Ever wondered if science backs the traditional belief that clarified butter or ghee has enormous health benefits? Read the view of experts, based on new studies and the latest global dietary guidelines.
In India, clarified butter or ghee is believed to boost mental and physical strength and help the body fight illnesses. This opinion is prevalent, especially among mothers and elders who encourage children and young adults to eat ghee, so they may become stronger.
Our attachment to ghee is strong
But there are marked differences of opinion among doctors, dietitians and patients about the good and bad points of ghee. Sometimes, such issues are difficult to resolve because of fondness of Indians for ghee and the increasing circulation of distorted opinions in social media, which ignore scientific truths.
The reality is that all research backs the view that the regular consumption of too much ghee, is disastrous for the heart, arteries and brain. Read on, to check out the fat guidelines for Indians, and a recent advisory from American Heart Association with evidence- based facts, regarding saturated fats like ghee.
It is a saturated fat
To begin with, desi ghee is one of the most commonly consumed varieties of saturated fat in India. Saturated fats are a type of fat, in which the fatty acid chains have single bonds.
These tend to solidify at room temperature. Some examples of foods with an ample amount of saturated fat include red meat, poultry, bacon, pork, cream, cheese, butter, and ghee.
We need a measured amount of fats
As far as Indians are concerned, they should make sure that fats provide not more than 30% of total energy of their total meal intake in the day. Within this rationed amount, saturated fatty acids (SFAs) should provide no more than 10% of total energy of the food/day.
And if you have a high figure of bad cholesterol (≥100 mg/dl), you must keep your saturated fat intake down to 7% of total energy of the food/day. When it comes to ghee, all you can eat safely is about 1 teaspoonful, every few days.
Most dietary fats should be unsaturated
According to the recent American Heart Association (AHA) Advisory, you should replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by approximately 30%. The shift from saturated to unsaturated fats should occur simultaneously in an overall healthful dietary pattern.
Also, “good carbohydrates,” such as whole grains and whole fruits, serve as an appropriate substitute for saturated fats. Further, the American Heart Association strictly advises against the use of coconut oil.
Pros & Cons of Ghee
#1 It is rich in fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and antioxidants.
#2 It has short-chain saturated fatty acids which provide energy for the cell lining of the large intestine, and Conjugated Lineolic Acid (CLA), a fatty acid known to be protective against substances which cause cancer.
#3 Ghee is lactose and casein free.
#1 It has 68% saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids increase total serum cholesterol levels, leading to changes in structure of arteries. Hence ghee consumption is more likely to lead to blocking of arteries.
#2 Use of desi ghee in cooking increases the risk of heart attack 4 times in young South Asian adults residing in UK, a greater risk than diabetes and chronic smoking posed.
#3 When rats were fed ghee for a period of four months, the internal lining of the major heart linked artery (aorta) rapidly increased in size, hardened, and started rapidly getting damaged, thereby increasing the likelihood of blockages.
Dr. Anoop Misra is Chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases andEndocrinology; Chairman, National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation (N-DOC); and Director, Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, Diabetes Foundation (India) (DFI)
Bhavya Munjal, a Clinical Nutritionist & Certified Diabetes Educator collaborated with Dr. Misra, on this article.