Smith: Use ghee, like any saturated fat, in moderation | Food and Cooking

You may have heard about a type of fat, often used in Indian and Asian cuisine, called ghee. It’s been touted as having many health benefits, including decreased inflammation and improved digestion. However, is there any evidence to support these claims?

Ghee is clarified butter made by slowly melting butter, skimming off the milk solids and allowing water to evaporate. What’s left is ghee, a golden fat that is richer in taste than regular butter. It also has a higher smoke point, which makes it a great medium for high heat cooking. Since ghee is more concentrated than butter, it yields more calories and fat. One teaspoon of ghee has 45 calories, 5 grams total fat and 3 grams saturated fat. The same serving of butter yields 34 calories, 4 grams total fat and 2 grams saturated fat. The health benefits of ghee are limited in research, and most of the studies found have been done on rats, not humans. The authors of a 2013 review conclude that ghee contains short chain fatty acids, much like coconut oil, that may help strengthen and develop cell membranes. However, ghee also has a high amount of saturated fat, which has been linked to heart disease. The bottom line is use ghee in moderation, just like any other food high in saturated fats.

Mango Dal

1 cup yellow split peas (lentils)

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½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ Tablespoon minced fresh ginger

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 mangos, peeled and diced

Rinse lentils in a fine mesh sieve under cold water. In a large saucepan, combine lentils, water, salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (lentils won’t be fully cooked). Remove from heat. Meanwhile, heat ghee in a large skillet. Add cumin seeds and cook 30 seconds. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, chili powder and cayenne pepper and cook 1 minute more. Transfer onion mixture to lentils and add mangos. Return to simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes until lentils are fully cooked. May serve over cooked rice.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 230 calories, 5 grams fat, 200 milligrams sodium, 40 grams carbohydrate, 11 grams fiber, 8 grams protein

Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306. 

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