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November 26, 2000

Meal Planning, Food and Diet

Question from Scott, Louisiana, USA:

Since diabetes (more times than not) leads to heart disease in child or adult, why do these recipes use oil or margarine when it could be substituted with baking spray, applesauce, or totally omitted? I just don't understand.

Answer:

Totally eliminating fat from the diet is neither necessary nor desirable. Although it is desirable for many people (who live on fried foods and the like) to reduce the total amount of fat in their diets, a certain amount of fat is essential to human health. This is especially true in growing children whose nervous systems are still developing. The brain and other nerve tissue is very high in fat. Fat is also essential for hormone production, cell wall health, and the absorption of important nutrients, not to mention its importance for hunger control and, in diabetes, blood sugar stabilization. Carbohydrate eaten alone doesn’t control hunger for more than an hour or two — leaving kids (and adults!) to be constantly on the search for snacks. In addition, having some fat in meals slows stomach emptying, which helps flatten out blood sugar peaks after meals.

So I hope this eases your mind. You and your kids can and should enjoy modest amounts of fat with most meals and snacks. It is best to minimize the intake of saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature) since these have more potential to raise undesirable blood fats (especially LDL cholesterol). Monounsaturated fats (such as the fats found in avocados, and olive, canola and peanut oils) are the healthiest choice since they help to raise the protective HDL cholesterol.

BB