Be it hot chapattis or your regular bowl of dal. Be it an elaborately made barfi or a simply fried egg (sunny side up?), Indians love their ghee. However, one of the few things that they love more than ghee itself is perhaps glamourising the food item.
But is there any scientific truth to it? We reached out to doctors and nutritionists and here’s what they had to say.
Ghee is Definitely Better Than Butter: Cardiologist
Dr Vaibhav Mishra, Additional Director and Head, Dept of Cardiac Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Noida, comments on ghee and says:
"Ghee contains Vitamin A, D, E, K which are all good for bones, skin, nerve functions and the brain. But it also contains saturated fat which has a downside. This is why it should be avoided by obese or overweight people. The elderly, people with a family history of heart problems, smokers, those suffering from hypertension or lack of exercise should avoid it too. Having said that, it’s important to note that ghee is definitely better than butter."
He further adds that though ghee may have its benefits, it’s important to consume it in a limited quantity.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the daily intake of fat for an average adult should be as follows:
"The Expert Report’s specific recommendations on diet include limiting fat to between 15 and 30 percent of total daily energy intake and saturated fats to less than 10 percent of this total."
Citing the same numbers, the doctor says it should not be had liberally unlike what Indians usually prefer. It’s okay for an average adult to consume one teaspoon of ghee everyday. This is keeping in mind that they don’t have a history of heart problems. If there indeed is a heart condition involved, they should avoid it altogether.
Ghee is age-group specific as well. It’s very beneficial for kids and young adults where levels of metabolism and exercise are high. Ghee is also very beneficial for growth. However as one enters adulthood, often accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle, it’s important to be very careful with its consumption.
Balance is the Key: Nutritionist
With ghee, the key is balance, points out Consultant Nutritionist Dr Rupali Datta.
"The fat in ghee is okay, but not very good, like that in coconut oil too. But it’s important to balance it out. If you’re a non-vegetarian, your body is already getting the fat it needs. In that case, you can have ghee, but only in the right quantity."
Dr Datta further adds that it’s not must for adults. Like Dr Mishra, she too points out its importance for children and young adults till the age of 18, but beyond that it should be consumed with caution. Ghee is good, but neither as great as Indians often make it out to be nor is it to be damned entirely, concludes the doctor.
Also Read: 10 Ways To Lower Your Cholesterol With Diet
Butter or Ghee - Which is Better?
According to Healthline.com, the nutritional value of ghee in comparison with butter is as follows.
The report further points out that ghee does not contain milk sugar lactose and the milk protein casein, both of which are found in butter. Thus, people who might be allergic to dairy can simply opt for ghee over butter.
Furthermore, while both ghee and butter can withstand high levels of heat without producing any damaging or harmful substances, as is often the case with vegetable and seed oils, ghee still performs better. However, owing to its buttery, sweet taste, butter is advised for baking. So, choose the purpose and then your fat accordingly.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
It’s important to distinguish between different kinds of ghee. While the one made at home from dairy, without preservatives and chemicals is hailed by many, ghee made from vegetable oil, also known as vanaspati or vegetable ghee might contain 14-40 percent trans fat.
Several studies conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that ghee may improve heart health. Another study pointed out that ghee indeed led to an increase in HDL or the ‘good’ cholestrol while also reducing the formation of fatty deposits in the arteries.
Along with all of these, ghee is also known to improve eye-sight, strengthen muscles, bones and tendons, fighting cold, among other things.
So, the bottom line is, ghee indeed has great health benefits, but only if consumed judiciously.
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