Ghee is an inferior source of essential fatty acid

Many Indian mothers feed ghee to their infants during weaning. Here is a clarification of dietary fat guidelines for dietary fat for children between six months and two years.Around half of an infant's dietary calories should come from fat. Infants need a high fat diet for two reasons. Firstly, their small stomachs require energy-dense foods, and fats are the densest energy-food around. Secondly, fat is also essential for their development. Half the dry weight of brain is fat, and every membrane in the body is made of lipids. The first two years in a child's life represents an accelerated phase of brain development, and babies fed on a low fat diet can even become mentally retarded. For this reason, dietary guidelines for children under the age of two do not restrict fat intake.

Sources

Dietary sources of fat for the under-twos include breast milk, whole milk, cereals, lentils, legumes, nuts, oil, cheese and butter, meat and eggs. Seed oils and oily fish are the best sources of essential fatty acid in the diet. A child taking whole milk regularly requires, on an average, at least five gm of extra fat in the daily diet. A child not taking milk in the diet requires up to 20 gm of added fat in the diet. Ghee contains mostly saturated fat, some monounsaturated fat and some vitamin A. It is an inferior source of essential fatty acids when compared with seed oils or fish. Ghee certainly provides many calories, but one important rule of nutrition is that foods must be nutrient-dense and not just energy-dense. Why feed the baby an inferior food like ghee when there are better foods. No food, including ghee, is absolutely good or bad for a baby. The body converts all extra calories into saturated fat. However, if you can afford to feed your child ghee, you can certainly afford better and more healthful sources of fat that you can safely continue beyond the first two years. RAJIV. M

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