Truth or Myth: Ghee is “Heart Attack on a plate”!

Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

Nutrition Consultant, Content Lead & Editor of DawaiBox Health Reads at DawaiBox
She is a Registered Dietitian who does not believe in dieting; She has a Master's Degree in Nutrition but she is not your "I know it all Nutrition Guru!"; She loves food but loves talking about food even more. Her articles are a direct reflection of her personal quest where nutrition science meets real life! Oh, and she is owned by a 3 m.o. naughty kitten 🙂
Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

Which is the one advise that you get showered with most after being diagnosed with any kind of heart disease?

 “Sharmaji, now you must cut down on Ghee and oily stuff!”
“Sharmaji, now you must cut down on Ghee and oily stuff!”

Isn’t that so?

Now, why Ghee?

What is Ghee REALLY?

Ghee, a close relative of the Clarified Butter, is a fat derived from simmering the cultured butter.

Suggested Read,

Ghee vs. Butter: Which is the Healthier Choice?

In the Indian subcontinent, people have been using it for food preparation, as a medicine, and in religious rituals for thousands of years now! Need a 101 on how to prepare Ghee at home?

The Truth-

  • Fatty Acid Composition of Ghee :~62% SFA (Saturated Fatty Acids), ~29%MUFA (Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids), ~4% PUFA (Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids), ~4% Trans Fats, traces of omega 6 and omega 3 Fatty Acids AND ~250–300mg of Cholesterol per 100 gm (This is information on Cow’s Ghee, could not find sufficient and reliable data on Buffalo’s Ghee! If you have that info, do share with us down below in the comment section…)

To know more about Fatty Acids and oils, read our article A Dietitian’s Verdict: “Which is the best Oil For Cooking?”

“So yes, Ghee is high in Saturated Fatty Acids!”

Is that a BAD thing though?

Depends on how much Ghee you are consuming.

Both Indian and American Dietary Guidelines recommended that Saturated Fatty Acid intake should be kept under 10% of total energy intake for a healthy heart.

Now, what does that even mean?

Here let me explain; if you are 5 feet something, 50kg something, 25–35 something female of India origin who does mild-moderate exercise, your Basal/Resting Metabolic Rate will be somewhere around 1300 Kcals. If adjusted for physical activity, your Daily energy needs will be somewhere around 1600 Kcals. Energy Calculator Here. So 10% of 1600 will be 160 Kcals. Now 1 g of Fat provides 9 Kcals. So how many grams of Saturated Fats will provide you with ~160 Kcals?

160÷9=17.8

17.8 g of fat! Now, what does that look like?

👈Looks like this

1 flat Tablespoon of anything=Approx. 15 gram

Also,

1 Tablespoon = 3 flat teaspoons (1 flat teaspoon is ~5 g)

👈Difference Between a normal kitchen Tablespoon and a teaspoon!

And don’t forget that all these measurements are correct only if you are taking a flat/leveled amount of ingredient, and not a heapful!

Left: Heapful (✘), Right: Leveled/Flat (✔)

Okk, I got little too excited and off track there with all the common kitchen measurements (don’t blame me, blame the innate teacher within me :P)

So, the point is if you are consuming a teaspoon of ghee on your paratha in the morning, and/or a teaspoon on that steamed hot rice at dinner OR you are taking a teaspoon full of ghee before going to bed as an ayurvedic remedy for constipation, as long as you are not going above that ~10 gram*** threshold throughout the day, it is ok…ALL IZZ WELL 🙂

*** We do get some SFAs from milk and milk products, cooking oils and packaged foods, hence always keep your threshold below the allowed amount of 15–17gm, that way there is no way you will go above!

So yes, Ghee is a Saturated Fat, but you can undoubtedly still eat and enjoy it as long as you are not bathing in it! Be mindful, moderation is the key here 🙂

The Myths or are they really the myths?

  1. Ghee Lubricates the Joints!

You must have heard it from several diet gurus and your friends that follow them oh so avidly! What lubricates our joints is Synovial Fluid. And what constitutes synovial fluid is mostly suspended connective tissues and hyaluronic acid. Ghee or as a matter of fact any other fat has got nothing to do with your joints and their lubrication directly or indirectly!

So, Ghee lubricates Joints, is a MYTH!

2. Ghee is good for skin!

To an extent yes. Our skin, the largest organ in our body, is made up of skin cells, which are protected by cell membranes, and cell membranes are made of a lipid bilayer (a double layer of phospholipids!) So you can imagine how important fats/lipids are to the integrity of every single cell! So yes Ghee is good for skin integrity, BUT so are any other and many other better and healthier fats!

Thus, saying that Ghee is good for skin is A HALF-TRUTH!

Similarly, assimilation of Vitamin D, absorption of Fat Soluble A, D, E, K vitamins is an attribute of all fats and oils and not just Ghee!

3. Stronger Immune system!

Ghee does contain Butyric Acid, a short chain saturated fatty acid. Butyric Acid has shown to have a positive role in maintaining gut health, and also reducing cellular inflammation. Not just that it has some immuno-modular effect as well. However, our body is capable of making its own butyric acid provided that we follow a diet rich in dietary fiber (fruits, whole grains!). And not all sources of ghee provide a significant amount of Butyric Acid, there are major differences in butyric acid concentration of store bought (different brands) and home made Ghee. Check out this comparative study.

So, yes Ghee does have a positive effect on immune health 🙂

4. Ghee is full of antioxidants!

Never in my years of nutritional studies and practice did I ever come across any evidence that will back up this miraculous finding! So if any of you (my sweet readers) have related information(evidence based info of course), please do enlighten rest of us(in the comment section…👇)

MYTH of course!

Friends, Ghee is just Ghee…just the whiff of it reminds me of my childhood, it reminds me of Diwali, and brings forth memories of my room-mates who loved ghee and with whom I used to eat in the same a plate (we were just too lazy, so instead of washing 3 different dishes, thought why not eat together!) Anyways, point is, instead of glorifying a butter fat, and just because it is good in these two things assuming that it must be really good in 10 more things is absurd!

Its like assuming because Sachin is a great batsman he must also be really good at doing Bharatnatyam and also must be an extremely fluent Russian speaker (now we do not have any proof that he isn’t but we also don’t know for sure that he is)!

So, stop glorifying GHEE and just eat it for the love of the food!

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Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.
She is a Registered Dietitian who does not believe in dieting; She has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition but she is not your “I know it all Nutrition Guru!”; She loves food but loves talking about food even more. Her articles are a direct reflection of her personal quest where nutrition science meets real life! Oh, and she is owned by a 3 m.o. naughty kitten 🙂
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Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

Soniya Nikam, MS, RD.

She is a Registered Dietitian who does not believe in dieting; She has a Master's Degree in Nutrition but she is not your "I know it all Nutrition Guru!"; She loves food but loves talking about food even more. Her articles are a direct reflection of her personal quest where nutrition science meets real life! Oh, and she is owned by a 3 m.o. naughty kitten :)

2 thoughts on “Truth or Myth: Ghee is “Heart Attack on a plate”!

    1. Hi Akarshan, good question. Ghee, just like other fats does get oxidized over time and does have a definite shelf life! The shelf life depends on the storage conditions (humidity, frequent contact with the air and sunlight etc.) On an average home made ghee stays good for upto 6 months (if stored outside) but this is based upon personal experience! Want to make your home made ghee last? Do this- take out little bit in a small jar or bottle (this one is for daily use, you can store it outside) but keep rest stored in an airtight container and refrigerate it. If stored properly, taken out in batches and used, Ghee should last you for upto 2 years (Ayurvedic pratitioners store Ghee for 100s of years!)…All the best and enjoy the Ghee-bhat 🙂

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