Reducing Dietary Fat
High fat intake contributes to excess body weight, since a
gram of fat has about twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates
Whether you are trying to lose weight, lower blood
cholesterol levels or simply eat healthier, you'll want to limit total
Why Do Most Diets Focus on Reducing Fat?
Fat gets a lot of the attention for many good reasons.
Fat can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, increasing a person's
risk for heart disease.
In addition, some fatty foods (such as bacon, sausage,
and potato chips) often have fewer vitamins and minerals than low-fat
Moreover as mentioned, fat has about 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.
Will I Lose Weight if I Eat Low-Fat Foods?
It's true that a diet high in fat can lead to weight
gain. But it takes more than just eating low-fat foods to lose weight.
You must also watch how many calories you eat. Remember, extra calories
even from fat-free and low-fat foods get stored in the body as fat. Many
times people replace high-fat foods for high-calorie foods, like sweets,
and gain weight rather than lose weight.
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you
eat. You can achieve this goal by exercising and by eating less fat and
How Much Fat Should I Eat?
The dietary reference intake for fat in adults is
20%-35% of total daily calories from fat. That's about 44 grams of fat
or less a day if you eat 2,000 calories a day.
Recently, health experts have started to recommend that
people eliminate another type of fat called trans fat from their diet.
This fat, formed during a process called hydrogenation, coverts a
relatively healthy unsaturated liquid fat, like corn oil into a solid
one. Although this process gives a food longer shelf life it also makes
the fats act like saturated fat in our bodies, and may be worse when it
comes to causing heart disease.
Health experts recommend removing as much trans fat from your diet as
How Can I Know How Much Fat I am Eating?
Learn about the foods you eat. Fat and calorie listings
for individual foods can be found in nutrition books at your local
library and on food packages.
Read nutrition labels on
Nutrition labels show the number of grams of fat per serving. They 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. Choose a brand
that has a lower fat percentage. (The daily percentage value is based on
a number of calories listed on the nutrition label, usually 2,000. Your
calorie needs may be higher or lower.)
More and more food labels are starting to include trans fats. If the
amount of trans fats is not included on the label, you can estimate the
amount by adding up the total amount of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated
and saturated fat. If that's less than the total fat on the package, the
difference is trans fat.
Where Do I Start?
- Eat a variety of lower-fat foods to get all the
nutrients you need.
- Watch your calorie intake. Remember, "low fat" does
not always mean "low calorie."
- Eat plenty of plant-based foods (such as grain
products, fruits and vegetables) and a moderate amount of animal-based foods
(meat and dairy products) to help control your fat, cholesterol and calorie
- Increase your physical activity to improve heart health and lose
excess body fat.
What Goals Should I Try to Meet?
- Decrease the total amount of fat you eat to 20%-35% or
less of your total daily calories. For a person eating 2,000 calories a day,
this would be 44-77 grams of fat or less per day.
- Limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) or
less per day.
- Decrease saturated fat (animal fat, butter, coconut and palm
oils) to less than 10% of your total calories per day. For a person
eating 2000 calories a day, this would be 22 grams of saturated fat
or less per day.
Tips for Reducing Fat Intake
When selecting foods:
- Learn about the foods you eat by reading nutrition labels.
"nonfat" and "reduced-fat" claims on food packages. Focus on total fat, rather
than individual items. When selecting food, balance those with a higher fat
amount against those with a lower fat amount to stay within your fat total or
"budget" for the day.
- Choose lean meats, fish and poultry. Limit these to 5-7 ounces per day. Other good low-fat sources of
protein include dried beans and peas, tofu, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk,
low-fat cottage cheese and tuna fish packed in water. Choose skim or 1% milk.
- Enjoy low-fat (no more than 3 grams of fat per ounce) or
nonfat cheeses and spreads.Try low-fat or fat-free versions of
your favorite margarine, salad dressing, cream cheese and