A lactose-free butter alternative seems, on paper, like a really good idea. "There are many benefits of cooking with ghee," Shandel tells Bustle. "The first is that it is great for people who have dairy sensitivities, as it is casein and lactose-free. In addition, ghee is gluten-free and high in butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid used in the body as an energy source and anti-inflammatory." She adds, "Our ghee is rich in essential fatty acids and Vitamins A, D and E." Vitamin A is particularly helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome.
But is a diet involving ghee good for the body in general? Scientists have been looking at the effects of ghee on human diet and nutrition, and the results are intriguing. A 2010 review of ghee science in the International Quarterly Journal of Research In Ayurveda by scientists from Ohio State noted that animal studies of ghee have found a series of possible benefits, including decreases in cholesterol, low density lipoproteins and triglycerides (which are associated with cardiovascular disease), and a potential link between ghee and lower coronary heart disease risk. One study in 2016 found that ghee was better for cooking than sunflower oil when looking at antioxidants and liver protection, while another in 2013 found that it helped to protect against the development of fatty deposits in arteries. Multiple studies in 2015 found that ghee, particularly low-cholesterol ghee, seemed to improve general cholesterol levels. It's worth noting that virtually all of these studies were done on rats, not humans. But the qualities of ghee have attracted medical attention for other reasons; it was suggested in early 2017 that ghee might be a good way to administer chemotherapy, as it may help the chemo get into the body more efficiently.
But isn't ghee a saturated fat with clear issues for heart health? A study published in 2016 in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research set out to look at this belief. It looked at the heart health of 137 people across India and checked their consumption of ghee and mustard oil, and found that the results "do not support a conclusion of harmful effects of the moderate consumption of ghee in the general population, although it contains high level of saturated fat." Two studies on Indian volunteers, one in 2002 and another in 2005, suggest that if it makes up less than 10 percent of the diet, it has pretty negligible effects on cholesterol levels. Some people reacted differently, and the subjects were all vegetarians, young, and healthy.
Evidence appears to suggest that if you want some form of saturated fat in your diet, ghee is the best option for you. High levels will still hurt your heart, though, so keep it to a minimum, and you'll hopefully enjoy its deliciousness without encountering health difficulties.