The facts of fat

February 2017

By Naini Setalvad

Enjoying good quality fat helps you maintain immunity, improve mental health, strengthen bones, hair and skin and even lose weight, says Naini Setalvad


Finally we have come full circle. Slowly and steadily we are realising that a diet without fat is ringing a death knell on our health.

“Eat ghee or how will you have strong bones and back?  How will your digestive system work without ghee?”, said my grandmother and to date these words resonate in my mind. For the last few decades fat was considered public enemy no 1, contributing to weight gain, heart diseases and over all poor health. We grew up in an era where we equated health with low fat or zero fat diets. Little realising that fat is needed for vibrant health and even weight loss. We can actually turn off our fat genes and reduce our stress, sugar levels, and cholesterol by eating fat! Not only that, every single bodily function, from boosting our brains, preventing dementia and mood swings, improving our immunity to reducing inflammation, heart diseases and joint pains, depends on eating fat.

Recent scientific studies have recommended oils and fats with a richer content of saturated fat followed by mono unsaturated, poly unsaturated and omega 3 fats as part of the diet. The studies show that they help protect against heart disease.

Vitamin A, D, E K are absorbed by fat, making our hair lustrous, giving us a glowing skin, great eyesight, and healthy strong bones. Fats make the food taste better, satiating hunger faster and preventing binge eating. Fat prevents blood sugar spikes.

The magic of fats

So fear not your cow’s ghee, coconut, nuts, and seeds, cold pressed oils of mustard and sesame and confidently add them to all your food. “No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office,” said the sardonic George Bernard Shaw.

Perhaps the abundance of academicians from Southern India (Dr Abdul Kalam, for instance) is linked to their usage of good quality fat, coconut oil and cow’s ghee. For centuries now, most parts of coastal and Southern India have been using coconut oil as a cooking medium to make their coconut chutneys, coconut stews, and vegetables. Those who use coconut consistently find that they can go for several hours without eating and not feel hungry, that too without experiencing hypoglycemia and erratic blood sugar swings. Consuming coconut regularly restores thyroid function, relieves hypothyroidism and actually increases the metabolic rate, leading to weight loss.

Cow’s ghee is a promoter of health, memory, intelligence and provides vital nourishment to the body. More valuable than gold, this fat has an entire verse dedicated to it in the Atharva Veda which enumerates its multiple benefits. Cow’s ghee is your antidote for back, knee, and joint pains. Without fats your joints would be stiff and the winter chill would be unbearable. The skin, hair and nails would become dry and brittle. On top of it, cow’s ghee is your natural drug for constipation, depression and maintaining of body temperature preventing the chill from settling in your body. So ditch the myth that ghee is the bad guy. It is actually your superstar whose presence ensures good health. The ability of spice absorption for medicinal purposes improves with fat. For example, turmeric mixed with ghee works better than plain turmeric.

Snack on nuts

Our hands must stretch towards nuts when we want to snack since they are an excellent stockpile of nutrition. Consumption of  peanuts, almonds, cashew nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and coconuts pave the way to good health and remove the FLC (feel like crap) syndrome. Add pumpkin, sesame, flax seeds in your food for added benefits. Nuts and seeds contain vitamins, minerals, Omega 3, Omega 6 and mono saturated fats which are required by the body. Thirty grams of any nut or seeds is just 100 calories whereas a similar amount of any fried snack is a minimum of 350 calories with zero nutrients.

To get the waist line plus pounds down and to maintain optimum health you need to eat fat as it keeps you satiated. A low fat diet does not work over a period of time as it is very unsatisfying and you start binging on foods that are detrimental to health. Fats are as essential for the body as carbohydrates and protein. They are an integral part of cell structure, a vital energy source carrying out many metabolic functions, like storing vitamins and regulating body temperature amongst others.

If you want the fats in your diet to work favourably for you, that is preventing the arteries from clogging and turning into bad cholesterol, throw out the bad fats such as French fries, vadapav, bhujias, jalebies, margarine, hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Replace  them with good quality fats, since they satiate, cut cravings, prevent binging, diseases, and improve memory and performance. Reintroduce fat in your life with loads of vegetables cooked in ghee, pour it on your rice, spread it on your roti, garnish with coconut and seeds, and snack on nuts.

Seed and nut mix


food_0250 gms fennel seeds

50 gms sesame seeds

50 gms flax seeds

25 gms almonds

50 gms dry coconut

1 tsp ghee

Rock salt and lemon to taste



  1. Chop almonds and coconut length wise. Take ghee in a pan and heat it.

  2. Add the chopped almonds and coconut and roast them for 5 to 7 minutes till they are crisp.

  3. Mix fennel, and sesame seeds in a vessel. Add salt and lemon and mix well.

  4. Dry roast the fennel and sesame seeds continuously on a slow flame till crisp.

  5. Add raw flax seeds and sautéed almonds to the mixture.

  6. Snack on it or toss it in your salad.

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