The One Ayurvedic Food Everyone Should Have in Their Kitchen

Updated 04/05/18
Stocksy/ Nadine Greeff

Hold the search: We’ve found something spreadable that’s as delicious as butter but has all the added health benefits of coconut oil. Yep, you can slather it on warm toast and smother your tatties in it, and you’re guaranteed that creamy, melted comfort-food feeling, but get this—it’s good for you. Positively nutritious. Honestly, we’re not making this up. This is no fantasy food. This is ghee, and people have been using in Ayurvedic cooking for centuries. (Our invite to the party must have got lost in the post.)

So, What Is Ghee?

Ghee is clarified butter, which means it’s a pure butter fat that has no casein protein, lactose, solids or sugars, so even those with digestive issues, gut sensitivities and dairy intolerance can dive in. You can make your own ghee pretty easily, though you’ll start to see it being stocked in your local supermarket more and more. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose both sell it, or log on to Ocado or Planet Organic where you’ll find options like Fushi, East End and Ghee Easy. Just don’t go searching for it in the refrigerated aisles. Like coconut oil, it isn’t kept in the cold, so head to the “world food” shelves if you’re on the hunt.

If you want to whip up your own, here’s how. You’ll need two blocks of unsalted butter, a pan, a sieve, a spoon, cheesecloth and glass jars. The idea is that you melt butter over a medium heat, waiting for a thick foam to surface, simmer, and let the foam get bigger and bubblier until the milk solids curdle and settle to the bottom. The colour will change and become clearer, while the solids at the bottom go brown and the foam disappears. Keep stirring, as you don’t want the solids to stick; wait for the foam to reappear, and then take it off the heat. Layer a sieve with cheesecloth, pour everything in, and disregard those milk solids left behind. The golden liquid that’s been filtered through is your gorgeous ghee. Transfer it to a jar, and leave it on the side to cool.

Is Ghee Fattening?

Herein lies the “good fat, bad fat” debate that surrounded coconut oil when we started going doolally for it. Rather than the long-chain fatty acids you find in butter—the ones associated with weight gain, cardiovascular problems and cholesterol—ghee is a mix of short- and medium-chain fatty acids. Why is this important? Because it’s the short- and medium-chain fatty acids that can boost everything from weight loss (they’re metabolised differently than long-chain fatty acids) to gut health.

“Butyrate or butyric acid is a short-chain fatty acid that’s crucial to maintaining optimal digestive health, as it supports insulin levels, fights off inflammation and provides energy for the cells in the colon,” explains Ingrid Reyers, Ayurvedic expert and cook at Escapada Retreats. “It also increases the secretion of bilary lipids and stomach acids that aid digestion, which is why some studies have suggested that it can provide relief for people suffering with conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.”

Besides its gut benefits, its anti-inflammatory attributes are second to none. Not only does this mean your digestive system is at less risk from becoming swollen and irritated, but consuming it also does a cracking job loosening stiff muscles and achey joints. In fact rather than fish oil, Ayurvedic practitioners advise a daily intake of ghee instead—ideal if you’re vegetarian. Ayurvedic consultant and nutritionist at Minerva Labs, Dr Vidhi Patel also notes that these stellar anti-inflammatory side effects can promote collagen synthesis too, and who doesn’t like a skin-friendly tag-on?

The health benefits don’t stop there, though. Ghee is also packed with vitamins A, E and vitamin K, the latter of which is linked to blood clotting, a healthy heart and healthy brain function. It also keeps bones strong, which is worth considering if you’re a CrossFit fiend or someone who lifts. And it blows any concerns out of the window for people conscious about cholesterol. As a guide, just one helping of ghee a day and you’ll hit your RDA of vitamin K.

Then there’s the conjugated linoleic acid it’s full of. Reyers points out that this fatty acid can be effective in reducing body fat and even lowering blood pressure. And it has phenolic antioxidants that boost the immune system and ward off headaches.

Jam jar of ghee
Escapada Retreats

How Do You Use Ghee?

We predict ghee-packed Bulletproof coffees coming to an artisan coffee shop near you soon, but until then, use it as you would your coconut oil. Cook with it, melt it onto roasted vegetables and stir it into desserts. It can be used warm or cold, and if you really want to, lick it right off the spoon, although we much prefer Dr. Patel’s suggestion.

“I tell my patients to take a couple of Medjool dates, remove the seeds, and fill the space up with a teaspoon of quality organic ghee. It’s a great snack or quick dessert,” she explains. She’s also a fan of her coconut and date balls, although she notes that it’s important to be aware of the overall fat content. You can have too much of a good thing if you’re watching your waistline: Around two teaspoons of ghee daily is about right.

Revers also tells us it makes a good alternative to hot water and lemon in the morning: “Mix one teaspoon with warm water and it will help remove liposoluble toxins from the body. After you’ve drunk it, follow with fresh ginger and hot water with a drop of lime to neutralise the taste and help your digestion throughout the day.”

Anything Else This Goo Can Do?

Now you come to mention it, there is. In the same way you can douse your hair and skin in coconut oil to hydrate and moisturise, the same can be said for ghee. “Topically, it has great benefits to heal cracked, dry skin; cold sores; and viral conditions like eczema,” continues Patel. “It’s also traditionally used as part of a herbal concoction for a stimulating body massage, and it can even be used on bruises.” Revers also uses it around her eyes and on her hair, claiming it works wonders for getting rid of dark circles and nourishing sun-damaged, dry ends. We’re in.

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