When it come to health, certain fats can have a positive effect, whereas other can negatively impact your health. All fats are equal from a caloric standpoint meaning they all contain 9 calories per each gram of fat no matter the type. There are 3 main types of fat - saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that the
average individual aim to consume around 20-35% of total daily calories from fat. For an
individual who consumes around 2,000 calories each day, that is anywhere from 44 to 77 grams
of fat per day. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of fats and their effect on your
health and the food sources in which they are found!
Saturated Fats - The “Not So Healthy” Fats
Decades of research have shown that, when consumed in excess, saturated fats can
increase the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood, which could increase your risk of
heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death for adults in the US. Saturated fats
are primarily found in animal-based foods such as beef, poultry, pork, full-fat dairy products
(butter, cream, cheese, whole milk) and eggs, but can also be found in “tropical” oils such as
coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises healthy individuals to consume less than
5-6% of total daily calories from saturated fat. For example, someone who consumes 2,000
calories per day should try to stay below 120 calories from saturated fat, or about 13 grams (9
calories/gram). You can decrease your saturated fat intake by opting for lean cuts of meat and
poultry without skin, choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and swapping tropical oils for
vegetable oils, such as olive or canola oil.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats - The “Healthy Fats”
For optimal heart health, the AHA recommends making the majority of the fats you
consume monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, while limiting saturated fats.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are both found in high amounts in various plant
based oils. Monounsaturated fats are rich in olive, canola, peanut, safflower and sesame oils, as
well as avocados, peanut butter, and many other nuts and seeds. In contrast, polyunsaturated
fats are found in soybean, corn, and sunflower oils in addition to walnuts, sunflower seeds,
soybeans and tofu. Polyunsaturated fats provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, nutrients
the body is unable to produce on its own. Additionally, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated
rich oils are a good source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant, which is often lacking in the standard
American diet. To increase your intake of these “healthy” fats - try consuming fatty fish
like mackerel, salmon and sardines at least twice a week, opting for plant-based oils over
“tropical” oils such as coconut and palm oils and incorporating more nuts and seeds into your daily diet.