Q: Is ghee a healthier alternative to butter?
A: Ghee, a type of clarified butter, which originated in India, has been used in Indian cooking and ayurvedic medicine for centuries. And now it is growing in popularity in the U.S. as a “health tonic.” Traditionally, ghee is made from cow milk prepared in such a way to reduce the moisture, casein (milk protein), and lactose (milk sugar) contents, leaving a nutty tasting fat that is more shelf stable and has a higher smoke point than regular butter. Thus, it might be a better cooking fat than butter for people who are sensitive to these ingredients. Ghee is higher in conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), shown to be anticarcinogenic in animal research, than butter or other dairy products. Ghee’s effect on cholesterol and overall heart-health is still unclear, though the American Heart Association recommends limiting it. When ghee is heated for too long, compounds may be produced which are deleterious, so it’s best to cook foods with ghee for under fifteen minutes. While ghee is a source of saturated fats, it also contains fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. If you choose to try ghee, include it in moderation as part of an overall, healthy diet.
—Sharon Salomon, MS, RDN
Q: What is ruby chocolate and are there health benefits?
A: Eighty years after the launch of white chocolate, a Swiss chocolate company introduced a new type of chocolate made from the ruby cocoa bean. Sourced from various regions of the world, including Ecuador, Brazil, and the Ivory Coast, ruby cocoa beans are varietals that provide a natural ruby color when processed. Ruby chocolate has an intense pink hue, and a fruity, berry-like flavor and luscious smoothness. Ruby chocolate is comprised of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, dairy, and sugar and relies on the natural characteristics of the beans to provide coloring and flavoring. Dark chocolate has been noted for its possible health benefits, but similar properties have not yet been reported for ruby chocolate, due to a lack of research to determine its possible nutritional attributes. Ruby chocolate is now available in Japan and South Korea, and companies, such as Nestle and Callebaut, are working on releasing it in U.S. and European markets in the near future.
—Kaley Todd, MS, RDN