Ghee: Facts unravelled
Ghee for starters is good saturated fat for the body, according to Ayurvedic tradition; it enhances ‘Ojas’ (Sanskrit word for vigour), an essence that governs the tissues in the body and balances hormones. Ghee contains butyrate, which promotes healthy gut bacteria. It has been known to fight inflammation, has positive effects on insulin sensitivity and intestinal permeability, maintain the gut barrier integrity, increase water absorption in the gut and hence prevents leaky gut syndrome. It is free of lactose and casein and is packed with vitamins and minerals. Most of all it makes for great cooking, due to its high smoke point.
A1 or A2 ghee: What should you choose?
The controversy between the two came about when the protein in milk beta-casein was analysed. The A1 (dairy) mutation started 8000 years ago, simply to increase yield. A1 ghee comes from A1 quality milk, from the Holstein (classic black-and-white cows) breed and contains a compound called BCM-7 (beta-casomorphin 7), the leading cause for many health issues.
A2 ghee comes from an older cow breed that has not been manipulated (by this I mean bred differently), and seem to have landed up in Asian and African countries. The claim here is that the casein is better in terms of quality and absorbability (it has A2 beta-casein [a protein]). Albeit, not found in all cows, but in some native Indian breed cows.
The difference between the two is in 1 amino acid chain and the presence of BCM-7 which is released when A1 milk is digested. BCM-7 is often associated with many health issues: inflammation, autism, allergies, cancers, diabetes, autoimmune issues, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, heart disease, digestive problems and many more health ailments.
What are the three things to keep in mind when buying your ghee?
Is there a better option? Yes, ‘Gir Cow Ghee’ for one it’s of A2 quality and has more benefits. The Gir cow is a native breed of the 37 breeds that India has. Its distinguishing feature is the hump that it has; 3 important aspects determine the quality of your ghee –
- Do you know your cow?: Holstein, Jersey or a genetically mutated bred cow (very difficult proposition, I know).
- Question the raw material used to make the ghee: Plus what are the cows being fed? Is it grass or grain? This makes a difference to the quality of fat in the ghee; grass-fed butter and altering fodder with the seasons when feeding cows is essential.
- What is the process used to make the ghee? Is it just cream being separated from raw milk to make ghee? Which is not the best way to make it. Or is there churning and made with yoghurt (dahi) with some probiotics involved. Called the Bilona method – Read about it at the end of this blog.
The difference between A2 ghee and Gir cow ghee
I get asked this question often: A2 ghee and Gir cow ghee are both available – so what about quality?
- The nutritional quality of what is being fed to cows, must be questioned?
- Commercially manufacturing of ghee is based on fat percentage; the more the fat in the milk the better the quantum/quality of ghee; but is it good quality fat?
Why grass-fed cow ghee?
- If cows are fed more grass, the yield of ghee will reduce and this is not good for marketers wanting more yield. However, the quality of fat from grass-fed cows is the best. Why grass? A cow that’s not genetically mutated, is local and fed grass converts the green fodder into CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) known to lower cholesterol, high BP, reduce inflammation, cancer fighter and lower body fat; and even ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) an essential omega 3 fatty acid.
- Another reason why grass-fed cows produce better quality milk for ghee is that a cow’s stomach ferments vitamin K1 (found in leafy greens) into K2, which then shows up in dairy fat. K2 is important for bone and heart health. Vitamin K2 is found mainly in animal foods, some fermented foods and made by your gut bacteria as well.
Bilona ghee Vs processed ghee: What is the difference?
Traditionally, only the bilona method was used. What does this involve? Cow’s milk is boiled and cooled. Then some yoghurt is used as a starter and it’s fermented overnight The yoghurt is then churned to extract butter from it. At this stage, the probiotics are very much there in the yoghurt or butter made thereafter. This butter is then heated, and what is left behind is ghee. Earthen pots are used to make yoghurt, and churning vessels and churners called ravaiya are also wooden. This method is referred to as the Vedic ghee method.
You can imagine what commercial ghee extraction is all about. Plus the use of machines to make and extract the ghee. There is no personal touch involved, and also nutritional levels are affected. Most Companies make the ghee directly from milk, not yoghurt. So while you may feel eating ghee is good for you, which it is – the question is what kind of ghee are you eating.
- Anti-inflammatory – It contains butyrate, a fatty acid that has a known anti-inflammatory nature.
- Lactose-free – It is created by removing milk solids, it has trace amounts of lactose and casein (sugars and proteins). Hence it is good for those who cannot digest dairy.
- Weight gain – Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in ghee helps prevent weight gain. Starts cellular detoxification: Snehapanam in Ayurveda- where medicated ghee is used.
- Prevent heart disease – When used in moderation, its omega-3s supports the heart.
- High smoke point – Makes it perfect for Indian cooking.
- Provides energy – A very good source of energy, as it contains medium and short-chain fatty acids, and lauric acid which gives instant energy.
- Good fat source – It is one of the best saturated fat sources to consume.
- Helps bowel movements – Taking a teaspoon in the morning, then sitting in Malasana will help with bowel movements and relieve constipation.
- A healthier alternative to butter – Better concentration of fats in ghee, and has butyric acid and many other short-chain saturated fats.
- Super nutritional value – Contains Vitamins A, D,E and K. It Impacts the immune system positively.
Happy ghee eating!