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Dietary Fat: What's Right for You?

When examining food labels for fat content, it pays to know your daily fat allowance to understand how a serving of that food fits into your diet.

"People tend to buy the same foods over and over, so it's worth it to read labels and find foods you like that are low in saturated and trans fat," Lichtenstein says.

Suggested daily fat intake is tied to calorie needs. The two fats to limit are:

  • Saturated fat found in meats, butter, cream, or ice cream, and other foods with animal fat.
  • Trans fat, a man-made fat found in some margarines or packaged baked.

Here are some examples of healthy daily fat allowances.

1,800 Calories a Day

  • 40 to 70 grams of total fat
  • 14 grams or less of saturated fat
  • 2 grams or less of trans fat  

2,200 Calories a Day

  • 49 to 86 grams of total fat
  • 17 grams or less of saturated fat
  • 3 grams or less of trans fat

2,500 Calories a Day

  • 56 to 97 grams of total fat
  • 20 grams or less of saturated fat
  • 3 grams or less of trans fat.

MyPyramid.gov helps you determine a daily calorie level right for you. If you want to lose weight, eat less than what MyPyramid suggests for your age, gender, and physical activity level, but don't eat less than 1,600 calories a day. 

The Facts on Unsaturated Fats

Dietary fat is categorized as saturated or unsaturated. Unsaturated fats -- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated -- should be the dominant type of fat in a balanced diet, because they reduce the risk of clogged arteries.

While foods tend to contain a mixture of fats, monounsaturated fat is the primary fat found in:

  • olive, canola, and sesame oils
  • avocado
  • nuts, such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios; peanuts and peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fat is prevalent in:

  • corn, cottonseed, and safflower oils
  • sunflower seeds and sunflower oil
  • flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • soybeans and soybean oil
  • tub margarine
  • seafood 

The Facts on Omega-3 Fats

When it comes to good-for-you fat, seafood stands out. Seafood harbors omega-3 fats called DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentanoic acid), unsaturated fats considered central to a child's brain development and eyesight, and for heart health.

Eating Healthy in Restaurants:

Follow these ordering tips to ensure you eat healthfully when you dine out.
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