Food with fat content. But what does that even mean? Why does food have fat content? Well, I’m here to help you understand the level of fat and why it matters for your body — as well as a few tasty but non-fattening alternatives.
Food With Fat Content
Fats are often seen as being dangerous or unhealthy, but that’s not entirely accurate. Your body needs fats to function. Getting healthy fats in your diet is critical to keeping your skin, organs, and endocrine system (responsible for making and regulating hormones) functioning properly. However, not all fats are created equal.
There are four different types of fats:
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
Each type of fat is structured slightly differently. Saturated fats have a chemical composition that allows them to solidify more easily, while unsaturated fats are structured in a way that keeps them liquid at room temperature. Butter and bacon grease are generally saturated fats, while olive oil is an unsaturated fat.
These differences in the chemical composition of fats are the basis for their varying health effects. While small quantities of fats typically aren’t a problem, consuming large amounts of saturated or trans fats is generally considered to be bad for your health.
Why You Should Avoid Fats
Saturated fats appear to raise LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, in most people. These fats encourage the creation of more LDL cholesterol and reduce the receptors that remove this type of cholesterol from your body.
High LDL cholesterol levels can seriously and negatively affect your body. LDL cholesterol is one of the biggest causes of and risk factors for heart disease. This is the type of cholesterol that causes plaque buildup in your arteries, which is a primary cause of heart attacks. Plaque in your arteries can also break off and travel to your brain, leading to strokes.
Similarly, trans fats, or partially hydrogenated fats, not only raise your LDL cholesterol but also lower your “good” HDL cholesterol level. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to completely remove artificial trans fats from processed foods because they are deemed unsafe.
On the other hand, mono- and polyunsaturated fats decrease the amount of bad cholesterol in your body. Because of this, it’s recommended that you keep saturated fats to less than 10% of your daily caloric intake and replace as many saturated fats with unsaturated fats as possible.
Healthy High Fat Foods
per 200 Calories
Nutrition Facts for Avocados.(Source)
More Fruits High in Healthy Fats
- 13g (20% DV) per cup of durian
- 2.3g (3% DV) in 5 medium olives
See the ranking of fruits high in fat.
per 200 Calories
Nutrition Facts for Firm Tofu.(Source)
- 18g (23% DV) in 1 cup of tempeh
#3: Macadamia Nuts
per 1 Oz Handful
per 200 Calories
Nutrition Facts for Macadamia Nuts.(Source)
More Nuts High in Healthy Fats
- 20g (26% DV) in 1 oz of pecans
- 19g (25% DV) in 1 oz of pine nuts
- 19g (24% DV) in 1 oz of walnuts
See the complete list of nuts and seeds high in fat.
#4: Fish (Salmon)
per 6oz Fillet
per 200 Calories
Nutrition Facts for Farmed Atlantic Salmon.(Source)
More Fish High in Healthy Fats
- 30g (39% DV) in a 6oz mackerel fillet
- 26g (33% DV) in a 5oz herring fillet
- 11g (14% DV) in a 6oz tuna steak
See the list of fish high in fat.
#5: Peanut Butter
per 2 Tblsp
per 200 Calories
Nutrition Facts for Unsalted Peanut Butter (Smooth).(Source)
More Nut Butters High in Healthy Fats
- 18g (23% DV) in 2 tblsp of almond butter
- 16g (20% DV) in 2 tblsp on cashew butter
- 16g (20% DV) in 2 tblsp of tahini (sesame seed butter)
Facts about saturated fats
Saturated fat is a type of dietary fat. It is one of the unhealthy fats, along with trans fat. These fats are most often solid at room temperature. Foods like butter, palm and coconut oils, cheese, and red meat have high amounts of saturated fat.
Too much saturated fat in your diet can lead to heart disease and other health problems.
How Saturated Fats Affect Your Health
Saturated fats are bad for your health in several ways:
Heart disease risk. Your body needs healthy fats for energy and other functions. But too much saturated fat can cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries (blood vessels). Saturated fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Weight gain. Many high-fat foods such as pizza, baked goods, and fried foods have a lot of saturated fat. Eating too much fat can add extra calories to your diet and cause you to gain weight. All fats contain 9 calories per gram of fat. This is more than twice the amount found in carbohydrates and protein.
Cutting out high-fat foods can help keep your weight in check and keep your heart healthy. Staying at a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
How Much you can Eat
Most foods have a combination of different fats. You are better off choosing foods higher in healthier fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats tend to be liquid at room temperature.
How much should you get every day? Here are recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- You should get no more than 25% to 30% of your daily calories from fats.
- You should limit saturated fat to less than 10% of your daily calories.
- To further reduce your heart disease risk, limit saturated fats to less than 7% of your total daily calories.
- For a 2,000 calorie diet, that is 140 to 200 calories or 16 to 22 grams (g) of saturated fats a day. As an example, just 1 slice of cooked bacon contains nearly 9 g of saturated fat.
- If you have heart disease or high cholesterol, your health care provider may ask you to limit saturated fat even more.
Reading Nutrition Labels
All packaged foods have a nutrition label that includes fat content. Reading food labels can help you keep track of how much saturated fat you eat.
Check the total fat in 1 serving. Also, check the amount of saturated fat in a serving. Then add up how many servings you eat.
As a guide, when comparing or reading labels:
- 5% of daily value from fats and cholesterol is low
- 20% of daily value from fats is high
Choose foods with low amounts of saturated fat and trans fat.
Many fast food restaurants also provide nutrition information on their menus. If you DO NOT see it posted, ask your server. You also may be able to find it on the restaurant’s website.
Making Healthy Food Choices
Saturated fats are found in all animal foods, and some plant sources.
The following foods may be high in saturated fats. Many of them are also low in nutrients and have extra calories from sugar:
- Baked goods (cake, doughnuts, Danish)
- Fried foods (fried chicken, fried seafood, French fries)
- Fatty or processed meats (bacon, sausage, chicken with skin, cheeseburger, steak)
- Whole-fat dairy products (butter, ice cream, pudding, cheese, whole milk)
- Solid fats such as coconut oil, palm, and palm kernel oils (found in packaged foods)
Here are some examples of popular food items with the saturated fat content in a typical serving:
- 12 ounces (oz), or 340 g, steak — 20 g
- Cheeseburger — 10 g
- Vanilla shake — 8 g
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter — 7 g
It is fine to treat yourself to these types of foods once in a while. But, it is best to limit how often you eat them and limit portion sizes when you do.
You can cut how much saturated fat you eat by substituting healthier foods for less healthy options. Replace foods high in saturated fats with foods that have polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Here is how to get started:
- Replace red meats with skinless chicken or fish a few days a week.
- Use canola or olive oil instead of butter and other solid fats.
- Replace whole-fat dairy with low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods with low or no saturated fat.
Cholesterol – saturated fat; Atherosclerosis – saturated fat; Hardening of the arteries – saturated fat; Hyperlipidemia – saturated fat; Hypercholesterolemia – saturated fat; Coronary artery disease – saturated fat; Heart disease – saturated fat; Peripheral artery disease – saturated fat; PAD – saturated fat; Stroke – saturated fat; CAD – saturated fat; Heart healthy diet – saturated fat