externally.
Are you still wondering why ghee is so highly respected in Ayurveda?
Allow me to bring to you the health benefits and uses of this deliciously healthy fat!
As per Ayurveda it is believed that every food substance has energy which could be either Sattvic (peace, purity, love, balance & harmony), Rajasic (action, movement) or Tamasic (Inertia, darkness, dullness).
Ghee holds a pure or a sattvic energy.
Sattvic foods are abundant in prana, the universal life force. They have a harmonious and peaceful nature & support physical strength, a pure mind, good health, and longevity to achieve our life’s purpose. Foods that are sweet in taste and nourishing to the body are sattvic in nature. Some examples of sattvic foods are fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh milk, grains, legumes, nuts & of-course Ghee.
A Sattvic diet is sometimes referred to as a yogic diet that takes us towards our higher purpose of life! Because of the sattvic energy in ghee, it was often an integral part of religious ceremonies in ancient Vedic customs. Ghee is offered to “Agni”, the Hindu God of Fire, during religious rituals.
On the other hand, Rajasic foods are stimulating and increase the energy of the body and mind and give us that drive to fulfill our desires. They could contribute to physical and mental stress. Small amounts of rajasic foods are not a problem in an otherwise balanced life, but a diet made up of too many rajasic foods overstimulates the body and mind and will lead to doshic imbalances in the body leading to disease. Some examples of rajasic vegetables are eggplant, onions, leeks, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers (chilis), potatoes, radishes. Pungent and heating spices, black tea and coffee are also considered rajasic.
Tamasic foods create heaviness and lethargy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Eating tamasic foods lead to dullness & lack of motivation. Some examples of tamasic foods are canned foods, rancid nuts and seeds, alcohol, all animal flesh, artificial sweeteners, barbecued or burnt foods, food with preservatives or synthetic ingredients, deep fried foods, frozen foods, leftovers, margarine, all refined sugar, smoked food, microwaved food.
Now don’t think that we are only supposed to eat sattvic foods. We need a good balance of sattvic foods and good quality & right quantity of both rajasic and tamasic foods for various reasons and for carrying out various roles in our life. This could be a whole topic of discussion in itself, maybe I will bring it up in detail in another blog!
Now let’s talk about some of the health benefits of Ghee…
- Because ghee helps ignite our digestive fire, it facilitates the process of digestion.
- It helps transport of nutrients into the body and toxins (ama) and other wastes out of the body through the digestive tract.
- Ghee helps in detox. In fact, ingestion of ghee is a core part of cleansing treatments called panchakarma in Ayurveda. It has been found that many toxins are lipophilic, i.e. soluble in fats and oils, allowing them to easily mix & dissolve in ghee and move out of the tissues where they have been concentrating for so long!
- Ghee also helps take the therapeutic qualities of herbs & spices used in ayurvedic cooking to the deepest cellular level in the body.
- Ghee’s unctuous & lubricating quality helps keep our joints strong and flexible, providing ease of movement.
- Internally, it soothes and nourishes the digestive tract and any tissue it is carried to, particularly the reproductive tract.
- Externally, ghee soothes irritated skin, especially comforting for infants with diaper rash.
- The nourishing and hydrating qualities of ghee make it good for massage, particularly for dry or vata-type skin.
- Most of the fat in Ghee is saturated fat, with a relatively greater concentration of short and medium chain fatty acids which are known to have many health benefits. There is a considerable amount of butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid in Ghee which acts like a natural probiotic, supporting digestion and the immune system.
Of course, Ghee is a kapha-genic food. Make sure you consume only as much as your agni (digestive fire) can handle. It is when we eat beyond the capacity of our agni that we run into various health issues, such as heart challenges or weight gain. Ghee is a great fat for Vata and Pitta dominant individuals, but Kapha dominant individuals must use ghee sparingly. People with high levels of blood cholesterol must avoid all forms of saturated fats including ghee.
Take the DOSHA QUIZ to determine your dominant dosha. It’s easy, and fun!
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The content provided in my blogs are for knowledge sharing purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.