Butter, Ghee or Oil, which is a better option?
With a lot of buzz going on about “Healthy Fats”, let us understand which is a better choice!
The Indian Scenario of Ghee, Butter or Oil
Butter, ghee and oil are widely used in kitchens across India to make a number of delicacies. They impart different tastes and flavors. Indian cooking uses many different types of oil ranging from sesame oil to peanut oil, and these days olive oil has become the most sort after option.
With growing attention towards health and nutrition, people are becoming more and more aware about the quantity and quality of fat to be used in daily cooking. Butter, ghee and oil, all 3 have varying uses when it comes to cooking sweets or savoury dishes.
So what is the real difference between butter, ghee and vegetable oil?
Well, the first major difference between butter and oil is that butter is solid and vegetable oil is in the liquid state. Butter is 20% water, which evaporates during cooking. Vegetable oil, however, is pure fat containing no water and moisture from the oil won't evaporate on cooking.
Ghee is produced by heating butter to remove milk solids and water. It has a nutty flavour and also has a higher smoke point than butter, which means it can be heated to a higher temperature before it starts smoking.
Which is a healthier option?
Oil generally comprises of unsaturated fats – Mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), whereas butter is a natural dairy product made from churning milk or cream, contains saturated fats, milk protein and also some amount of water in it.
Butter contains saturated fats,. The old theory stated that butter has a lot of saturated fats, which made it a culprit to many diseases like weight gain, high cholesterol, heart disease and so on…. However, new research doesn’t show link between the saturated fat content and heart disease or high cholesterol. In butter, saturated fatty acids (SFA) form the major type (around 65-70%) followed by mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) (around 25%) along with least amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which around 2 to 3%. Other types of fats in butter are cholesterol and phospholipids. Within the saturated fats, around 10 to 15% is from short chain fatty acids and medium chain fatty acids. Here is where the health factor begins. These type of fatty acids get metabolized in a different way in our body. Because of their shorter chain length and medium chain length, they are broken down and absorbed into the body directly. Unlike the long chain fatty acids, the medium chain fatty acids go straight to the liver and get converted to fuel to be used by the muscles and organs. They don’t get deposited as fat. Thus the research has shown that these fats are healthy for weight loss.
There are a lot of arguments surrounding butter and its effect on the body’s health. Butter is any day a better option than Margarine, a butter substitute which is processed and loaded with trans fats and is incredibly unhealthy. However, Homemade White butter is even better than commercial butter as it is less processed.
Ghee is rich saturated fats and is packed with Conjugated Linoleic acid (CLA) which has a lot of health benefits. Ghee is also loaded with butyrate which has proven to improve gut health. It also helps reduce nflammation in the body which is very important to prevent the onset of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc. Ghee is loaded with fats but that’s medium chain fatty acids (MCT), which are not stored in the adipose tissue in the body contributing to weight gain. Instead they are used up by body as an energy boost. A tbsp. of ghee daily will not increase your waistline or hip circumference, but it will help in reducing your belly.
Oils, on the other hand, have more of MUFA and PUFA, though each oil has its own ratio. Olive oil is said to have omega-3 fatty acids and also has 77% MUFA which is is known for its heart protecting benefits due to its antiinflammatory nature. Coocnut oil again is high in MCT (medium chain fatty acids) and so a wise choice. Peanut oil has 49% MUFA and the rest is PUFA and SFA.
Other vegetable oils are extracted from a number of seeds – rapeseeds, soybean, corn, sunflower, etc. are high in omega-6 fatty acids and PUFA which maybe pro-inflammatory in nature. Yes, some amounts of omega 6 are also necessary, but consumption of too much omega-6 based oils, without proper balance with omega-3 rich oils can lead to inflammation in the body.
The Take away message
Butter, extra virgin olive oil, olive oil or coconut oil can be a good option as compared to not so healthy fats like palm kernel oil and palm oil. Make sure you completely avoid Dalda/ Vanaspati (Hydrogenated Vegetable Fat) as it is loaded with trans fat which can cause a lot of health issues.
Using Home Made Ghee or Home Made Butter is a good option as it will be less processed and will have a number of health benefits.
But moderation is very important as ultimately all of them add fats to your diet. It is important to maintain an appropriate omega 3 to omega 6 ratio in your diet, so that less inflammation in the body. It is recommended to restrict our daily consumption of fats to not more than 5 to 6 tsp per day. Further , it is also recommended to find a balance in eating fats with a lot of lean protein and whole grains.
Therefore, cooking with any types of fats, requires appropriate moderation and a healthy balance needs to be maintained.