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How much fat is needed?

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Fat in Your diet

Dietary fat plays an important role in your health and not necessarily a good one. While we all need some fat in our diets, too much saturated fat and cholesterol may increase your blood cholesterol, as well as your risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer. Fat has also been linked to weight gain and obesity. That's why experts recommend a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

The average American consumes too much fat. It's easy to see why. Fat makes food taste good and is found in many meats and processed foods. But fat contains 9 calories per gram as compared to proteins or carbohydrates, which contain only 4 calories per gram.

So how much fat should you eat each day? The American Heart Association recommends that you get less than 30% of your total calories from fat. Unfortunately, most of us consume closer to 34% of our daily calories from fat.

Because everyone's daily caloric needs differ, the recommended amount of dietary fat varies from person to person. Simply put, the more calories you need to maintain your weight, the more fat permitted in your diet. For example, if you require 2000 calories each day, you're allowed 65 grams of fat each day. It's easy to keep track of your fat intake by reading food labels and adding up the grams of fat.

Try this handy table to get an idea of how much fat you should include in your diet each day, based on a light to moderate activity level.

When you're figuring out how much fat you need, you should also remember that not all dietary fats are the same. Fats are divided into three groups:

  • saturated
  • polyunsaturated
  • monounsaturated

Saturated fat is associated with increased blood cholesterol, while the other two have been found to lower blood cholesterol. To maintain a healthy balance, you should be getting:

  • less than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fat
  • no more than 10% of your daily calories from polyunsaturated fat
  • 10 to 15% of your daily calories from monounsaturated fat

In other words, your total fat intake should be divided in thirds among three types of fat. If your total fat allowance for the day is 65 grams, then your saturated fat intake should be less than 22 grams, your polyunsaturated fat intake less than 22 grams, and your monosaturated fat intake between 25 and 33 grams.


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