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The truth about ghee

It’s a well-known fact that we Indians have a weakness for clarified butter — or ghee. From dal to gajar halwa, we like to top off everything with a lashing of ghee.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 11, 2010 16:22 IST
Hindustan Times
ghee

It’s a well-known fact that we Indians have a weakness for clarified butter — or ghee. From dal to gajar halwa, we like to top off everything with a lashing of ghee. But does our love for this form of saturated fat spell doom for our waistlines? Or is a little bit of ghee not such a bad thing after all? We spoke to some dieticians in the city and found out that when it comes to ghee, a little bit goes a long way.

Homemade ghee is made by cooking unsalted butter until the solid non-fat component of milk separates from the saturated fat. Experts say this form of saturated fat is better than store-bought butter, which is high in salt and preservatives, as well as refined vegetable oil or dalda, which contains harmful trans fats.

The benefits
Dieticians say that if you have an ideal body weight for your height, a little bit of ghee might actually be beneficial for you. “A little bit of saturated fat is required to create visceral fat around the vital organs, so that they are not affected in case of injury,” says consulting dietitian Jyoti Lalwani.

In addition, ghee contains essential fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K that are required for healthy skin and hair. These nutrients are only absorbed into the body with the help of fats. Hence, eliminating fat altogether might mean denying your body of these vital nutrients.

Quantity is key
However, you need to closely monitor the amount of ghee you consume. “It’s important to consume the right ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat,” says consulting dietician Mehar Panjwani. While butter and ghee are some sources of saturated fat, all refined oils fall under the category of unsaturated fat.

The exact permissible allowance of saturated to unsaturated fat varies from person to person. But a thumb rule to follow is that 1/3 rd of your daily fat intake should be from saturated fat and 2/3 rd from unsaturated fat. If you’re an adult with the right height to weight ratio, Lalwani recommends not more than one or two teaspoons of ghee a day.

If you are overweight, then she recommends stopping your intake of ghee altogether and taking up some physical activity to bring your weight under control. But she emphasises that kids with an active lifestyle should include some ghee in their diet. “A few drops of ghee on their chapatis is okay, but that shouldn’t become a whole spoon,” she says.