Ghee (a form of clarified butter) has quite a long history, as it has been used in Indian cooking for thousands of years. Ghee is an essential (and nutritional) element in much of Indian cuisine, much the way butter or margarine is used in American cooking. Ghee also transcends the cooking realm, as ghee is also often used in religious ceremonies and various healing arts in Indian culture. Ghee has many nutritional and health benefits as well.
A healthy choice
Ghee lacks hydrogenated oils and is a popular choice for health-conscious cooks as well. Additionally, since all the milk proteins have been removed during the clarifying process, ghee gains further nutritional value because it’s lactose free, making it a safer alternative for those who are lactose intolerant.
A rich flavor
Clarified butter is composed primarily of saturated fat. It contains approximately 14 grams of fat per tablespoon but no artificial additives, preservatives, or trans fats. Consuming large quantities of ghee is obviously unhealthy, but because of the rich flavor of ghee, it can be used sparingly to full effect, making it more suitable for low-fat diets. A good guideline is one tablespoon of ghee as opposed to four tablespoons of any other butter or cooking oil.
It helps digestion
Ghee is said to stimulate the secretion of stomach acids to help with digestion, while other fats, such as butter and oils, slow down the digestive process and can sit heavy in the stomach. Although tests and research are still ongoing, it has been used in Indian medicinal practice to help with ulcers, constipation, and the promotion of healthy eyes and skin. An Ayurvedic remedy for thousands of years, ghee is also said to promote learning and increased memory retention.
Rich with antioxidants
In addition to ghee’s nutritional value, it is rich with antioxidants and acts as an aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from other foods, feeding all layers of body tissue and serving to strengthen the immune system. A high concentration of butyric acid, a fatty acid that contains anti-viral properties, is believed to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors.
A ghee for each dosha
When cooking, you can make “herbalized” ghee that is balancing for each dosha. Here are some savory and sweet suggestions of spices and flavors to add to your ghee for each dosha:
SAVORY: cumin, ginger, celery seed, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, tamarind
SWEET: peach, orange
SAVORY: coriander, fennel, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, saffron, rosemary, mint
SWEET: rose, coconut
SAVORY: ginger, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, clove
SWEET: cranberry, apple, pear
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