High cholesterol is not an uncommon problem in India. A recent study revealed that high cholesterol is found in 25-30% of the urban population and 15-20% of the rural population in India1 and this can be attributed to genetic risk, lack of physical activity and unhealthy dietary habits. High cholesterol is not a serious health hazard if proper treatments and remedies are put into action; however, if left unattended, it can even lead to fatality. As per a recent study, every 40-point increase in total cholesterol doubles the probability of young people dying from heart disease.2
There are two types of cholesterols, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) also called ‘bad’ cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), also called ‘good’ cholesterol. It is often the bad cholesterol that increases the risk of health problems since it tends to accumulate in the arteries. Therefore, it is important to maintain an appropriate balance between LDL and HDL for healthy cholesterol levels. It is reported that the cholesterol levels tend to rise as you get older; however, a majority of the victims of heart attacks are youngsters.3
Ghee has always been a staple in Indian cuisine and it makes food much more tasty and desirable. A majority of Indian delicacies have some amount of ghee in them, and if you have a sweet tooth, then you have experienced that most Indian sweets are made from pure ghee. Therefore, the question that arises is how safe is ghee, especially when you have high cholesterol levels?
Before seeking the answer to that question, you need to understand that desi or cow ghee, also called as clarified butter, is rich in saturated fats that are responsible for high levels of cholesterol in the body. Therefore, the intake of ghee will influence your cholesterol levels. However, health experts say that it is safe to use a small amount of ghee (a teaspoon) as a flavour enhancer if your diet is healthy. If your diet includes a lot of vegetables, whole grains, and beans, then adding a little ghee shouldn’t be harmfult.4 You should try to replace other saturated fats in your food with healthy fats such as canola oil and olive oil as well as nuts such as almonds and walnuts. In addition, including omega-3 fats found in fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna in your diet will help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.2
You don’t have to avoid using ghee completely because of high cholesterol levels, but remember, as long as you maintain a healthy diet, it is safe to use a little ghee in your everyday diet. Go ahead, enjoy the rich, nutty flavour of ghee in your diet.
- Gupta R, Rao RS, Misra A, Sharma SK. Recent trends in epidemiology of dyslipidemias in India. Indian Heart J. 2017 May-Jun;69(3):382-392. DOI: 10.1016/j.ihj.2017.02.020.
- Indian Heart Association. Cholesterol and South Asians. The balance between good and bad cholesterol is an important contributor to cardiovascular and stroke risk [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 9]. Available from: http://indianheartassociation.org/cholesterol-and-south-asians/.
- Scientific India. Cholesterol and Indians [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 9]. Available from: http://www.scind.org/572/Health/cholesterol-and-indians.html.
- Consumer Reports. Is ghee good for you? [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 9]. Available from: https://www.consumerreports.org/fats/is-ghee-good-for-you/.