What’s the Skinny on Fat?

By | April 9, 2021

Low-fat foods may seem healthy, but they’re often loaded with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. These can lead to excessive hunger, weight gain and disease.

The truth is that in order to make something taste good and be shelf-stable while removing fat, manufacturers increase sugar, salt, add emulsifiers and other chemicals. What should be a handful of ingredients turns into a whole list of ingredients, many of which you can’t even pronounce, let alone fill you up. In the end, you will still be hungry and want to eat more.

For optimal function of our bodies, fat is essential.

Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself. Fat also helps the body absorb vitamins A, D & E.

According to the DRI, or dietary reference intake, adults should aim for 20-35% of total calories to be from fat. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, that is 44g-77g of fat per day. 

Not all fat is equal.

You should avoid trans fat as much as possible, and limit your intake of saturated fats. Trans fats have been linked to increased coronary heart disease and death, and may also have other adverse health effects.

According the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, individuals should consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fats, or replaced by unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats can be found in foods like:

  • butter, ghee, suet, lard, coconut oil and palm oil
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • fatty cuts of meat
  • sausages
  • bacon
  • cured meats like salami, chorizo and pancetta
  • cheese

One easy way to compute the recommended 10% or less of saturated fats is to look at the Daily Value % that is now required on all nutrition labels by the end of 2020. The % DV can be used as a guide to make food decisions. For instance, 5% or less of DV for a nutrient is considered low, and 20% or more of a nutrient is considered high.

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Let’s do a quick study. Kaia Client A is a 34-year-old female, who consumes 1,900 calories per day in her maintenance phase. The food label indicates 1g of saturated fat in this product. This equals 5% DV based on a 2,000-calorie diet. However, Kaia Client A is on a 1,900-calorie nutrition intake, NOT 2,000.

Review this simple equation for the future:

1,900 total calories x (10%) = 190 calories from saturated fat per day (100% DV)

190 calories from saturated fat / 9 calories per gram (1 g of fat=9 calories) = 21.1. grams of saturated fat

1 gram of saturated fat in the product / 21.1 g of saturated fat allowed per day = .04 x 100 =4.7%

This one product is almost ½ of Kaia Client A’s daily recommended amount of saturated fat. That can add up quick, right?

That’s why it’s important to understand nutrition labels, and the contents they contain.

If you ever have any questions or concerns about the amount of fat in your diet, please consult with your doctor or reach out to a certified nutrition coach or dietitian.

-written by Chef Debra Garner & Coach Angela Patterson, a Certified Nutrition Coach

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