"Fat is bad", this is seems to be today message in most labels of "low fat" food to persuade consumers to buy a more processed, packaged, frozen and generally low-nutrient, factory-produced meals. But did you know that the processed low fat food we often see in the supermarket have little reduction of calorie content compared with the full-fat equivalent.

Well it is true that too much of the worst kind of fat means raised cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and an increased risk of some cancers, but too little fat causes poor absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K which is important for our body to fight infection.

Importance of Fats in a Diet

Fat Calorie Content: All fats contain the same number of calories by weight; that is, about 250 calories per ounce, or 9 calories per gram. However by volume, the calorie count can differ substantially. For example, a cup of oil weighs more - and therefore has more calories - than a cup of whipped margarine.

Fat in the body: Even if the diet contains no fat whatsoever, the body will convert any excess calories from protein and carbohydrate and store them as fat. When our weight remains steady, it's because we are making fat and using it up at equal rates. If our calorie intake exceeds our need for energy, then no matter what form of calories we take, we synthesize more fat and we will gain weight.

Recommended Fat: You should need no more than 33% of your calories from all the fat in your diet, 10% of which should come from saturated fat, 6-10% from polyunsaturated fat and 12 % from monounsaturated fat, but don't forget the vital essential fatty acids too.

Examples are:

  • 1,600 calories = 53 grams fat or less
  • 2,200 calories = 73 grams of fat or less
  • 2,800 calories = 93 grams of fat or less

Benefits of Fat:

  • Carry and help the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K which is needed for healthy skin, eyes, heart and circulation, and for strong bones and normal blood clotting.
  • Dietary fats provide important hormone-like substances.
  • An important energy source. Stored body fats provide a fuel reserve for future needs, one pound of body fat provides enough energy to last 1 ½ to 2 days.
  • Can help you manage your weight loss program by providing a better sense of satiety than other lower fat foods. This is because it helps you feel fuller longer. The reason is fat actually takes longer to digest than some other types of foods. Since it sticks around in your stomach longer, you'll feel fuller longer.
  • Add flavor and a smooth, pleasing texture to foods.

More things about Fat in the diet:

  • Fat provides more calories than the same weight of any other food; example fat (whether it comes from olive oil, butter, margarine or cooking fat) contains around 900 calories per 100g compared with 400 calories per 100g of protein or carbohydrates.
  • Research has found that low-fat diets do not protect women against heart attacks, strokes, breast cancer or colon cancer.
  • Dietary fats and oils are members of the same chemical family; they just differ in their melting points: at room temperature, fats are solid, whereas oils are liquid.