How Much Fat Do I Really Need In My Diet?

Just the word “fat” makes us think of all the deep-fried foods we know we shouldn’t eat, but actually this important nutrient isn’t all bad.  In fact, it’s a necessary part of any healthful diet.  Without fats, our organs and joints would lose their cushioning, leaving them unprotected in the case of an accident or a fall. A lack of fats in the diet leads to dry easily irritated skin, weak hair that lacks shine, and  brittle nails. Apart from that, fats play an important role in the absorption of some vitamins, especially vitamins A, D, E and K.

However, an excess of unhealthy fats is a common problem in modern society.  We’ve all heard enough about all the negative effects of too much fat.  But the question remains: how much is enough fat?

It may surprise you to know that the latest dietary guidelines recommend that more of your calories come from healthy fats than from proteins!  We tend to think we need more proteins than anything else (since carbs and fats get such a bad rap in the media), but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  You should get anywhere from 20-35% of your daily calories from fats, and only 10-30% of your calories from protein. To know exactly how many grams of fat you can consume daily, you need to know your daily recommended calorie intake.  For the sake of this example, let’s say it’s 2000 calories.

First, multiply 2000 by .25, that is 25%.  That gives 500 calories a day that can come from fat.  Every gram of fat contains 9 calories, so divide 500 by 9 to get: 55.5 grams.  That means you can consume around 55 grams of fat a day with no ill effects (as long as they are healthy fats).  The range for a 2000 calorie diet, if you did the math, is from 44 grams to 77 grams of fat per day.

Again, the calculation for your fat allowance at 25% is:

(Your Daily Recommended Calorie Intake) X .25 /9 = grams of fat you can consume daily

The more important question is which fats are considered healthy. Avocados, nuts, and seeds are great sources of good fats.  Eggs, fish oils, and olive oil are also good.  Dairy products are a good source of fat in moderation.  Avoid heating oils to high temperatures (as this produces trans fats, even in vegetable oils), hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils (present in many processed foods), and solid fats like lard or butter.

If your diet relies heavily on processed foods, it may be harder for you to find those healthy fats.  By switching to a more natural diet, you can enjoy many “fattening” foods that are actually great for health.  These include avocados, peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, tahini (made from sesame seeds), olives, olive oil dressings, and many more foods that you may have thought were bad for you.  Getting your dietary fat from a variety of healthy sources will ensure that you reap all the benefits of this wonderful and important nutrient.

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