Dietary Fat: The Good and The Bad

Posted Jul 15, 2014 | Posted in Fitness & Nutrition

Contrary to popular belief, not all dietary fat is bad. Your body actually needs fat for energy and cell growth, and many fats have positive effects on your health.

It’s important to understand the difference between good fats and bad fats in order to maintain a healthy diet.

Which Dietary Fats Are Good?

There are two main types of fat that are good for you – monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Examples of foods containing these fats include:

types of dietary fatMonounsaturated Fat
  • Oils – olive, canola, peanut, sunflower, sesame
  • Nuts – almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans
  • Avocados
  • Peanut butter
  • Olives
Polyunsaturated Fat
  • Oils – soybean, corn, safflower
  • Seeds – sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, flaxseed
  • Fatty fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout
  • Walnuts
  • Tofu
  • Soymilk

When consumed in moderate amounts, these fats provide many health benefits like lowering cholesterol and decreasing the risk of heart disease. However, all fats are high in calories, so too much of any kind of fat can lead to weight gain and other health risks.

Which Fats Are Bad?

Consuming too much saturated fat or trans fat can have negative effects on your health. Examples of foods containing these fats include:

bad-fatsSaturated Fat
  • Oils – palm, coconut
  • High fat meats – pork, beef, lamb
  • Chicken with skin
  • Whole-fat dairy products
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
Trans Fat
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Margarine
  • Commercially-baked sweets
  • Packages snack foods
  • Fried foods
  • Candy

Bad fats can cause many health problems such as raising cholesterol and increasing risk for heart disease. You should limit the total amount of fat in your diet, and especially aim to decrease saturated fat and trans fat.

How Much Fat Do I Need?

Even though some fats are labeled as “good”, all fats are high in calories. You should keep your overall fat intake low, and have most of it come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Most health organizations recommend that 20-35% of your diet should come from fat. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, that would be 400-700 calories from fat per day. There are 9 calories in one gram of fat, so you can also measure this as 44-78 grams of fat per day.

Sources:, American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic

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One response to “Dietary Fat: The Good and The Bad”

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