With so much information available about the effects of dietary fat on health, understanding the role fat plays in a well-balanced diet can be pretty confusing. To cut through the confusion, it's important to remember that fat is an essential nutrient that everyone needs to stay healthy.
Fat is a valuable energy source and carries fat-soluble vitamins needed for proper growth and development. It also contributes important taste and textural qualities that are part of enjoying food.
Too much fat, however, can increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health problems. When moderating fat intake, it's important to consider these points:
Health authorities recommend Americans consume 30 percent or less of their total daily calories from fat, with 10 percent or less of those calories from saturated fat. Remember, the 30 percent refers to your total fat intake over time, not single foods or meals. Use the following chart to guide your fat intake.
If you eat this Total fat Total saturated
number of calories per day fat per day
per day: (grams) (grams)
1,600 53 or less 18 or less
2,000 65 or less 20 or less
2,200 73 or less 24 or less
2,500 80 or less 25 or less
Use the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label to help determine how much fat is in foods. Remember, it's the total fat intake over time that's important. A food high in fat can be part of a healthy diet as long as it's balanced with other lower-fat food choices.
All fats are a combination of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Each of these types of fats have different effects on the body, but all contain nine calories per gram.
Blood cholesterol levels are influenced by family history, weight, age, smoking, physical activity and eating habits. Studies have shown that diets which are too high in certain saturated fatty acids and dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol.