I was listening to something the other day which had to do with children’s nutrition. It was the description of a healthy meal, and in the description, the recommendation was of low fat milk. That got me to thinking about my child’s school’s lunches and how they offer reduced fat cheese and reduced fat milk and chocolate milk. And THAT got me to thinking about how many meals and snacks a day they recommend. Three meals and two or three snacks. That is a LOT of food. After being Paleo for a few years, I realize how different it is with my youngest and I. We eat when we are hungry, but when it is the weekend and we can eat what and how much we want, we can go for two meals and a snack. When I began lifting weights, I had to eat more than that to make sure that I had enough food for rebuilding muscle, but honestly, I wasn’t “hangry,” just was ready to eat. It wasn’t that way when I was eating lots of breads and lower fat foods.
I think we’ve taken a really wrong turn, here. Our bodies need fats, yet here we are eating all of these low fat foods. Our kids are eating these foods, yet they are getting bigger and sicker, have more emotional and developmental issues and are just not as healthy as past generations were. They are not providing our kids with the fats their bodies require.
Fats are not just something that need to be avoided in order to lose weight. They provide many functions to the human body. Some of these are the following:
They are building blocks for cell membranes as well as hormones.
They function as protection for the organs
They are needed for absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.Fats are required for the use of proteins.
They provide a source of energy and are the preferred source of energy for the heart.
Fats slow the absorption of food for energy regulation.
Fats make food taste good and provide satiety.
Our bodies need different kinds of fats: saturates, monounsaturates and polyunsaturates. Even though foods tend to fall into main categories, a food can be made up of many types of fat. These are the Classifications of fats:
Saturated fats are non-essential, meaning the body can make them from carbohydrates. They are highly stable and don’t easily go rancid and are solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are found in animal fats, coconut oil and palm oil. They can be cooked at higher heat.
Monounsaturates are also non-essential because the body can make them from saturated fats. They are relatively stable, and they don’t go rancid easily. However unlike saturated fats, the are liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturates are found in olive oil and avocados, but they are also in some nuts as well. You can cook with these at lower temperatures, but they are best unheated. There has been some back and forth on olive oil in terms of cooking. Here is one take on it.
Polyunsaturates are essential fatty acids. We have to get them from our diet. The two that are most often discussed are Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) and Alpha-Linoleic Acid (Omega 3). They are very unstable and go rancid easily. They are liquid at room temperature and you should NEVER heat them. These are found in flax, nuts and seeds (like chia and hemp,) and fish. You also find Omega 3’s in pastured meats and eggs because the animals grazed on grasses.
There are several problems with reduced to no fat foods. One is that we need them. They are key building blocks for the cell membrane. Healthy cell membranes let nutrients in and toxic waste materials out. They are flexible and not stiff. Meanwhile, fats help us absorb and utilize fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. These are crucial for health. For example, Vitamin D is very important for proper immune function and for bone health. Many hormones are built from fats, and hormones are involved in virtually every system of the body involved in homeostasis.
Fats help to slow the absorption of food so we don’t get blood sugar spikes. You know one when you see one……every time your child has a sweet treat and you have to scrape them off the ceiling (and then later drag them off the couch), that’s the spike. Without fats, your child will also be hungrier more often as carbohydrates are burned very quickly. Meanwhile, with the removal of fats from processed foods and even yogurts and milk, the manufacturer adds sugar to the foods in order to make them more palatable. As a result, you add more sugar to your child’s diet creating more blood sugar imbalances. A diet full of sugar contributes to childhood obesity in a very profound way, starting with these blood sugar imbalances which affect insulin production and so on. Ultimately, the adrenals end up getting affected which influences all of the other hormones. It’s a terrible cascade towards disease (more on that in another post.)
Of course, putting fat in your child’s diet will not solve all of the health issues in the world, but you can see how important it is for their health. The fats you should add to your child’s diet might shock you. Are you ready? For cooking and baking, use pastured duck fat, butter, ghee, pastured lard, even coconut oil. Use olive oil (can use in low heat), sesame oil, avocado oil, some nut oils (for cold purposes only and in moderation) and cold expeller pressed walnut, hemp and flax oils. You can do ground flax, fresh wildcaught fish from around Iceland,South Pacific (think New Zealand) and Southern Atlantic (for fish not contaminated by Fukushima radiation.) Try to aim for 1:1 (and some say 1:4) ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6. The Omega 3’s are the flax, walnut, hemp, and wildcaught fish as well as the pastured eggs and meat I mentioned before. The Omega 6’s are in the nut and seed oils. Again, foods are a mixture of different kinds of fat classifications, but they are generally a majority of one type or other.
The last thing i would like to mention for now is that you must avoid the following fats in your child’s diet: Hydrogenated fats, partially-hydrogenated fats, highly processed vegetable oils (think soybean, cottonseed and canola….yes canola is a no-no), and fried fats. These are trans fats at the end of the day because of the hydration process and trans fats don’t occur for the most part except in the lab (there are a few trans fats in nature, but they are very rare). These fats take the place of healthy fats in the body , including the cell membrane. Think of it like this. Imagine The Three Stooges impersonating guards (Yes, I just dated myself!) They are wearing the uniform and standing in the same place as the real guards, but as you know, the Stooges are completely incompetent and don’t do anything a guard should do. That’s what happens when the trans fats take the place of the real fats in the cell membrane. They are completely incapable of properly functioning like healthy fats and cause disturbances in the body that set you up for disease.
I hope this was helpful, but I would like to set you up with The Paleo Mom’s link to get you more information on fats. She is a scientist and a mom and knows her stuff. It is a really fascinating topic and there is so much to learn about the topic. If you enjoy reading, then check out Know Your Fats by Mary Enig. She is THE authority on fats.
Until tomorrow, my friends. Enjoy some grass fed butter on your veggies!