Why ghee is good for you (inside AND out!)

After having spent over a decade of my life in the trenches of fat-phobia; specifically saturated fat-phobia, I KNOW how hard it is to believe that ghee is good for you.
Ghee – which is a type of clarified butter; or, butter with all milk solids removed – has a long history in Indian cuisine. It’s delicious, sure. It’s unprocessed. You can make it at home (in contrast to the fats of conventional wisdom, which are birthed in a factory.) It’s basically all the goodness of butter, concentrated. What could be better?
But healthy? Naaah. Couldn’t be.
After all, not only is ghee an animal fat, but it’s a highly saturated animal fat. And if decades of Diet Industry conditioning has taught us anything, it’s that we should work out in thong leotards and leg warmers saturated animal fat is bad. Dangerous. Unhealthy.
And we shouldn’t just quit the sat fats. We should replace them with highly processed fats like corn oil, soybean oil, and canola oil. After all, nature’s got it all wrong. We need to get our food from factories.
Huh?

goat thinking

I busted the low-fat myth in my 7 reasons fat is your friend post, and I tackle all the saturated-fat-phobia AND animal-product-phobia at length in Eat the Yolks. (If I do say so myself, it’s the PERFECT read for the Paleo, Primal and Real Food skeptic.)
In short – and this is stated in this study – “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of [heart disease]”. As I discuss in my book, the cholesterol-satfat-heart disease triumvirate is finally circling the drain, too. From Eat the Yolks:

Saturated fat was demonized in the first place because we thought it raised cholesterol, which freaked us out because we’d been told that higher cholesterol led to heart disease. At some point, we stopped caring about the whole proposed chain of events—false as it is—and decided that saturated fat “clogged arteries” too, as if the human body were just a big jumble of copper plumbing and any type of fat or cholesterol would plug us up….

It sounds dumb because it is dumb. All the bullgarbage of the low-fat movement distracted us from the fact that real, natural fats like ghee (NOT factory-made, highly processed junk like corn oil, soybean oil, and canola oil) are the way to go.
(The bullgarbage has also led us to forget that animals are meant to be raised in a natural environment, on their natural diets; not in factory farms. This is why I don’t recommend animal products when you don’t trust the source. When I say “natural,” THAT is what I mean.)
Real, natural fats are awesome for good reason: They’re stable (that’s what saturated means), and they’re nutritious. Ghee, especially, is chock-full of nutrition. Isn’t that what we need? Nutrition?
From Eat the Yolks:

We don’t need more dogma or another diet plan. We need nutrition.”

I truly believe that. And that’s why I love ghee! (I’m partial to Pure Indian Foods ghee, but I know there are many fans of OMGhee; you can also make it at home.)

pure indian foods ghee

The secret to why ghee is good for you is the fat-soluble vitamins it contains. These fat-soluble vitamins, which Dr. Chris Masterjohn has emphasized work together in the body, are incredibly important for skin health.
When you eat ghee, it benefits your skin; I’ve also observed that it works topically when applied as a balm!
(Worried about putting oil or fat on your face? Don’t. As I discuss in The Purely Primal Skincare Guide)oil-based skincare actually helps balance and nourish problem skin.)
The nutrient that makes ghee from properly-raised animals really special is the little-known fat-soluble vitamin called vitamin K2, which works with fat-soluble vitamin A, which is also found in ghee.  (Another important fat-soluble vitamin that works with A and K2 is vitamin D, which we can get from the sun, seafood, and egg yolks.) #EatTheYolks
Here’s a science-y post that explains lots more about this nutrient.
Interestingly, not only is vitamin K2 present in ghee, which is a highly saturated fat, but it just might be K2 (specifically, lack of K2) that actually IS an important factor in determining heart disease risk. (As The Target Lady would say, “Ironic!”) From Eat the Yolks:

In all the decades we’ve been blaming cholesterol and saturated fat for the growing epidemic of cardiovascular disease, … vitamin K2—already present in real, traditional food—may have been part of the answer. Vitamin K2 is so powerful, says Masterjohn, that “Research is in fact rapidly redefining heart disease largely as a deficiency of this vitamin.” “

So, to review, ghee is good for you because…

  • It’s saturated, and therefore stable, as I discuss in Eat the Yolks(This means it’s super safe to cook with!)
  • It’s really, really tasty. That makes you happy. Being happy is good for you.
  • It’s dense in vitamin K2, which is critical for skin and heart health and works with other fat-soluble vitamins.
  • It’s dense in vitamin A, which is critical for skin health and works with other fat-soluble vitamins.
  • It nourishes the skin from the inside-out, AND from the outside-in. (Example: ghee is an ingredient in the most amazing lip balm EVER.)

Seriously. When you cook with ghee, give your face and lips a little extra lovin’…or give your cracked homesteading hands a little TLC.
Need I say more? (Actually, I should probably NOT say more. This post is getting uber-long.)
(PS: Anybody know where the umlaut button is on the keyboard?)
Let me know your questions and thoughts in the comments section. I’m off to cook some breakfast – and I might just slather a little extra ghee on my face!

cook with it, moisturize with it

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31 Responses

  1. Totally agree Liz! Ghee is not only delicious but jam-packed with easily absorbed nutrition.
    I love to use it in cooking because you get that great butter flavor with a high smoke point. With regular butter, you can only heat it so much before it burns due to milk solids!
    Dominic

  2. Love this! I was looking for this info just this weekend. The umlaut button, if you are on a iPad and maybe any Apple product, you just hold down the ‘u’ button and the options pop up.

  3. Love this! Just shared with my skeptical friends whom I’m trying to convince that my morning butter coffee will not kill me.

  4. Any thoughts on the shelf life of Ghee? I’ve had a jar sitting in my cupboard for 4 years. There is no expiration date on the jar. My sentiment for Indian cooking keeps me from tossing it.

  5. My daughter and I have an allergy to milk. Is Ghee totally milk free? I went to purchase some at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and it said, “Milk” in the ingredient list on the back.

    1. Really good ghee (like Pure Indian Foods, linked in the post, or OMGhee) should be COMPLETELY free of dairy solids! I can’t vouch for other brands, unfortunately; but most people with dairy intolerances CAN tolerate ghee. Sorry I can’t be more helpful :/

    2. I’ve heard that the Trader Joe’s ghee is extremely gritty and not of the best quality. I would say that it’s not your best bet and probably has milk solids!

  6. Liz! I literally just bought a big ole’ thing of ghee from my local “bazaar” (I was there for some cheap-o coconut milk). I am so excited to read this post and to dive head first into the yummy powers of ghee! I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

  7. Liz, love the re-brand and thank you for sending Dirty Balm some love! Ghee is super amazing, they have been using for centuries in India to keep skin soft and elastic. I just rub that ‘ish right into my hands when I cook. It’s also great under the eyes… strange but true.
    <3

  8. Hi Liz!! Love your book, I’m almost done with it already! I want everyone I love to read it!! Now, about Ghee, I use it sometimes. My question is, for someone without a lactose intolerance, why is ghee better than butter? Are there places where each is better? Thanks!

    1. Thank you SO much Maria!
      I think ghee is probably “better” than butter nutritionally (although they’re both nourishing) because you basically get more “bang for your nutritional buck” serving for serving because butter has both milk proteins and water; ghee is butter without the milk proteins and water, so the fat-soluble vitamin content is higher per serving. I hope that helps!

      1. Plus, it’s easier to cook with at higher temps (as has already been said, but just seemed right to point it out here too! :)). Thanks so much for this post. I have been dairy-free for over a year, and use ghee quite a bit. I love it… I remember the day I discovered I could be dairy-free and still have all the goodness of butter… it was a game-changer!! 🙂

  9. GREAT INFO! I started with a tiny jar at Trader Joes ($3, I think) and am now ready to graduate to the monster jar at Costco. Where can you buy the brand you use? Also, do you know if the equivalents and the results are the same for baking: Butter to Ghee? Thanks!

    1. Hi Vicki! Unfortunately I don’t generally bake with ghee so I couldn’t tell ya. Sorry about that! As far as buying Pure Indian Foods, I used to pick it up at Whole Foods; but now that we live far from the city I order it via Amazon – there’s a link to it in the post!

      1. I have baked successfully with ghee! 🙂 It’s really easy to substitute in recipes that call for/allow for oil. In those recipes, I just substitute 1:1. If you are going to replace butter with ghee in a recipe, you usually need to add a little water because butter has a higher water content, and in baking that could make a difference. (You can google “baking with ghee” and get suggestions on how much water to add!). Also, you can’t really “cream” ghee like butter, so I don’t bother using it for things like cookies or icing or recipes that need you to cream the butter.

  10. Liz,
    Thank you so much for this article. I am sharing on my Facebook so my friends truly understand why I take the time to turn butter into ghee. Tastes better, cooks better, better for you and smells excellent! Thanks again.

  11. My husband and I are casin allergic. Where does ghee fall within that allergy spectrum. I have heard both yea and nea.

    1. Sunny – really good, well-made ghee should have no trace of milk solids/protein (that’s what casein is, a milk solid/protein). Most people with allergies to milk proteins can tolerate ghee just fine. That’s the rule, but there are exceptions!

  12. I’m not one for languishing in the kitchen so was determined to find a fool-proof, handsoff method of making ghee and discovered that it could be even easier than I thought! Pop two 500g bricks of butter into your crockpot on low for three hours, then at 3 hours scrape off the foam, scoop out the solids, drain through cheese cloth and hey presto! Ghee! Yippee!

  13. Dear Liz, Great info! Let me return the favor! To type the u with umlaut press and hold down the Alt key while typing these numbers 0252.
    ü <—
    BTW, the e with accent acute like in Sauté is 0233 (note that both of those are lower-case. The degree symbol as in 350° is 0176.
    Other letters/symbols using the Alt+numbers method can be found by opening the Windows Program called "Character Map": Click the Start button. In the search box, type Character Map, and then, in the list of results under Programs, click Character Map.
    I keep that program pinned to my Taskbar Programs as it is totally handy. 😀

  14. Great info on Ghee!!!
    I’ve been thinking about making some for a while 🙂
    Oh, and I get umlaut by pressing the button near the ENTER-button with the two dots, the wiggly line and the circumflex on it, then pressing the U-button to get ü.

  15. Dear Liz, thanks for yet another great article that I will share with others who are still fat-phobic. Umlaut on Mac: keep pressing the a or u or o and a little menu should pop up on the screen. Then move to the desired sign with the arrow buttons on the bottom right or by pressing corresponding number key in second row from top.

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