The Difference between Ghee, Grass Fed Butter, and Standard Butter


Ghee is a highly clarified butter that originated as a staple food in India, sometime near 1800-2000 BCE. The advantage of ghee was that it stored well in the heat of the Indian continent. Eventually, this healthy and shelf-stable fat became a sacred commodity in India.

Ghee is usually derived from cow's milk that has been heated until the liquid fat and milk solids have separated. The solids are then removed, along with the dairy proteins, lactose and casein. The production of ghee involves simmering the butter, which makes it nutty-tasting and aromatic.

People who are sensitive to lactose and casein may find that ghee is a useful substitute for butter.

Ghee contains slightly more saturated fat than butter, about 10g per tablespoon while butter contains 7g. The saturated fatty acid profile of cow's milk ghee is about 55 to 67%, while the unsaturated fatty acids range around 23 to 38%

Both butter and ghee contain medium and short chain fatty acids. In ghee these easily digested fatty acids comprise 89% of the saturated fat content, with an additional 3 percent from linoleic acid.

The body metabolizes medium and short chain fatty acids in a much different way than long chain fatty acids. Basically, medium and short chain fatty acids, being easily absorbed, are put to work almost exclusively for energy, while long chain fatty acids must be processed by the body to end up stored as fat, with only some used as fuel for energy.

Ghee is also rich in butyrate acid which is essential for digestive health, and is considered anti-inflammatory. Saturated fat is also associated with blood sugar stability.

Ghee and butter contain no carbs.

The North American medical establishment recommends highly saturated fats be limited in a varied and balanced diet. Their suggestion is 13 grams (about 6 teaspoons) per day.

Ghee is handy for cooking, as it has a higher smoke point than butter and is more stable at high heat.

Grass-fed Butter

Grass-fed butter comes from cows that are ranged on grasslands during the warm weather, and fed hay in colder months. Their diet can be supplemented with a small percentage of grain to help the cow stay healthy while producing milk in the winter.

It makes sense that grass-fed butter contains more nutrients than standard butter, since the cow's healthier, grass-centric diet is more natural and vitamin-rich than grain feed.

Grass-fed butter is high in butyric acid which is considered anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown butyric acid has induced clinical improvement/remission in patients with Crohn's disease. Butyric acid (for which butter is named) is actually the preferred food for the cells of the colon.

Grass-fed butter is also an excellent source of vitamin A, containing even more than standard butter.

The short and medium chain fatty acids are great for supporting your immune system and boosting metabolism.

Because grass-fed butter is sourced from cows that feed on green grass, it contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, up to 500% more than cows fed a typical dairy diet. CLA is an important factor in fighting disease and helps the body store muscle instead of fat.

Use grass-fed butter in any way you would use regular butter, including baking and cooking at lower temperatures.

Standard Butter

Standard butter is usually sourced from cows that are fed a typical grain diet. It is lower in nutrients than grass-fed butter, but still contains short and medium chain fatty acids, about 12 - 15% in comparison to grass-fed, which contains 25% or greater. These short and medium chain fatty acids are preferentially burned for energy in the body rather than being stored as fat.

Butter has been around for thousands of years, dating back to the domestication of cattle. The first written reference to butter was found on a 4,500 year old limestone tablet explaining how to make it (the first recipe book?)

It's a rich source of selenium, supplies iodine and vitamin A for the thyroid gland, and contains CLA, that conjugated linoleic acid that studies show can help with weight loss.

It also contains nutrients that actually protect against heart disease, such as lecithin, a fat that helps assimilate and metabolize cholesterol and other fat constituents.

Europeans love their butter, with the top butter consumers being Denmark at 5.7 kg per person, per year, followed by Germany at 4.9 kg, and then Finland and Austria.

The USA only consumes about 2 kg per person.

Bakers know that there is no substitute for butter in cakes, cookies and pastries, imparting a distinctive taste and texture.

Ghee, grass-fed butter and standard butter are safe to add to your balanced diet in proportion, so add these real, nutrient dense fats (a teaspoon or two) to your meals along with your avocado, coconut oil, and nuts.



  • Heather Hyer

    Are any of the vitamins lost while converting the butter to ghee? I know that some vitamins are lost when applying heat, like pasturizing can do, so can making ghee, which requires heat, destroy any of them?

  • Fran

    Actually there is quite a bit of difference. Ghee is clarified butter, heated until the liquid fat and milk solids have separated. The milk solids (which contain the dairy proteins, lactose and casein) are then removed, leaving the liquid fat. So ghee has no proteins or sugars that will burn. Grass-fed butter still contains milk solids that will burn. We don’t recommend using any butter for really high heat cooking, including ghee, although it has a higher smoke point than butter (350º F for butter, 485º F for ghee). When a fat reaches its smoke point it begins to break down and release free radicals. But if you really need to saute, highly saturated fatty ghee is the better choice.

  • Vicky

    Do I understood right? Ghee and Grass Fed only difference is the smoke point?

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