Fats: How much to Eat & The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Part I:  How much Fat?

Fat is essential in our diet, but did you know that we only need about ½ gram (gm) fat per pound of body weight?  Less than 30% of our total calories should come from fat (there are 9 calories/gm of fat) and <7% of the fat calories should come from saturated fats.    For example, a 31-50 year old woman needs approximately 2,000 calories per day and 50-70 gms total fat (<16 gm saturated fat and , 2gms trans fat).  You want to avoid saturated fats at all costs and try to use monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats (more on this in Part II).  A high fat diet really doesn’t benefit anyone, it can cause a variety of chronic diseases and be detrimental to an athletes performance.  Gram for gram, fat contains twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate.  Be careful when you choose reduced-fat or low-fat products such as cookies or crackers, although the fat may have been reduced, often times you are not saving any calories. The  manufacturer will add additional sugar to compensate for the lack of flavor when the fat is reduced.   

 

Part II:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Fat

There are many types of dietary fats (AKA Fatty Acids). They can be Saturated (filled or saturated with hydrogens) or  Unsaturated i.e. Monounsaturated (one area of unsaturation) and Polyunsaturated (many areas of unsaturation).  

Generally, the more liquid the fat is, the better it is for your body.

Most Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are considered “Good” fats with the exception of trans fat, which is an “Ugly” fat.  Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats include: borage oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, safflower oil, olive oil, soybean oil and most vegetable oils.  Omega-3 Fatty acids are another type of Polyunsaturated fat that our bodies cannot make and include flaxseed oil and fish oil, which are protective of heart disease and arthritis and may aid weight loss.  See my information sheet covering Omega-3 fatty acids.

We all know to stay away from Trans Fat or as I like to call the “Ugly” fat, which is essentially a Monounsaturated or Polyunsaturated fat gone “Ugly” by adding extra hydrogen, which hardens the oil and makes it more stable for a long shelf life.  Unfortunately, eating trans fat decreases our shelf life by lowering our “good” cholesterol HDL and raising our “low down lousy” LDL cholesterol.  Some examples of trans fat are:  shortening and hard stick margarines.

Saturated fats include: butter, lard, animal fats, palm oil and coconut oil.  High intakes of these fats are associated with increased risk of stroke and/or heart disease. 

Although I have greatly simplified this topic, I have tried to make it easy to understand, if you have any further questions and/or desire more information on this topic, please contact me at: Linda@ExpertNutritionCounseling.com.

 

Part III:  Confused about which type of Fat/Oil to use?

Do you know which fat/oil is the best to use?  The answer depends on how you plan to use the fat/oil.  Some fats/oils are best to use for cooking, while others are better to use for dressings and flavor.  They all vary in taste, nutrition composition and smoke point (Oils should not be heated above the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and smoke).

See table below:

 

Oil

Fat Type

Smoke Point

Uses

Avocado

monounsaturated

510-520

Frying, sautéing, dressings, sauces

Butter

saturated

200

Sautéing, sauces, baking

Canola

monounsaturated

400-425

Frying, sautéing, baking

Coconut

MCT/Saturated*

350

Stir-fry, baking, sautéing

Corn

polyunsaturated

450

Frying, sautéing

Crisco (new)

polyunsaturated

350-370

Baking

Flax Seed

polyunsaturated◊

225

Dressings, sauces, smoothies

Grape Seed

polyunsaturated

420-425

Frying, sautéing, dressings

Hemp Seed

polyunsaturated◊

330

Dressings, smoothies

Olive

monounsaturated

320-468

Frying, sautéing, dressings

Peanut

monounsaturated

320-440

Frying, sautéing, dressings

Sesame

polyunsaturated

350-450

Frying, sautéing, dressings

 

 

  • Although Coconut oil is 90% saturated, it is not a hydrogenated fat. It contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are partly water soluble and the body uses it for energy instead of being stored.

 

◊Flax seed and Hemp seed oils should not be used for cooking and special care should be taken to store these oils.

 

Copyright by Linda Kees R.D., L.D.  Linda@ExpertNutritionConsulting.com