Fats 101: The benefits of fat and the role of healthy fats in your diet
Dietary fats are essential nutrients that your body needs to function properly. In order to reap the benefits of fat you must choose healthy fats and eat them in the recommended portions. Though it should be consumed in moderation dietary fat is an important source of energy for your body. It's necessary for brain health vitamin absorption and healthy hair and skin.
How much fat should you eat?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 reports that adults should get 20 to 35 percent of their daily calories from fat. According to the Mayo Clinic a gram of fat contains nine calories. As such you should consume 44 to 78 grams of fat daily if you're on a 2000-calorie-a-day diet.
According to the Dietary Guidelines kids and teenagers ages 4 to 18 should get 25 to 35 percent of their daily calories from fat and children ages two and three should get 30 to 40 percent of their daily calories from fat. Healthy fats play an important role in proper brain development for children and teens.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of a healthy diet. According to Livestrong sources of omega-3 fatty acids include oils from fatty fish "flax seeds flax seed oil canola oil soybeans soybean oil pumpkin seeds pumpkin seed oil walnuts and walnut oil." The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that these omega-3 fatty acids can aid in brain function and help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Fats that you should limit or avoid
You may increase your risk for heart disease by eating too many saturated fats and trans fats. As such you should limit your intake of foods that are high in saturated fats such as egg yolks and high-fat meats like bacon sausage and certain cuts of red meat. Trans fats are present in some commercial baked goods fried foods pie crusts doughnuts pastries margarines and shortenings so you should try to avoid these foods as well.
Because trans fats are unhealthy and must be listed on nutrition labels many food manufacturers and restaurants have reduced or eliminated trans fats from their products and menus. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 you should get less than 10 percent of your calories from saturated fat and you should limit your trans fat intake as much as possible.
What about dairy fat?
Dairy foods are also a source of saturated fat. However high-fat dairy products such as whole milk cheese cream and butter may not be as bad for you as was once thought. A 2014 review published in Current Nutrition Reports found that milk cheese and yogurt don't increase your risk for heart disease and that full-fat dairy foods may even help protect you against developing heart disease.
Are low-fat diets healthy?
Though fats are much higher in calories than carbohydrates and protein low-fat diets aren't necessarily beneficial — even when you're trying to lose weight. The fat-free craze of the 90s ended when studies started showing drawbacks of low-fat diets. A 2012 review in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that low-fat diets are no more effective than low-carb diets for weight loss and are less effective for improving blood cholesterol levels.
The bottom line
There are many benefits of fat and eating healthy fats in recommended portions can help you look and feel your best. If you get too little fat in your diet you may lack essential nutrients experience fatigue or have difficulty absorbing certain vitamins.