Is fat really fattening? Think again

Low-fat, low-carb, paleo: anyone looking for a new diet to try must wade through a veritable swamp of options – and weed out a whole lot of fads. The German-Dutch author Bas Kast took the plunge for us. His ‘Diet Compass’ has been a best-seller in Germany ever since its publication. We have followed the compass and thought of ways to incorporate Kast’s ideas into the restaurant industry.

Low-fat, low-carb or paleo

“A summary of all scientific studies on the subject of nutrition.” The subtitle of Bas Kast’s book suggests an ambitious endeavour. All studies? Presented in a way that is accessible to the general public, even entertaining? Kast’s approach is refreshing: he refrains from preaching. ‘The Diet Compass does not prescribe a rigid meal plan and expects you to stick to it’, he promises. Those who read his book will soon understand why. In short: people are individuals, and so are their ‘ideal’ diets. That goes a long way toward explaining the masses of diet gurus and the endless stream of new advice they produce.

Each and every lifestyle choice, be it veganism, low-carb eating or the so-called paleo diet, comes with at least one study advertising it as the be all and end all of good health. Those studies are often problematic: many of them merely highlight the correlation between a specific diet and the health benefits it allegedly provides. But correlation does not imply causation.

Bas Kast also criticises that the studies often fail to take context into account. As an outsider to his chosen discipline – Kast is a science journalist with a background in psychology and biology – he set out to gain an unbiased and complete insight into the current state of research. He says that he has read ‘thousands of studies’ on health and nutrition. Enough research to present his most important insights to the general public and discuss ways of implementing them in the restaurant industry.

The best filler: protein provides us with energy. Once our body has absorbed a sufficient amount, it produces satiety signals. But proteins – animal proteins, in particular – also stimulate cell growth. This can cause cardiovascular conditions and increase the risk of cancer. Kast recommends vegetable proteins instead.

A tasty MPULSE tip:

Falafel is available at many Middle Eastern restaurants, and it is not just for veggies.

The calorie myth: according to Kast, not all calories are made equal. This goes against the common assumption that every calorie consumed has the same impact on your ‘energy balance’. The author recommends consuming the majority of your daily calories during the first half of the day and refraining from eating altogether outside of a specific period, e.g. from 8 AM to 8 PM. This gives your body time to ‘tidy up’.

A tasty MPULSE tip:

Everyone loves brunch with their friends. Dishes containing healthy carbohydrates and fibre, such as wholegrain bread and unprocessed fruit, are brilliant options.


Kast points out that not everyone responds well to carbohydrates. People with a resistance to insulin cannot process carbs well, and a low-carb diet may well make sense for them. Those who are sensitive to insulin, on the other hand, are better off with a low-fat diet and plenty of carbohydrates. A blood test can make your situation clearer

A tasty MPULSE tip:

Many dishes can be adapted with minimal effort. Point these options out on the menu or accept requests. For example: ‘naked’ burgers without a bun.


The fat myth: Kast emphasises that fat is not necessarily fattening. Many fatty foods are, in fact, quite healthy: nuts and olive oil, for instance. He particularly recommends omega-3 fatty acids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect.

A tasty MPULSE tip:

Salmon is a popular source of omega-3 fatty acids, and there are countless ways of preparing it.

According to the Diet Compass, the following foods are especially beneficial:

  • nuts
  • yoghurt or kefir
  • fatty fish
  • legumes
  • olive oil (also suitable for frying!)
  • green tea

The following foods are best avoided:

  • large amounts of sugar
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • trans-fats
  • cold cuts, sausages and other industrially processed foods

More information about the background and evidence Kast uses: Der Ernährungskompass; ISBN: 978-3-570-10319-7


Kast’s hypothesis: to eat truly healthily, we ought to choose foods that keep our body fit and agile for as long as possible, preventing illness and signs of ageing. Some of his recommendations go against those issued by consumer advice centres and the German Nutrition Society (DGE); some of his opinions are vague, others seem anecdotal. But Kast readily acknowledges those shortcomings. ‘A willingness to experiment and observe your own experiences was crucial to me.’

Some readers may find his insights enlightening, others less so – again, people are individuals. Kast’s conclusion reflects this: in the end, everyone has to find out what works for her- or himself. If you impose a diet on yourself that simply does not feel right, you are unlikely to stick to it for long. Ultimately, this can cause more harm than the occasional slip-up. Luckily, the restaurant industry offers something for everyone. No matter your preference.

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