Fats. They often get a bad rep. But, contrary to popular belief, they are necessary to a healthy diet.
Fats are the principal storage form of energy in our body. They support cell growth, protect our vital organs, are involved in hormone production, and help transport essential vitamins and minerals.However, some fats are healthier than others! Fats are typically broken down into two groups: saturated and unsaturated.
How Much Fat You Should Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?
How much fat should we include in our diet? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, fats should make up 20-35% of our total daily calorie intake. For those attempting to lose body fat, 0.5-1g/kg of fat should be consumed per day to avoid essential fatty acid deficiency.
For someone who weighs 150lbs (68kg), this would equate to 34-68g fat per day.
Daily Fat Needs For Individuals
Fat needs will vary by individual and will depend largely on body composition goals and body types. For example, dietary fat recommendations are slightly higher in competitive athletes than non-athletes to promote health, maintain healthy hormone function, and maintain energy balance. Typical recommendations for athletes are 30-50% of total energy intake.
Low Fat Diets for Weight Loss
Low-fat diets (LFD) are those in which fat intake should make up 20-35% of total fat intake — the exact USDA recommendation. Very low-fat diets (VLFD), such as vegan and vegetarian diets, are defined as providing 10-20% of total daily calorie intake from fat. However, limited research exists on the efficacy of these diets to create sustainable fat loss over long periods.
Keto diets consist of 60-80% of calorie intake from fats and limiting carbohydrate consumption to less than 10% of daily intake. While keto diets have been shown to aid in weight loss/fat loss, studies have shown the primary mechanism behind weight loss is due to hunger suppression.
A high-fat diet can suppress appetite since it is highly satiating, leading to decreased caloric consumption. Additionally, many studies have shown that calorically matched diets with identical protein levels aid in fat loss just as successfully as a keto diet.
See How to Follow the Keto Diet for more on this subject.
The Two Types of Fats: Saturated and Unsaturated
Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature. Examples include margarine, butter, whole fat dairy products, the fat marbling in meats, and coconut oil. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fats only make up 5-6% of total fat consumption.
For someone consuming 2,000 calories in a day, that would equate to 13g of saturated fat. Saturated fats don't need to be avoided entirely, but diets high in saturated fats can increase bad cholesterol and triglycerides, increasing the risk for heart disease.
Unsaturated fats are those that are liquid at room temperature. Examples include olive, peanut, and canola oils. We want to include as many unsaturated fats in our diet because they can decrease bad cholesterol, contain high amounts of antioxidants such as Vitamin E, and contain essential omega-three and omega-six fatty acids. Unsaturated fats are typically classified by how many hydrogen bonds they have in their structure: either 1 (mono) or two or more (poly).
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats Examples
Examples of monounsaturated fatty acids include:
- olive oils
Polyunsaturated fats are mainly found in
- vegetable oils such as safflower
- corn oils
Both types contain the health benefits that unsaturated fats provide!
Trans Fat: Avoid it if you want to lose weight!
One fat you want to altogether avoid in your diet is trans fats. Trans fats are unsaturated fats that are artificially turned into saturated fats and increase heart disease and stroke risk by raising bad cholesterol and decreasing good cholesterol.
They have also been known to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are most commonly found in fried foods, frozen baked products such as pizza, non-dairy coffee creamers, and shortening.
So what is the main takeaway when it comes to fats? Well, fats are essential to a healthy diet. The amount to include in your diet and what has shown to be most successful in aiding in sustainable weight loss is 20-35% of total energy intake, with lower ranges closer to 20% being more successful in decreasing body fat.
While other diets such as very low-fat diets and keto can aid in fat loss, these diets' long-term sustainability may be difficult.