Despite what many people think, fat is not all bad. In fact, fats in the diet are essential for good health – if you really did eat a 99% fat free diet, you would not be healthy. The problem with fat is that too much of it is unhealthy. As well as causing you to become overweight, too much fat contributes to obesity, a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, gall stones and certain cancers.
When trying to eat a balanced diet, don’t forget that dietary fats/oils have over double the energy of carbohydrates and protein. Dietary fat is also more readily converted to and stored as body fat compared to carbohydrates and protein.
Energy values per gram
Excess carbohydrates may also be converted and stored as body fat. Excess alcohol also lessens the body’s ability to burn fat and increases fat storage – particularly in the belly, which is a danger zone for health.
Recommended fat intake
With many of us getting over 40% of total calories from fat – either as fat or oil, or as fat in foods and drinks – it’s not surprising that Americans consume too much fat.
Healthy ranges for fat intake per day are as follows:
The chart below shows the recommended maximum fat intake for different energy levels. Note that at lower calorie levels, the percent of fat calories should decrease to allow for protein calories (which have nutritional priority).
|Calories||Fat||% cals from fat|
Types of fat
As well as eating the right amount of fat, it’s also important to eat the right types of fat. Fats that are described as saturated or trans are the most critical ones to limit (limit to 10% of your fat calories). Fats described as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, on the other hand, are ones you should include as a regular part of your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are also an important dietary fat.
|Type of fat||Found in foods such as…||Recommended daily intake|
|Saturated or trans fats||Full cream milk, cheese, butter, cream, fatty meats and sausages, and processed foods||10% or less of total calories|
|Monounsaturated fat||Canola and olive oils, canola margarine, peanuts, avocados||10-15% of total calories|
|Polyunsaturated fat||Canola oil and margarine, fish, other omega-3 foods listed above||10% or less of total calories|
Fat intake for infants
Infants and toddlers under three years should not be restricted in their fat intake because much larger volumes of food would be required to guarantee adequate energy intake and growth. Particularly, low-fat milk should not be a replacement for whole milk.