Ghee is a type of clarified butter that contains fewer dairy proteins than regular butter. This ingredient can be used in place of regular butter, but is it healthier, and what are the benefits?

Ghee can be used as a substitute for butter, and while butter is not necessarily bad for health, many people think that ghee might be a more healthful alternative for using in cooking.

In this article, we look at the differences between ghee and butter in terms of production, nutrition, and healthfulness, as well as the risks associated with these products.

What is ghee?

Ghee butter in glass jar with wooden spoon.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter. LIke regular butter, it is usually made from cow’s milk.

Ghee is a form of highly-clarified butter that is traditionally used in Asian cooking. Like butter, ghee is typically made from cow’s milk.

Ghee is made by melting regular butter. The butter separates into liquid fats and milk solids. Once separated, the milk solids are removed, which means that ghee has less lactose than butter.

Traditionally, ghee has been used as cooking oil, an ingredient in dishes, and in Ayurveda therapies. Ghee is still used in Ayurvedic massage and as a base for herbal ointments to treat burns and rashes.

How is ghee made?

Ghee is heated for longer than other types of clarified butter, which contributes to a stronger and nuttier flavor, as well as a darker hue.

Ghee has a higher burning point than standard clarified butter, which means it is ideal for frying or sautéing foods.

A person can make ghee at home using regular unsalted butter. Melt the butter slowly and skim off the solids that gather on the surface. Continue to cook the butter until all the milk solids have sunk to the bottom and the liquid is clear — this is clarified butter.

Continue to cook for a few more minutes until the milk solids at the bottom of the pan turn brown. The cooked milk solids give the ghee its flavor and color. Sieve the liquid into a jar or bottle and let it cool and solidify.

Ghee vs. butter

Because ghee and butter both derive from cow’s milk, their nutritional profiles and fat content are very similar.

However, because ghee does not contain the same levels of dairy proteins as butter, it may be better for people who do not tolerate dairy products well.

Benefits and risks of ghee

Various research studies have looked at the possible benefits and risks of including ghee in a person’s diet. These include:

Heart disease

Doctor pointing at anatomical model of the heart to explain heart disease to patient.
Various studies have considered whether consuming ghee increases the risk of heart disease.

According to research from 2010, ghee contains almost 50 percent saturated fat, which has led to concerns that ghee might increase the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) in India.

However, a 2018 study looking at 200 people in north India suggests that the fat and cholesterol in the blood was healthier in the people who ate more ghee and less mustard oil as sources of fat in their diets. Results included lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels and higher HDL or good cholesterol levels.

Although this study only compared results between ghee and mustard oil and not butter, it did show promising results for ghee. Some forms of mustard oil are banned for consumption in the United States, Canada, and Europe because they contain erucic acid.

Lower levels of milk sugars and proteins

Because ghee has had many of its dairy proteins removed, it contains much lower levels of dairy proteins, such as casein, and lactose than regular butter.

A person who is sensitive or intolerant to lactose and casein may find that it is beneficial to use ghee as a substitute for butter.

Rich in healthful linoleic acid

Ghee is rich in a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is known to have a range of health benefits.

For instance, a 2018 article suggests that dietary CLA is associated with 15 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Contains butyrate

Ghee contains a fatty acid called butyrate acid. According to one study, butyrate acid plays an essential role in digestive health. It may also have anti-inflammatory effects.

Benefits and risks of butter

Block of butter on wrapper partially sliced.
Butter and other forms of dairy are high in saturated fats.

When consumed in moderation, butter is not bad for you. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), real butter does not contain any trans fats. However, it does contain high levels of saturated fat, which can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels and heart disease if not eaten in moderation.

The American Heart Association recommend that a person should get 5 to 6 percent of their total daily calories from saturated fat, which is about 13 grams per day.

However, different types of fat, including saturated fats, are essential for a healthful diet. A person should limit their intake of saturated fats and increase their intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are healthful fats.

Good sources of healthful fats include fish, nuts, seeds, and olives.

Conclusion

Ghee is another form of butter, and the nutritional profile and fat content of the two are similar. However, ghee may be better for people who are sensitive to lactose and casein because it contains less of both.

Neither ghee nor butter is unhealthful when eaten in moderation, and a person can include both foods in a varied and balanced diet.