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Health Facts

Know Your Fats

Fats and oils are part of a healthy diet and play many important roles in the body. Fat provides energy and is a carrier of essential nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids. But, fat can impact the health of your heart and arteries in a positive or negative way, depending on the types of fat you eat.

Eat less saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.

Eating too much saturated fat, the type of fat that is solid at room temperature, may increase risk of heart disease. Similarly, eating too much trans fat, which is made when liquid vegetable oil is processed to become solid, also may increase risk of heart disease. And, eating too much cholesterol, a fatty substance found only in animal-based products, may clog arteries. It is important to eat less than 10% of your calories from saturated fat.

Total Calorie Intake Limit on Saturated Fat Intakea
1,600 18 grams or less
2,000 20 grams or less
2,200 24 grams or less
2,500 25 grams or less
2,800 31 grams or less
aAim to consume less than 10% of total calories from saturated fat.

For example, if you aim to eat 2,000 calories a day, your daily allowance of saturated fat would be less than 200 calories or 20 grams—which equals 100 percent Daily Value (% DV) for saturated fat. The table above shows the saturated fat limits for people with various calorie needs. Furthermore, you should keep trans fat as low as possible and eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.

Be wise about fat. Choose fats found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils most often.
Most of the fat in your diet should come from food sources of polyunsaturated and monounstatured fats. Experts recommend getting between 20% and 35% of calories from totalfat, with most fats coming from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. These foods can contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—they should replace the saturated and trans fat sources you choose to cut back on.

Unhealthy fats such as saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are found in many foods. So, look for choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free when selecting and preparing meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk products. Also, trim excess fat from meat and poultry and remove the skin from poultry to reduce saturated fat. Additionally, foods may be processed or made with tropical oils (e.g., palm oil, palm fruit oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, etc.) that increase the amount of saturated fat in the food (e.g., cakes, cookies, pies, crackers, candy, creamers, etc.).

Trans fat is mostly found in food products made with shortening—liquid oil that is processed to become hard. Most of the trans fat Americans eat come from cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, fried potatoes, household shortening, and hard margarine. Limiting consumption of many processed foods is a good way to reduce trans fat.

What foods have healthy fats?
The table below lists common food sources of healthy fats.
Monounsaturated Polyunsaturated Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Omega-3
Vegetable oils:
High oleic safflower
Vegetable oils:
Certain fish:
Vegetable oils:

Women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should avoid some types of fish and eat types lower in mercury. See or call 1-888-SAFEFOOD for more information.

There are many ways to reduce the saturated fat in your diet.
The table below shows a few examples of the saturated fat content of different forms of foods you may eat. Comparisons are made between foods in the same food group (e.g., regular cheddar cheese and low-fat cheddar cheese)—you can choose a lower saturated fat choice and eat many of the foods you enjoy.

Use the label—what to look for and how it adds up.
The Nutrition Facts label can help you choose fats wisely. Look at the serving size and determine how many servings you are actually eating. If you eat two servings, you will be consuming double the calories and nutrients, such as fat. You will also get double the % DV of other nutrients. The % DV represents one serving of the food item.

Use the % DV on the Nutrition Facts label to identify which nutrients (total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol) are high or low; 5% DV or less is low, and 20% DV or more is high. There is no % DV for trans fat, but you should aim to keep trans fat intake as low as possible.

Additionally, the labels on some food packages have claims that describe a specific level of fat (including total fat, saturated, or trans fat) in a food. Some examples of claims to look for are: "fat free," "low saturated fat," "no fat," or "light."

Amounts per serving % Daily Value*
Total Fat 12 grams 18%
Saturated Fat 3 grams 15%
Trans Fat 3 grams
Cholesterol 30 milligrams 18%
*Percent Daily Values on the Nutrition Facts label are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

The Saturated Fat and Calorie Content of Different Forms of Selected Foods
Food Category Amount Saturated Fat Content (grams) % Daily Value* Calories
Cheese • Regular cheddar cheese 1 ounce 6.0 30% 114
• Low-fat cheddar cheese 1 ounce 1.2 6% 49
• Low-fat cottage cheese 1/2 ounce 0.7 3% 81
Ground beef • Regular ground beef (25% fat) 3 ounces (cooked) 6.1 31% 236
• Extra lean ground beef (5% fat) 3 ounces (cooked) 2.6 13% 148
• Ground turkey 3 ounces (cooked) 3 ounces (cooked) 3.0 14% 193
Milk • Whole milk (3.5% fat) 1 cup 4.6 23% 146
• Low-fat (1% fat) milk 1 cup 1.5 8% 102
• Fat-free milk 1 cup 0.0 0% 86
Breads • Croissant (med) 1 medium 6.6 33% 231
• Bagel, oat bran (4") 1 medium 0.2 1% 227
• Buttermilk biscuit (small) 1 small 1.2 6% 100
Frozen desserts • Regular ice cream 1/2 cup 4.9 25% 145
• Frozen yogurt, low-fat 1/2 cup 2.0 10% 110
• Sherbert 1/2 cup 0.9 4% 107
Table spreads • Butter 1 teaspoon 2.4 12% 34
• Soft margarine with zero trans fat 1 teaspoon 0.7 4% 25
• Margarine-like spread (40% fat) 1 teaspoon 0.3 2% 16
Chicken • Fried chicken (leg, with skin) 3 ounces (cooked) 3.3 17% 212
• Roasted chicken (breast, no skin) 3 ounces (cooked) 0.9 5% 140
• Chicken nuggets 6 pieces 3.9 19% 285
Fish • Fried fish 3 ounces 2.8 14% 195
• Baked fish 3 ounces 1.5 8% 129
• Fish sticks 3 ounces 2.7 14% 232
* % Daily Values (DV) listed in this column are based on the food amounts listed in the table. The % DV listed is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. The DV for saturated fat is 20 grams.
Source: Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17.