Let them eat fat

    Is a diet that includes fats suitable for my child?

    What if I ‘deprive' her of refined carbohydrates? Won’t she get tired and hungry? And if I increase her fat consumption? Won’t she get fat?

    The nutrition world has been distancing itself from anti-fat, pro-carb propaganda since the start of the 2000s. World opinion on natural fats has made a 180 degree turn. The scientific proof exists now that saturated fats present less of a health risk on their own. In fact, in an eye-popping twist, it turns out that processed fats – those created to replace natural fats – are the fats that can and do make people sick.

    The message that fat is fattening and that carbohydrates are filling is so ingrained (no pun intended), it’s difficult to imagine an alternative. In fact, the opposite is true. Refined carbohydrates are fattening. Healthy fats provide energy. One of the most obvious signs of fat deficiency is fatigue – or, simply put, a lack of energy.

    Our bodies don’t just need fat for energy. Did you know the human brain is about 60% fat? The brain uses free fatty acids to make sure the neurons are constantly coated. And it’s not just the brain that needs fat. All your child’s hormones are immersed in fat. There are also thin layers of fat around every one of your child’s organs. Fat provides a thin layer of insulation under the skin and the immune system needs it, too. Fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K can’t pass through the intestinal walls without fat.


    Your child would need to sit down to three slices of supermarket bread to get the same energy as he would from a medium egg. Consider the size of your toddler’s tummy (his fist size); the chance is much greater that he would consume a whole egg than he would two slices of bread. The quality of the calories also matters: the egg contains excellent protein, healthy fats and omega-3, with no preservatives, fillers or un-natural additives.


    What we really need to worry about though are in- dustry-driven fats. These are fats that were ‘created’ by industry as substitutes for supposedly harmful saturated fats like butter and lard. One of the most damaging trans-fats is hydrogenated fat in margarine. Oils made with sunflower and canola seeds are heat-treated and contain trans-fats. Anything shallow- or deep-fried in these oils will contain trans-fat. Palm oil, meanwhile, is a cheap oil used by industry for things like pies and pastries. It is also used ex- tensively in fast-food chains. Cheap, convenient and often made tempting in fried foods, these fats are a no-go!

    Let them eat fat


    It seems simple at first glance: examples of fats and oils are butter, cream, avocado, coconut, nuts and seeds. Right? But what about protein? Nut oil is a fat, but a handful of nuts is majority protein. What about fatty meats? When you eat bacon or lamb, regardless of how fatty the cut, the majority nutrient is protein. It’s important not to confuse protein and fat. Meat, essentially, is protein. Lamb is a high-fat protein, beef is medium fat and chicken and fish are low fat. Only rendered animal fat falls into the ‘fats and oils’ category. Good sources of healthy proteins are beans and peas, lean beef, fish, milk, poultry, yoghurt and eggs.

    Let them eat fat


    At a certain time in the previous century, protein, like fat, was considered dangerous. In fact protein is vital for a child’s growth. Protein . . .

    a) Builds muscle

    During digestion, proteins are broken down. Chicken, for instance, is converted into pep- tides. These peptides are like trains and all the carriages are amino acids. The amino acids go into muscle cells helping to sustain muscle strength and endurance.

    b) Builds immunity

    Our immune system is built of amino acids.

    c) Aids the metabolism

    Protein at breakfast can kickstart your metabolism, reduce mindless snacking and help control appetite throughout the day. A steady supply of protein in your diet throughout the day will keep metabolism firing.


    d) Is an excellent source of energy

    A boost of protein will help prevent your body from stripping the muscles for energy. Your muscles need these calories for muscle maintenance.

    e) Boost alertness

    Protein-rich foods are rich in an amino acid called tyrosine, which may boost levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, making concentration easier.



    If fats are good, why not fill the trolley with butter and cream? Let everyone in the family eat as many lamb chops as they like? Well, for one reason, you won’t enjoy it. Our bodies are not designed to binge on a single macronutrient. What I am advocating is not more food. I am advocating the replacement of bad food with good.


    1953 American biochemist Ancel Keyes claims that eating saturated fat clogs arteries and leads to heart disease. This becomes known as the ‘lipid hypothesis’.

    Editor's note: I am sure you will be very interested in our articles What Makes Fats & Oils Good or Bad and Unsurpassed Brain Food.

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