Ghee Health Benefits, Nutrition, & Recipes
Health Benefits of Ghee, the Indian Clarified Butter
Ghee has quite a long history, as it has been used in Indian cooking for many 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. Additionally, Ghee's nutritional and health benefits are touted as ideal for anyone from athletes to simple dieters.
What is Ghee?
How ghee is made
Ghee is in fact a form of clarified butter. If you've eaten lobster or crab before, you may be more familiar with the term "drawn butter", which is essentially the same thing, although often many people will simply melt some butter and call it drawn butter. The process of clarifying butter is a bit more complex. The butter is melted and simmered (this process is also called "rendered") in a pot or large saucepan until three layers form: a foamy, watery layer, which is skimmed off, a solid butter layer, and a milk solids layer. The separated butter is the clarified butter, a liquid mass of rich, golden butterfat.
Chefs often use clarified butter because it will not burn during frying (this is known as a high smoking point), and possesses a more buttery flavor. The longer the melted butter cooks, the more intense the resulting flavor of the clarified butter will be.
Ghee Nutrtion & Ghee Health Benefits
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.
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.
Health benefits of Ghee
Ghee is most notably 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 Indian folk-remedy for thousands of years, ghee is also said to promote learning and increased memory retention. It is used in Indian beauty creams to help soften skin, and as a topical for the treatment of burns and blisters.
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.
Opponents Against Ghee
Opponents against ghee point to its high saturated fat content, claiming it will lead to heart disease. People with high cholesterol are advised not to consume ghee. The combination of saturated fat and cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease.
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Ghee Rice Recipes
Healthy Rice Recipes Using Ghee, Indian Clarified Butter
A traditional dish of Indian cookery is ghee rice. Recipes are numerous as the ingredients can vary according to taste and region, but the main elements of course are ghee, and basmati rice, a white grain of rice with a mildly sweet flavor. Ghee rice can be served as a simple side dish, or as a complete vegetarian meal.
GHEE RICE RECIPE #1
Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee (or more if you really enjoy a strong butter flavor) in a pan, and add a teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 bay leaves, a pinch of cloves, a teaspoon of black pepper and about 6 medium onions, sliced. Cook the onions over medium-low heat until they are soft and transparent.
Then add two cups of Basmati rice and sauté with the onions for about 10-20 seconds, and then add 4 cups of water and salt to taste. Bring the water to a boil and then cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes or until the rice is done.
This highly flavorful, aromatic dish is a perfect accompaniment to many foods, and it fares quite well as a standalone meal.
For other variations of flavor, experiment by adding ginger or garam masala to the mix, or even chili powder or garlic chile paste for hotter flavors.
GHEE RICE RECIPE #2
If you want more nutrition and substance in your ghee rice meal, then this next recipe adds a host of vegetables to the plate. You can mix and match other vegetables if you desire, but otherwise, proceed to cut 2 potatoes and 2-3 carrots into small pieces, and mix with a cup of peas and a cup of beans of your choice.
Cook the rice as per the above recipe, and cook the vegetables separately either by steaming or boiling, or sauteing. Mix both together when done, and add cumin and/or coriander to taste.