How Much Fat Per Day Should I Eat? It’s a commonly known fact that fats can be healthy, but how much fat should you get in your diet? Do you need a balance of saturated to unsaturated fats? How much fat do you really need in your diet to maintain optimal health?
Eating a good diet is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Eating clean has many benefits from increased energy to a better complexion. But there are a lot of questions about exactly how much fat you should eat per day. Let’s cut through the confusion, shall we?
How Much Fat Should You Really Eat Every Day?
Yes, even with “healthy fats” (think: avocado), there can be too much of a good thing. Find out how many grams of fat to eat per day, according to nutrition experts.
Thanks to the continued popularity of the ketogenic diet, fat has been thrust into the spotlight. And with the low-fat craze of the ’80s and ’90s long gone (*praise hands emoji*), people are no longer running away from the once-demonized fats — but rather towards them. Now many folks seem to add avocados to seemingly everything and fill their cabinets with a variety of oils. Others, such as those who follow the keto diet, make “fat bombs” and even eat bacon on the reg to increase their daily fat intake. But then there are people (maybe those who have watched What the Health?) who take the opposite approach and still advocate for low-fat, zero-oil diets.
But how much fat per day is it actually healthy to eat, and how low-fat is, well, too low? Here’s everything you need to know about how many grams of fat to eat per day (and in general), straight from nutrition pros.
First, What Are the Different Types of Fats?
Simply put: Not all fats are created equal. (That’s why the term “healthy fats” exists in the first place.) There are four main types of fats:
- Monounsaturated fats are found in plant foods such as nuts, avocado, and olive oil.
- Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and certain kinds of fish. They also include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Saturated fats are mostly found in animal products such as meat and dairy.
- Trans fats are mostly man-made and created by a process called hydrogenation that turns liquid fats into solids. This process has been banned in the U.S., since it can raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Small amounts of trans fats also occur naturally in some animal products, such as fatty cuts of meat. (See also: The Expert-Approved Guide to Good Fats vs. Bad Fats)
Of these four, dietitians recommend focusing on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, eating saturated fats in moderation, and avoiding trans fats entirely (or as much as possible because, let’s be honest, life happens).
“Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease,” explains Kimberly Yawitz, R.D., a registered dietitian and CrossFit trainer. “There’s also some evidence that they lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, particularly when they replace refined carbohydrates like sweets, white bread, and fruit juices. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to lower blood pressure, decrease blood triglycerides, and prevent fatty plaque from building up in the arteries.”
Here’s How Much Fat You Should Actually Be Eating on the Daily
How many grams of fat you should eat per day depends on your total calorie intake.
Fat has gotten a bad rap. The truth is, though, that the right kind of dietary fat in the right amounts is not only healthy but essential for your body. But exactly how many grams of fat should you be eating each day?
“Healthy fats are important for many bodily functions, including cell integrity and heart, brain and hormone health as well as for the absorption of certain nutrients and vitamins,” says Cindy Klinger, RDN, LDN, an Integrative Dietitian at Cambiati Wellness in Lafayette, California.
So it’s crucial to know which type of fat you’re consuming and the effect (good or bad) it has on your body, and to have an idea of how much you should consume daily.
Total Fat Recommendation
For healthy adults, dietary fat should account for 20 to 35 percent of your total calories, as recommended in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. So the exact gram requirement for you ultimately depends on the average number of calories in your diet.
For example, if you adhere to a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, you should get about 400 to 700 of those calories from fat every day. Keep in mind that all fat has nine calories per gram, meaning that if you divide those calories by nine, you’ll get your recommendation of 44 to 78 grams of fat per day.
You can use the same calculation based on your specific daily calorie needs, but below is a table with a few examples of common calorie needs and related fat gram recommendations to give you a better idea.
Recommended Grams of Fat Per Day Based on Calorie Intake
|Total Calorie Intake||Recommended Calories From Fat||Recommended Grams of Fat|
|1,200||240 – 420||27 – 47|
|1,500||300 – 525||33 – 58|
|1,800||360 – 630||40 – 70|
|2,000||400 – 700||44 – 78|
|2,200||440 – 770||49 – 86|
Get More Good Fats
Unsaturated fats should make up the majority of the dietary fat you eat.
The total fat gram recommendation includes all fats in your diet, whether they are beneficial or not. But ideally, virtually all of the fat you consume should come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated sources, otherwise known as PUFAs and MUFAs.
These fats — which are found in cold-water fish, olive oil, nuts, seeds (including flax and chia) and avocados — can help lower your overall cholesterol level, and thus protect your heart, especially when you consume them in place of saturated fats.
When buying fish, it is best to choose wild-caught. “Generally, wild mackerel, cod, salmon, sardines and trout can be great options,” says Klinger.
Limit Saturated Fats
Animal-based foods like steak and eggs have a high saturated fat content.
You don’t need to avoid all saturated fats completely, forever, but you should strive to minimize them in your diet as much as possible. This harmful fat can contribute to the hardening of your arteries, as well as a high total cholesterol level. Over time, a diet high in saturated fats can elevate your risk of heart disease and stroke, per the American Heart Association (AHA).
Foods high in saturated fats are mostly animal-based products, including eggs, whole milk, butter and processed meats like bacon and sausage as well as red meat like beef, pork and lamb.
The 2010-2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans allow for a maximum of 10 percent of your total calories to come from saturated fat. However, if you need to lower your cholesterol, the AHA sets a limit of 5 to 6 percent. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this amounts to a maximum of 22 grams of saturated fat if you’re healthy, or just 11 to 13 grams if you’re already at risk for heart disease.
What’s the difference between fat and calories?
Fat is one of six nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. The other five nutrients are:
- Carbohydrates (found in fruits, vegetables, pasta, rice, grains, peas, beans, and other legumes)
- Proteins (found in meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and beans)
- Minerals (such as potassium, calcium, and iron)
- Vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E, and K)
Of these six nutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fats provide calories. Each gram of carbohydrate and protein yield 4 calories/gram. Each gram of fat yields 9 calories.
A calorie is a measurement, just like a teaspoon or an inch. Calories are the amount of energy released when your body breaks down (digests and absorbs) food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to your body. When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores the extra calories as body fat. Even a fat-free food can have a lot of calories. Excess calories in any form can be stored as body fat.
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Why does fat get much attention?
Fat gets much of the attention for many good reasons. Consider these facts:
- Saturated and trans fat can raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (known as the “bad cholesterol”) levels in the blood. High total cholesterol or a high LDL cholesterol level is a leading risk factor for heart disease.
- Some fatty foods (such as bacon, sausage, and potato chips) often have higher calories with fewer vitamins and minerals than low-fat other foods. (Note: Protein sources, especially red meat and dairy products, contain saturated fat. Good, low-fat sources of protein include lean meat, fish, poultry without skin, beans, lentils, tofu, fat-free or low-fat yogurt, milk, and cottage cheese.)
- Fat has more than twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates and proteins. A gram of fat has about 9 calories, while a gram of carbohydrate or protein has about 4 calories. In other words, you could eat twice as much carbohydrates or proteins as fat for the same amount of calories.
How can I know how much fat I am eating?
- Read nutrition labels on food packages. Nutrition labels show the number of grams of fat per serving. Compare this number to your “budgeted” amount of fat for the day. Food labels also show the daily percentage of fat provided in each serving. In other words, if the daily percentage of fat per serving is 18%, each serving provides 18% of the total fat you should eat for the day. Consume higher-fat foods in moderate amounts to keep calories under control if you are trying to lose weight.
- The fat content of foods can be found online and with the use of apps and in fat and calorie-counting books. When choosing information, look for those using the USDA Food Composition Databases.
What’s the Deal with High-Fat Diets?
High-fat diets are surging in popularity right now. But are there any real benefits to eating a higher number of grams of fat per day? “High-fat diets have gained a lot of popularity because people often experience weight loss in the first week or two. However, it’s important to keep in mind that when limiting carbohydrates in the diet, you will initially lose water weight, not experience true fat loss, explains Lauren Manganiello, R.D., C.S.S.D., R.Y.T., a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. (People also experience something called keto flu, partially due to the fact that they’re losing more water than normal.)
High-fat, low-carb diets are also not a great idea if you’re super into fitness. “In order for athletes to perform optimally, they need an appropriate balance of carbs, protein, and fat for performance as well as recovery,” says Manganiello. “Typically, I would not recommend a high-fat diet for an athlete.” (FWIW, there are some endurance athletes who swear by a higher-fat diet.
On the plus side: “Many people often claim that they don’t feel as hungry on high-fat diets compared to other diets,” says Manganiello. “This is probably because fat helps contribute to us feeling satiated after a meal.” Still, satiety is subjective, so this isn’t a guarantee.
What About Low-Fat Diets?
The low-fat approach is one nutrition pros seem to be more open to, as long as you’re not going too low. “Dietary fat has many important functions in the body,” notes Yawitz. “It helps insulate the body against cold and is important for healthy skin and hair. Unsaturated fats have also been found to promote brain health, reduce inflammation, and ward off depression and other mood disorders. For optimal health, you need at least 20 percent of your calories to come from fat.” (And if you’re wondering how many grams of fat to eat per day, you might be interested to know that research has linked consuming more dairy fat to a lower risk of heart disease.)
There are some legit benefits to keeping your grams of fat per day in the lower range (20 percent of your daily calories or slightly above), though. “A low-fat diet approach is an effective method of calorie control, as fat has 9 calories per gram versus carbs and protein, which have 4 calories per gram,” explains Walsh. There is also positive research pointing to a plant-based diet as beneficial for preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases, she says.
“I typically recommend that women with a family history of heart disease or abnormal cardiovascular labs follow a lower-fat diet that includes a variety of plant foods,” says Yawitz. “For these women, 20 to 25 percent of calories from fat is a good starting point. It’s also important to limit saturated fat to less than 7 percent of daily calories.”
Remember: When in doubt, listen to your body and practice healthy eating habits that you think you can stick to your whole life, says Walsh. “The best nutrition plan is the one that works for you and incorporates the foods you love.”