Ghee used to be an integral part of Indian food for thousands of years but its usage started dropping in the last couple of decades after some “studies” found out saturated fats are not good for health. This mentality is gradually changing and Ghee is making a comeback on Indian Thalis now! According to a BBC report, Ghee is one of the purest food items on Earth. Ghee is basically a form of butter which was invented to keep it safe and make it long lasting in a country like India which predominantly has a hot climate. The butter extracted from milk/curd is boiled on slow flame till all the solid particles are extracted out of it. The resultant residue which has a unique taste and aroma is Ghee. Ghee is supposed to be the milk’s final and purest form. It is considered the most pure item for religious rituals in Indic religions.
Indians have been using ghee since the Vedic era. It is one of the key ingredients of Indian dishes, especially the sweet ones. Rig Veda has verses that list the importance of Ghee. According to Hindu scriptures like Puranas, Ghee was first formed when demi-god Prajapati Daksha created it by rubbing his palms. He then offered it to the fire through which his offspring were born. Talking to FinancialExress.com about the religious significance of Ghee, Pankaj Khanna, Chairman, Khanna Gems said, “Spiritually, when we lit a lamp with Ghee, the ghee and the flame signifies Goddess Lakshmi who is the Goddess of wealth. The brightness of the flame resembles Goddess Saraswati who bestows us with education and knowledge. The heat from the flame signifies Goddess Durga who burns away and destroys all evil. Ghee is considered better for lighting lamps rather than oil. Ghee is more capable of attracting and reciprocating the positive vibrations present in the surrounding atmosphere. Ghee disperses its aroma in the air quickly and purifies it. Meditating upon a ghee lamp without blinking is a very good exercise that purges our eyes and clears our vision. In fact, in Ayurveda, one is advised to gaze at the flame for 2 or 3 minutes to physically strengthen and clean the eyes.”
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Ghee is deeply associated with Indian Culture. It is used in almost all Hindu Samskaras be it marriage or cremation offering Ghee to fire-god Agni is considered auspicious. In Ayurveda, the Indian traditional medicine system, Ghee is used for many ailments. Ghee has tremendous nutritional value and that is why it is being used for generations in Indian homes.
Earlier, after studies claimed vehemently that saturated fat is not good for health, Ghee’s usage dropped significantly. Ghee contains 50%-70% saturated fats and this led to decline in Ghee’s consumption in food and refined vegetable oils became the part of every Indian kitchen.
Lavleen Kaur, Co-Founder & Head Dietitian, Diet Insight said, “India and ghee have a convoluted long history together. As a Punjabi, I have seen ghee play a significant role in every aspect of our lives, from womb to tomb and from marriage to every other ritual. However, due to increased urbanization and the accessibility of refined and vegetable oils, it has lost popularity. Today, it seems to be back in fashion. I’ve always believed in the strength of our Indian heritage since my grandmother and many generations before her didn’t need scientific research to establish the advantages of ghee.”
“It’s rich in vitamin A, omega 3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, which supports heart and bone health, reduces gut inflammation, boosts immunity, treats digestive and menstrual problems by acting as a natural lubricant, and is beneficial to skin and hair. Despite all the benefits, many people still hesitate because they believe the fats will cause weight gain, which is a complete myth because ghee consumption actually aids in weight loss. Unlike the unsaturated fatty acids found in processed vegetable oils, ghee is a saturated fatty acid that is more stable and easily usable in cooking,” Kaurd added.
But how much Ghee can one consume? Lavleen Kaur says that Ghee is not inherently harmful, but moderation matters. “Three teaspoons of ghee per day is a general recommendation for consumption for an average Indian; however, the amount may vary from individuals, to the type of cooking method. People with health issues should consult for accurate requirements. Furthermore, ghee is only one type of oil; other beneficial oils such as mustard and olive oil have their own benefits, and when combined with a balanced diet and an active lifestyle, help reap all of nature’s benefits. Desi Ghee is just one important character in the story of life; don’t forget to include other important supporting characters to make it an unforgettable one.”
Geetika Patni, Lifestyle Expert of GOQII says that Ghee is not only nutritious but also therapeutic in many ways. “In many ayurvedic medicines, Ghee is the main agent for delivery of medicines, so it’s only natural for Ghee to be back on Indian Thali! Indian recipes and dishes include many herbs and therapeutic spices, and their absorption is increased with the right medium of cooking. For example turmeric. Absorption of the bioactive component of turmeric called as curcumin is dependent on a fat source in diet. The human digestive tract has a mostly watery environment and hence prevents direct absorption of curcumin from the intestines. If turmeric is taken along with a few drops of Ghee, the absorption rate of curcumin in our digestive tract increases substantially.”
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Even though dieticians still tell us about avoiding the consumption of too much fat, some experts have softened their stand on saturated fats. The new trend of Keto diets has made Ghee popular in Western countries like the United States. It is not that Indians splurge Ghee on every food they eat(with some exceptions though). It is used to add balance and enhance the taste to the food items. It gives a distinct flavour to every bite you take. According to food experts, it can be best used with Dals (lentils), Korma and with soups in winter. Try it once if you haven’t already.