Wednesday, October 26, 2016

**Info Probe** Oh,Ghee, Butter and Grass-fed Things for Food and for.. Hair???

Ghee, let's talk

If you have ever tried to clean up your nutritional habits, you've had to start reading food labels more carefully than you might have before.

Prior to going "Keto", I've never tried very hard to change my eating habits. I did try eating more vegetables (via juicing) and getting more water into my daily diet, and I have done the low-calorie thing. The most involved I've been with food labels is reading the calorie counts. 

Since I have begun eating "ketogenically", I have become really interested in food labels. Bigger than that, I am interested in the truth  of those labels. The basic idea behind a keto diet is eating low-carb. high-fat, and clean. The low-carb/high-fat part doesn't faze me, but that "clean" part? That's going to be kind of tricky.

One of the first habits I gained when I started the Keto diet was to drink "Bullet Proof Coffee" (or BPC). My BPC is coffee blended with butter and coconut oil and whole/heavy cream. It has replaced my coffee with flavored creamers. It has replaced sodas and juices. Just about the only thing I drink these days is tea with cream, BPC or Pellegrino sparkling water or flat water. No more Almond Joy Creamer or apple-orange juice blends for me. 

When I learned about BPC, I was kind of grossed out. I tried it (using sweet cream butter and coconut oil and some half and half) and was really grossed out. I had forgotten to blend the concoction - which makes ALL the difference. Then I learned that I should be using butter from grass-fed cows. I'd never before paid attention to the type of butter I was using, other than whether or not it was salted or unsalted. Who knew?

Once I got the hang of drinking butter in my coffee (and started seeing results with my weight and energy levels), I started paying more attention to the butter I was using. This is the brand of butter that I started out using in my coffee- and still use for some of my food needs. It's the one that is most readily available at our local stores (including Walmart and Costco):

I've found one other brand that is labeled as being from grass-fed cows.

As far as using butter in coffee, I guess I should point out a couple of "Why's":
  • Q - Why use butter at all (in coffee)? A - It's a great substitute for the morning "breaking of the night fast" (breakfast), and it satisfies hunger.
  • Q - Why use grass-fed butter? A - In theory, it's healthier to eat butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows. In theory. I'll be getting to more in that in a moment.
  •  Also, adding butter and coconut oil gives Keto eaters some of their desired daily fat macronutrients.
In theory, butter from the milk of grass-fed cows is supposed to be higher in antioxidants that are heart healthy. I say "in theory" because this is only true if you are getting actual grass-fed butter. Labeling is a problem with any products here in the U.S. and as a consumer, I'm learning that I have to look at food labels very closely. The information I see may not always be as straightforward as it should be. This is what the term "grass-fed" generally means (according to USDA standards):
meat obtained from cows that were raised, after weaning, on a diet of grass (and other forage, like clover) situated in pasture and, when fresh grass is unavailable, hay.
The standards were established in 2007 but wasn't used by all beef producers anyway. In January 2016, the USDA stopped using the definition since they can't do the all the on-site inspections needed to verify the standard is being met. There are other options for how the grass fed standards will be determined. (Believe it or not, I first heard of the whole issue via a Cracked Magazine article. This is why I file Cracked in my "News You Can Use" file...)

It's not enough that I have to worry about the truth and lies in labeling, but also about whether or not a food is GMO- and pesticide-free, right? The USDA has standards for that also, by the way. It's almost as if we as consumers need to take a crash course in standards and practices of the food industry before we head to the grocery store!

Now that I am a few months into the ketogenic diet, I am adjusting foods and ingredients to suit my budget and preferences. One major change I've made is to start using ghee instead of my other butter. Purity Farms is the first brand I found locally. (You can see a photo further below.)

I had multiple reasons for even trying ghee. One was that Kerry Gold has "improved" their butter and the improvements possibly involve changes that I would find unhealthy. I'm still checking that claim out and I have a small reserve of the "old" Kerry Gold butter on hand for now. The other reason I wanted to at least try using ghee was that I'd heard it was a bit denser in certain nutrients. Here's how ghee compares to butter:

Source: Dr Axe
I'm looking at the higher nutrient contents in particular. It's a bonus that the smoke point is higher for ghee, which means it's easier to cook with.

As with any other food product, consumers will want the best quality item. I found a list of things to look for in ghee. I bolded the things that matter most to me personally. The list and notes are from the same source I just linked:

  • Grass Fed (Buying ghee that is made from cows that were fed on grass rather than fed on grain (as most North American dairy producers do) is more in line with how cows in India are raised. The consensus is that cows that are fed grass produce milk that has more flavors and is more nutrient rich than cows that are fed grain. Some ghee producers don’t even don’t collect milk from the cows during the summer months when the grass is dry and isn’t as nutritious for the cows.)
  • Organic (If you are eating ghee for its health benefits it is well worth considering buying organic. Many of the most popular brands are organic.)
  • Cultured Ghee (Regular ghee does not use cultured cream and thus retains some of the casein:  Tin star is cultured and Pure Indian also offers cultured ghee. Cultured ghee has a more buttery taste. Many people prefer the taste and aroma of cultured foods. It is also made in such a way that has absolutely no casein or lactose (lab tested).)
  • Certified Casein- and Lactose-Free (Many ghee products claim to be casein and lactose free, although this does mean that there can still be trace amounts of casein and lactose. If you think that may be problematic to you Pure Indian Food Ghee does do lab tests to ensure that their ghee can be certified free of lactose and casein.)
  • Made in Small Batches (Another big selling point for many of the most popular ghee brands is that they are made in small batches. This helps with quality control, as well as keeping connected to traditional way of making ghee and to the Ayurveda way.)
  • Traditional or Ayurveda techniques being used (Many people believe that in order to make the most healthful and healing ghee, there are many things that need to go into the setting that it is made. It need to be made in a peaceful and positive environment, It is best to make Ghee on the waxing fortnights of the moon as the milk and butter are energized at this time.)
  • Price (If you want ghee that is grass fed and organic, be prepared to pay quite a lot per ounce. Since many of the most popular ghee products aren’t mass produced the cost does end up in the price tag.)
  • Shelf Life (Generally the shelf life of an opened jar is 3 months without refrigeration, and one year in the fridge.)
  • Jar Size (You can buy ghee in a number of different jar sizes. Remember when you are ordering just buy what you will finish in about three months. Ghee can be stored longer, but three months is when it tastes the freshest.)

Ghee is a traditional item in certain Asian cultures and, as you can see, it ties into the heritage and religions of the peoples. Since I am using the product strictly for health benefits, I am less concerned with some of the above-mentioned aspects. I listed all the things mentioned out of respect for the culture and heritage of the peoples who have given us the product.

Without ordering online, my access to ghee here in Alaska is pretty limited. I did find two brands to compare. Actually, I found three brands, but the third was out of my price range.

I will give the Pros and Cons of the two brands I did try.

First up, is Purity Farms. I found it for $8.09 at a local specialty market.


  • The label was very informative!
  • Smells great 
  • Has a great flavor right off the spoon and in my coffee
  • It meets a lot of the criteria I listed as preferable
  • The price was affordable for my budget ($8.09 for 7.5oz so apprx $1.08 per ounce)
  • The outer plastic wrapper obscures the product.
  • The product itself is of a hard consistency. Very hard.

This is the Deep brand

  • The consistency is what I expected & wanted
  • The product was visible around the label
  • The flavor was great in my coffee
  • The price was better than the Purity Farms brand ($9.99 for 16oz bottle or apprx $0.62 per ounce)
  • The label is not informative past basic nutrition info
  • I had to find info online and it was still incomplete
  • Also, not lactose-free...

The Deep brand is my favorite as far as the texture but, oddly, I like the flavor of the Purity Farms brand best. It's a close call between the two as far as flavor, but I could swear that the P.F. brand is more pronounced and slightly sweeter. I do have another cold, though, so I will hold judgment until I can tell for sure.

The issue of texture reminds me of my preference in coconut oils where there is a big difference between the refined and unrefined versions - regardless of any brand I've tried. I prefer the unrefined coconut oils because of the texture. It's softer and melts easily with natural body heat. With the ghee, I'm using it (mostly) in hot coffee so that isn't too big of a deal. Just personal whims.
Lactose-intolerant people would probably feel more comfortable using the Purity Farms ghee.The label is very clear about the exclusion of casein and lactose. The Deep brand's website wasn't much help because it kept rejecting the UPC code for the product. What a pain in the butt that I need to input that code just to get more product info! Lame, lame, lame. So, I emailed the company.

So, no, the Deep brand wouldn't work well for someone trying to avoid the lactose. The GMO issue is iffy. (I still like it and since it's a brand I can find locally, I will use it until I finish it and order another brand online. Dangit.)

Neither brand gives enough information on their labels, by the way. I think that, for some people, their choice will come down to flavors and textures.

Now, let's talk hair...?

I'm not sure how anyone else might feel about using ghee and/or butter and coconut oil in their cofee. I do know that lots of people use coconut oil for their hair and skin. Guess what? Ghee and butter are used by some people for that same thing.
Here in my town, ghee is considered "ethnic" and is usually located with the Indian foods in stores. I find it a bit delightful that the Indian and Ethiopian cultures met up to create food and beauty uses for something as common as butter.
I was actually just searching for information about ghee when I first saw articles talking about how Ethiopians use butter to style and treat their hair. When I looked further into the subject, I learned Niter kibbeh - a seasoned clarified butter that Ethiopians cook with. (You guys know that I will be looking for some of that to use in my cooking!) What I wanted to know about though was using butter for the hair.
The first piece of info I found was by an Ethiopian hair stylist talking about the Kibeh (or Kibae) treatment for hair. This apparently entails applying an "Ethiopian hair butter cream" whip to the hair then doing a 20-30 steam treatment. 
Since I really couldn't find any type of "hair butter cream" anywhere else, I'm not sure if all of them are made the same way. Here is a purchasing link for the one just mentioned. (Please note that I am not being compensated in any way for sharing that link. I had not even heard of the salon until writing this post.)  There are recipes all over for making your own homemade ghee and clarifed butter. I'm lazy and will continue buying mine for now! Here is one recipe.
There are also other ways to use ghee for hair and skin beauty:
  • This article lists several uses & mentions mixtures that can be made by adding milks and other products. (I did try this on my skin. It's does seem richer and more moisturizing than the thinner coconut oil.I used mine after a warm showerd. The smell was stronger and a bit off-putting while I had my torso, neck and face slathered. Instead of rinsing, I used a warm towel dotted with a couple of drops of food grade orange oil to wipe away the excess. Have to say that my skin felt marvelous! The orange oil took away the butter smell.
  • More uses listed here. That ghee can be used for eczema is interesting to me. With my poor immune system, I've been dealing with small patches of eczema on my feet. I'm going to check with my dermatologist about using the ghee & I will let you guys know the results.)
  • One of the most interesting links I found was one discussing using an Ayurvedic remedy called Shata dhauta ghrita used for soothing burns, scars and other bothersome skin irritations. The recipe is simple: ghee and water, but it requires some mixing procedures. (I also noticed that there is a suggestion for a particular brand of ghee.)
  • Since I mentioned using ghee for the hair, I thought it would be nice to see how that worked for others. One blogger likes the results she got. Another user listed the pros and cons of her experience.
Since I was already using ghee and coconut oil in my coffee, I decided to make things easier for myself. I took an empty jar and mixed some ghee with coconut oil and turmeric powder. You guys might remember my talking a long while back about adding a touch of turmeric to my coffee. It's a habit I have kept up while drinking BPC. Now that I am using the butter on my skin and hair, I will need another empty jar to mix coconut oil and ghee.

If any of you are using ghee for your skin and hair, please share your recipes.


DISCLAIMER: I assume you all know that I am not a doctor or any other type of medical professional. You should use your common sense and your doctor's advice when it comes to your health.