If you haven't heard about the awesome fat that is clarified butter, get ready—you might just melt with excitement.
What exactly is this stuff? Butter, minus the milk solids. It hails from India, where it's called ghee, and is used in everything from delicious curries and dals to traditional medicines and religious ceremonies.
It's made by melting unsalted butter until it boils and skimming off the white milk proteins at the top. The result is a golden liquid that tastes richer than regular butter, can be heated to a higher temperature without smoking, and can be kept in the fridge for weeks without turning rancid. (A flat belly in just 10 minutes a day? Yes, please! Check out the plan our readers swear by!)
OK, but what puts it on par, health-wise, with other good-for-you fats? For starters, it just might help you lose weight. Compared to regular butter, it's higher in conjugated lineolic acid—a fatty acid found in dairy and meat products—that research shows has the ability to target and burn belly fat, said functional clinical nutritionist Jacqui Justice, nutritional director of New York Health & Wellness. And like other healthy fats, it boosts satiety. So you fill up faster—and stay that way longer.
If you're plagued by tummy troubles, clarified butter could help with those, too. (Backed up? Here are 10 foods that help you poop.) It's rich in butyric acid, a fatty acid that studies suggest can ease abdominal pain, promote healthy gut bacteria, and reduce inflammation in people with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. (Butter contains butyric acid, too—but clarified butter has slightly more, Justice said.) And since it's free of milk proteins, it's usually well tolerated by people who have problems with dairy.
All that said, you still probably shouldn't eat it by the spoonful. Clarified butter has the same number of calories as olive oil or coconut oil; at 120 calories per Tbsp, adding it to everything can add up fast. And like butter, it's still high in saturated fat, which many experts consider an "in-between" fat (not necessarily good nor bad), whose risk or benefit to the body depends on the quality of the source. In moderation, though, clarified butter is absolutely worth adding to your repertoire. Just keep it to 2 tsp a day, Justice recommended. (Overate? Check out 8 things to eat and drink after a junk food binge.)
Best ways to use it? You could drizzle clarified butter over steamed vegetables, scrambled eggs, or even stir it into a bowl of oatmeal. But where it really shines is in things like stir-fries or seared meat or fish (opt for one of these 10 healthiest fish on the planet).
"It's one of the best oils to use for cooking because it's smoke point is high—around 485°F. So it doesn't burn like butter or break down into free radicals like other oils can," Justice said.
Best of all, it's a cinch to make at home: All you need is one ingredient and a half hour or so to let the butter do its thing on the stove top. (101 Cookbook's instructions couldn't be easier.) Not up for the project? No biggie—you can buy clarified butter, too. We love Thrive Market's Pasture-Raised Ghee, since grass-fed or pasture-raised clarified butter packs up to 4 times more conjugated linoleic acid. Organic Valley's Organic Ghee is a great pick, too.