No matter the time of year, many people want to lose weight. One popular way to try and lose weight involves adopting a low-fat or even fat-free diet. Even the nutrition experts at the U.S. government seem to support this approach, as shown by the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated January as “Fat-Free Living Month.”
But is it realistic to eat completely fat-free? And even if you could, is it a good idea? In this article, we’ll talk about the role of fat in your diet and clear up some misconceptions.
Get the Facts About Fat
Reducing your fat intake can be a healthy choice, especially if you currently eat too much fat. However, adopting a completely fat-free diet is not healthy for most people. Avoiding fat won’t necessarily help you lose weight (or fat mass, to be more specific). Research shows that people can lose weight by following either a low-fat or lower-carbohydrate diet as long as they consume the right number of calories.
Fat is an essential nutrient, which means our body needs it. However, our bodies can’t create fat out of thin air, which means we need to get it through our diets instead.
Fat performs many critical functions in our bodies, including:
- Increasing the absorption of other nutrients
- Giving our bodies energy
- Protecting vital organs
- Maintaining body temperature
- Working with other nutrients to create molecules that allow our bodies to function and stay healthy
Fat comes in different types, and some are healthier than others. Unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fats, are healthier than saturated fats and trans fats.
The average person should consume between 40 and 80 grams of fat each day, with less than 20 grams coming from saturated fat. Trans fats are the most harmful type of fat; you should avoid them as much as possible.
The numbers above are only general guidelines. The exact recommendations for your fat intake will vary based on your gender, age, height, starting weight, and whether you want to lose weight. To learn more about your specific needs, use this fat intake calculator.
Finding the Right Amount of Fat
When trying to eat the right amount of fat, it’s important to note that different foods contain both different types and different amounts of fats. To limit the amount of unhealthy fat you consume, avoid fried foods, high-fat meats such as bacon and prime rib, and rich desserts that contain lots of sugar and high-fat dairy.
To choose foods with healthier fat contents, use this chart:
|Healthier-fat food||Examples||Serving size||Amount of fat per serving|
|Nuts and seeds||Almonds, walnuts, peanut butter||1 ounce nuts or 2 tablespoons nut butter||14–18 grams|
|Fish||Salmon, tuna||3 ounces||2.5–11 grams|
|Produce||Avocados, olives||1/2 cup||7–11 grams|
|Oil||Canola oil, avocado oil||1 tablespoon||14 grams|
What About Dairy?
While dairy foods contain saturated fat, they also provide many other nutrients, which makes them a nutritious food choice. Many health organizations still officially recommend that people choose dairy foods that are lower in fat, but recent research indicates that even high-fat dairy foods can fit into a healthy diet.
So, which type of dairy you consume is up to you! However, if you choose higher-fat dairy options like whole milk and full-fat cheese, then make sure to limit the amount of saturated fats you consume from meats.
Visit Your Local SpartanNash Store for a Wide Range of Fresh Foods With Healthy Fats
Now that you have the facts on fat, you can choose healthy fats and find the right amount of dietary fat that will help you meet your health goals. Visit your local SpartanNash store to shop for the fresh, nutritious foods you need to support your wellness this year.
Stephanie Edson - Regional Wellness Specialist
Stephanie is an award-winning registered dietitian who believes in empowering every individual to make nutritious food choices to support a healthy lifestyle. She believes in the power of food as medicine and loves sharing about nutrition with others.