Ghee is clarified butterfat. Ghee has been used in traditional Indian Health science - Ayurveda for ages. In India, Ghee is used in cooking because of its nutritional characteristics and its ability to impart flavor and aroma to food. Ghee can be had by people of all age groups. Ghee processing is done by drawing fat from milk, cream, or butter using direct heat with or without fermentation.
Physico- Chemical Properties of Ghee
Ghee contains fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) along with essential fatty acids (linolenic and arachidonic acid). These vitamins and fatty acids are important for our well-being. The major concern of ghee is its cholesterol level (0.2–0.4%). Cholesterol comes into play when ghee intake is very high. Research studies indicate that when rats fed with diets containing greater than 2.5 wt% of ghee showed lower levels of serum cholesterol compared with rats fed diets containing groundnut oil.
Ghee is mainly made up of triglycerides (~98 %), irrespective of where it is derived from - cow or buffalo milk. The other classes of lipids that are present in minor quantities in ghee are: diglycerides (1-2%), monoglycerides (0.1-0.2%), free fatty acids (1-10 mg/100 g), phospholipids (0 to 80 mg/l00, sterols (mainly cholesterol), fat-soluble vitamins, carbonyl (4-6 ug/g),glyceryl ethers (O.8uM /g) and alcohols (1.8-2.3uM/g). The levels of diglycerides, monoglycerides, and free fatty acids vary due to the breakdown of triglycerides by hydrolysis during the storage of ghee. The concentration of phospholipids in ghee also increases with time and temperature used during the clarification of butter or cream to ghee. Furthermore, the levels of vitamin A, carotene and tocopherols, depend directly on the levels of these components available in the feed of the animaL
Fatty Acid Composition of Ghee
The major fatty acids found in ghee are myristic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic acids. There are slight differences in the fatty acid composition of ghee from the two species (buffalo and cow). The average percentage of unsaturated fatty acids of buffalo and cow ghee are 28.73 and 32.21, respectively.
Benefits to Athletes
Ghee is rich in the oil-soluble vitamins A and E and also rich in vitamin K2 and CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). CLA is an antioxidant with anti-viral and anti-cancer properties.
Ghee is nutritionally superior to other oils/fats because of its medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) content, which is absorbed directly by the liver and burned to provide energy. Therefore, for athletes, it can be of consistent energy source. The energy from medium-chain fatty acids can be used to burn other fats in the system and to lose weight.
Ghee stimulates the secretion of gastric acid, aiding in the digestive process. Ghee (unlike other oils) exclusively contains butyric acid; a short-chain fatty acid that contributes to its distinct flavor and easy digestion. Beneficial intestinal bacteria convert fiber into butyric acid and then use that for energy and intestinal wall support. Research shows that adequate production of butyric acid supports the production of killer T cells in the gut and thus a strong immune system.
Hence athletes can benefit from incorporating ghee into their diet as ghee has the ability to provide energy, act as an antioxidant, help lose weight, and build a strong immune system.