Fat is an important part of your diet, but figuring out how much to eat can be confusing. Over the last 50 years, everyday diets have gone from moderate-fat to low-fat, based on recommendations from health organizations. However, the 2015–2020 US Dietary Guidelines no longer specify an upper limit for how much total fat you should consume. This article takes a detailed look at different types of fat and provides suggestions for how much to eat per day.
What Is Fat?
Along with protein and carbs, fat is one of the three macronutrients in your diet. You consume fat in the form of triglycerides. A triglyceride molecule is made up of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. The fatty acids contain chains of carbons and hydrogens. One way fats are classified is by the length of their carbon chains:
- Short-chain fatty acids: Fewer than 6 carbons.
- Medium-chain fatty acids: 6–12 carbons.
- Long-chain fatty acids: 13–21 carbons.
- Very-long-chain fatty acids: 22 or more carbons.
Most of the fats you eat are long-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids are mainly produced when bacteria ferment soluble fiber in your colon, although milk fat also contains small amounts. Long-chain and very-long-chain fats are absorbed into the bloodstream and released into the body’s cells as needed. However, short-chain and medium-chain fats are taken up directly by the liver to be used as energy.
Functions And Benefits Of Fat
Fat performs a number of functions and provides several health benefits:
- Energy: Fat is an excellent energy source. It provides 9 calories per gram, whereas protein and carbs each provide 4 calories per gram.
- Hormone and gene regulation: Fats regulate the production of reproductive and steroid hormones, as well as genes involved in growth and metabolism.
- Brain function: Adequate fat intake is important for brain health, including mood.
- Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E and K must be consumed with fat to be properly absorbed.
- Flavor and fullness: Adding fat to foods makes them tastier and more filling.
The fat stored inside your body helps insulate your organs, keeps you warm and provides a vast source of energy that you can use in the case of famine.
How Much Fat Is Healthy To Eat Per Day?
The appropriate amount of fat to eat will depend on your calorie requirements for weight loss or maintenance. It will also be based on your eating style and diet. You can use this calculator to determine your calorie needs to lose weight or maintain your weight. This is your daily calorie goal.
A standard low-fat diet contains about 30% of calories from fat, or less. Here are a few examples of suggested daily fat ranges for a low-fat diet, based on different calorie goals:
- 1,500 calories: About 50 grams of fat per day.
- 2,000 calories: About 67 grams of fat per day.
- 2,500 calories: About 83 grams of fat per day.
It’s important to note that studies show higher-fat diets, such as low-carb and Mediterranean diets, are actually much healthier than the standard low-fat diet.
High-Fat Low-Carb Or Ketogenic Diet
A ketogenic diet minimizes carbs, provides a moderate amount of protein and is high in fat. The percentage of calories from fat will depend on how low your carb intake is, but it will generally be between 50–75% of calories. Here are a few examples of suggested daily fat ranges for a low-carb or ketogenic diet, based on different calorie goals:
- 1,500 calories: About 83–125 grams of fat per day.
- 2,000 calories: About 111–167 grams of fat per day.
- 2,500 calories: About 139–208 grams of fat per day.
Moderate-Fat Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet includes a wide variety of plant and animal foods such as fish, meat, eggs, dairy, extra virgin olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. It typically provides 35–40% of calories from fat, including plenty of monounsaturated fat from olive oil.
Here are a few examples of suggested daily fat ranges for a Mediterranean diet, based on different calorie goals:
- 1,500 calories: About 58–67 grams of fat per day.
- 2,000 calories: About 78–89 grams of fat per day.
- 2,500 calories: About 97–111 grams of fat per day.