Fat is one of our three main sources of calories (in addition to carbohydrate and protein), and provides nine calories per gram. That means if a product contains 10 grams of fat, it would provide 90 calories from fat (9 calories per gram x 10 gm of fat). Carbohydrate and protein each provide four calories per gram. Notice that fat provides more calories than carbohydrates and proteins combined, which means that fat is the richest source of calories in our diet. This is why it’s important to watch your fat intake if you’re trying to lose weight. If you currently have a high-fat diet, then limiting your fat intake is one of the quickest ways to cut calories.
Be assured, however, that fats are a necessary part of a healthy diet. You need fat in your diet in order for your body to function properly as fats provide “essential fatty acids” (EFA). EFA’s are essential because our body does not produce them on its own, therefore we must consume them. One EFA you may have heard of is omega-3 fatty acid. This one has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which is believed to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Fats are also a good source of vitamin E and have many functions, such as brain development in babies and toddlers, hormone production, nervous system function, the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and healthy skin and hair, just to name a few.
Examples of good fats include oil, trans-fat free margarines, nuts, seeds, olives, salad dressings, etc. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish, especially salmon and tuna; shellfish; flaxseed; and walnuts.
So, how much fat do you need? Well, first you need to know how many calories your body needs daily because your diet should be comprised of about 25-30% fat. That means 25-30% of your calories should come from fat. If you’re not sure how many calories you need, you can easily find a calorie calculator online or you can search for the article I wrote about how to calculate your calorie needs. If you are overweight or underweight, be sure to use your ideal body weight or goal weight in the equation and not your current weight. Once you know how many calories your body needs, then you can complete the following equation to determine how much fat you need.
Here’s a sample calculation for an individual who needs 2000 calories per day:
2000 calories x 30% (0.30) = 600 calories
600 calories per day / 9 calories per gram = 67 grams per day
2000 calories x 25% (0.25) = 500 calories
500 calories per day / 9 calories per gram = 56 grams per day
Therefore, this individual needs about 56-67 grams of fat per day.
As I’ve said in other articles, I don’t think it’s necessary to count anything for the rest of your life in order to lose weight and keep it off, whether it’s calories, fat grams, carbs, points, etc. I hope that you will simply use this equation to determine how much fat you need and then compare that to what you are consuming on average. (Just count your fat intake for a few typical days). Then, you can adjust your diet accordingly. If you find that you are way under-consuming fat, then give yourself some more leniency. However, if you find that you are over-consuming fat, then try and cut back a bit more until you are in a healthy range.