In Depth


Just what exactly is fat? Fat plays an important role in your health. Not only do you eat fat in your diet, but
your body also produces some kinds of fats in order
for it to function properly. Fat is used by your body to make several important substances that help to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting, and the nervous system. It also helps to transport Vitamins A, D, E, and K from your food into your body and helps to keep your hair and skin healthy. So you see, not all fat is bad.

Fat can be harmful, however, if you eat too much, especially too much of certain kinds of fat. Extra fat in your diet can increase your risk of heart disease, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. Too many calories, are easy to add up when you eat a lot of fat, and also lead to overweight and obesity, which also put you at risk for several diseases.

It is recommended that healthy Americans should eat
no more than 30 percent of their calories from fat, on a daily basis. That means, if you eat 2000 calories each day, no more than 600 of your calories should come from fat. When you limit your total fat intake to 30 percent, keep in mind that:

  • Only 7-10 percent of the fat should be saturated fat

  • About 10-15 percent of the fat should be monounsaturated

  • About 10 percent should be polyunsaturated

  • Cholesterol should be limited to 300 milligrams or less each day


  • SATURATED FAT — Most saturated fats are found in animal products such as red meat, poultry, butter and whole milk. Coconut, palm and some other tropical plant oils also are high in saturated fat. A diet high in saturated fat can increase your blood cholesterol level and your risk of heart disease.
  • TRANS FAT — Trans fat or trans fatty acids occur when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil during hydrogenation. This process makes the oil more

solid at room temperature, and less likely to spoil. This hydrogenated oil is often found in commercially prepared baked goods and fried foods. Trans fat a ects your body in a similar way to saturated fat. It can raise your blood cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease. Check the labels of the foods you buy. If the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated are in the ingredients, the food has trans fat in it.

  • MONOUNSATURATED FATS — Monounsaturated fats are mainly found in vegetable oils such as canola, olive and peanut oils. They are liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats are “heart healthy.”

When you are planning a healthy diet, try to pick most of your fats and oils from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources. Keep in mind that these oils can be hydrogenated, making them less “heart healthy.”

Remember that fat can be part of a healthy diet. All types of fats provide the same concentrated amount of energy, nine calories per gram. So a small amount of fat can have a lot of calories. Choose your fats and oils carefully. Make them a part of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods and sources of lean protein. A healthy lifestyle includes plenty of physical activity too.


  • POLYUNSATURATED FATS — Polyunsaturated fats are also found in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, flaxseed and canola oils. They are also found in seafood. They are liquid or soft at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats are also “heart healthy.”


  • CHOLESTEROL — Cholesterol is made by your body and is necessary for the structure and function of all cells in your body. Cholesterol also can be found in your diet. Animal products are again the culprit. Red meat, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter all contain cholesterol. Too much dietary cholesterol can lead to a buildup of cholesterol on the walls of your arteries, leading to heart disease. Your cholesterol level can also be a predictor of your risk of heart disease.