The Fat Intake Calculator estimates the amount of dietary fat a person should consume on a daily basis. The results are based on an estimation of daily caloric needs determined using the provided information. The calculator also considers the maximum recommended levels of saturated fats a person should consume to reduce risk of heart disease.
- Exercise: 15-30 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
- Intense exercise: 45-120 minutes of elevated heart rate activity.
- Very intense exercise: 2+ hours of elevated heart rate activity.
Different Types of Fat
Fat, along with carbohydrates and proteins, is one of three macronutrients that provide the energy necessary for a person’s metabolic system to function, and can be acquired through consuming various foods. There are numerous types of dietary fat including saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and omega-3 fatty acids. While dietary fat is essential to proper body function, excess dietary fat leads to weight gain, and excess weight is linked to poor health outcomes. Refer to the Body Fat Calculator for more information regarding excess fat.
Unhealthy Dietary Fat
Certain types of dietary fat are more harmful than others. Saturated fat is one of the more harmful types of fat and is mostly found in sources of food derived from animals; red meat, poultry, and dairy products. Saturated fat can also be found in various nuts, oils, and seeds. There exists some controversy surrounding the effects of saturated fat on risk of disease, but saturated fat is largely considered harmful. Sources such as Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association among many others recommend a diet that is low in saturated fat, arguing that saturated fat raises the levels of “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterols, and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.1
Trans fat is a type of dietary fat that occurs naturally in small amounts in some foods, but most of the trans fat that people encounter is the result of a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. Highly processed foods, such as fast food, tend to have high amounts of trans fats, and reducing consumption of these types of food is generally beneficial to a person’s health.
Trans fats are commonly regarded as the “worst” type of dietary fat, are not essential, and have no known benefits to human health.2 Trans fats have been shown to increase the risk of coronary artery disease by increasing levels of LDL cholesterols, while decreasing the levels of “good” high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterols. It can also increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Note that by law, a serving of food that contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be labeled as having 0 grams of trans fat. It is possible to fully avoid trans fat from processed foods by ensuring that any food labeled as having 0 grams of trans fat also has no ingredient involving the term “partially hydrogenated.”1
Healthier Dietary Fat
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat are two types of unsaturated fat that are typically found in a variety of foods and oils, with polyunsaturated fat more commonly being found in plant-based foods and oils. Studies have shown that both of these types of unsaturated fat, in small amounts, can help reduce LDL cholesterol, while potentially increasing HDL cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat that is found in certain fish, has been found to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease.
Daily Fat Intake
So far, there is no golden rule guiding daily fat intake. Generally, some fat intake, particularly intake of unsaturated fats, can have beneficial effects on the human body. Children especially need some fat in their diets to be healthy. It’s generally recommended that a child drink whole milk instead of low fat or no-fat milk once they stop breastfeeding. However, any type of fat, including these healthier dietary fats, can have negative effects when consumed in excess. Below are some guidelines regarding the amount and types of fat a person should consume.
- Consume less than 10% of daily caloric needs in the form of saturated fats. Limiting consumption to less than 7% has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats if possible.
- Minimize consumption of trans fats.
- Consume less than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol each day.
- Mayo Clinic. “Dietary fats: Know which types to choose.” www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550?pg=1
- Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. “Trans fat.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans_fat#Nutritional_guidelines.