The Fat Is Where It's At!

By: Callie Pillsbury on Mar 21, 2017

In the update of the Nutrition Facts Label, the labeling of “Calories from Fat” will be removed. Additionally, the Daily Value of fat will increase from 65 to 78 grams. This does not mean that the calories from fat do not matter. Calories from fat are still important to account for dietary health. But the FDA has removed “calories from fat” because there is scientific evidence that shows that the type of fat is more important to consider than the amount of fat. In this case, “total fat”, “saturated fat”, and “trans fat” will still be required on the label to show consumers the type of fat they are eating.  

Fat Past, Fat Future

Fat is calorically dense. And fat provides 9 calories per gram (the most of all the other macronutrients). In the past, it was thought to cut down dietary fat for weight maintenance or weight loss. People were encouraged to decrease the amount of fat in their diets.  This resulted in food companies creating a myriad of “fat free” or “low fat” products. However, in order to replace fat and still make a product taste good, the fat was often replaced with added sugar. This lead to an increase in the amount of sugar consumed among the population. However, fat is vital in the daily diet! Fat, along with carbohydrates and protein, is one of the key macronutrients. This means that it is required in large amounts for adequate growth and development. Fat gives satiety, so it makes people feel more full. Fat can help combat overeating because of this result in satiety. Another positive attribute of fat is that its helps the digestion of fat soluble vitamins. When a food high in fat soluble vitamins is consumed, it is better to eat them with some fat so that the fat soluble vitamins are absorbed as efficiently as possible in the body.(1).  So don’t be afraid of adding dressing to your salad, the fat in the dressing can help the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins in the lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and carrots!

Bad types of fat are saturated fats and trans fats. These increase the chance of heart disease.

Good Fat vs. Bad Fat

What are the good and bad types of fat?

Good types of fat are omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fatty acids. These are known to protect the heart and sustain overall health.

  • Omega-3s. Good for the heart and brain. Omega-3s prevent irregular heartbeat, reduce atherosclerosis, and increase HDL which is the good type of fat in the blood. In fact, research shows that if the omega-3 intake is scarce, the risk of sudden cardiac death rises. Another bonus is that omega-3s also help improve cognitive function. Examples of omega-3 fatty acids are EPA, DHA, and ALA
  • Omega-6s. Also play a crucial role in heart health, brain function, growth, and development. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in most vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil. Examples are linoleic acid and arachidonic acid.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids. Reduce the bad LDL levels in the blood. Oleic acid and palmitoleic acid are types of monounsaturated fatty acids. The most prevalent example of a monounsaturated fatty food is olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is known for its high intake of monounsaturated fats.

Bad types of fat are saturated fats and trans fats. These increase the chance of heart disease.

  • Saturated fats. Foods high in saturated fats should be limited in the diet. Saturated fats raise the harmful LDL cholesterol levels to increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats originate from animal sources. They are most commonly found in meat, eggs, cheese, butter, and processed foods.
  • Trans fats. The risk of heart related problems, diabetes, stroke, and cancer increase with a high intake of trans fats. Trans fats are even worse than saturated fats because they raise harmful LDL levels and decrease the healthy HDL levels. Trans fats are most commonly found processed foods. (2).

So What Types Of Fat Should You Eat?

Eat MORE of these foods.

  • Fish. An excellent source of omega-3s including EPA and DHA
  • Nuts. A good source of alpha linoleic acid (ALA) which is converted to omega-3 fatty acids in the body.
  • Avocados. High in monounsaturated fats.
  • Olive oil. As mentioned above is high in monounsaturated fats. An easy way to decrease bad fats in the diet and increase good fats is to start cooking with olive oil instead of stick margarine or vegetable shortening.

Eat LESS of these foods.

fried foods
  • Fried foods. Doughnuts, fries, and onion rings contain a collection of trans fats.
  • Cookies. A processed food, so they may contain trans fats and/or saturated fats.
  • Whole Dairy Products. Ice-cream and cheesecakes contain saturated fat
  • Fatty Beef. Animal sources contain more saturated fat.

Take Away

The type of fat is more important than the amount of fat. It is vital to substitute or replaced hydrogenated fats such as trans and saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. This can lower the risk of developing heart disease and cancer. Even though the FDA removed “Calories from Fat” from the food label, individuals still need to remember that fat  provides 9 calories per gram, which is the highest calorie contributor of the macronutrients. "Calories from Fat" may be off the label but should remain on your mind when considering the important parts of the healthy diet.

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  1. Dailey, K. (2014, February 28). Fat in, sugar out: Label creates new food hierarchy. BBC New Magazine.
  1. Boston, 677 Huntington Avenue, and Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. “Types of Fat | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.” Accessed June 29, 2016.