Are you a bit puzzled about how much fat and cholesterol to eat for good health?
How much fat and cholesterol are right for you?
You need to eat some fat for good health. The key is to eat enough—but not too much—and to choose the right types of fat.
Eating too much saturated fat and trans fat contributes to high blood cholesterol more than eating too much cholesterol. However, it’s still important to keep the amount of cholesterol you eat within certain limits.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer the following advice about how much fat and cholesterol to eat each day:
- Total fat: 20 to 35% of calories
- Saturated fat: Less than 10% of calories
- Trans fat: Keep intake as low as possible
- Cholesterol: limit daily intake
Check the chart below to see how much total fat and saturated fat to include in your eating plan based on your estimated daily calorie needs. The above advice about trans fat and saturated fat applies no matter how many calories you eat.
How Much Total Fat and Saturated Fat are Right for You?
||Grams of Total Fat
|Grams of Saturated Fat
||Which is About
||Very Young Children, Some Sedentary Women
||Boys 4-13 yrs, Girls 9-18 yrs, Moderately Active Women
||Some Active Women, Some Sedentary Men
Managing Fat and Cholesterol: Healthy Eating Tips
Read the Nutrition Facts panel. The Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods shows how much total fat, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol are in a serving of food to help you monitor how much you eat. Learn more about reading the Nutrition Facts Panel.
Look for shorthand. Some food packages include “shorthand” messages such as “fat free” or “low in saturated fat” to help you meet your nutrition goals. See chart below for what different messages mean on food labels:
Learn About Label Terms for Fat and Cholesterol
||Less than 0.5 grams fat per serving
||3 grams or less fat per serving
||At least 25% less fat per serving when compared to a similar food
|Saturated Fat Free
||Less than 0.5 grams saturated fat and less than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving
|Low Saturated Fat
||1 gram or less per serving and 15% or less of calories from saturated fat
|Reduced/Less Saturated Fat
||At least 25% less saturated fat per serving compared to a similar food
||Less than 2 milligrams cholesterol and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving
||20 milligrams or less cholesterol and 2 grams or less saturated fat per serving
||Modified amounts of calories and/or fat (or sometimes sodium) per serving. Check the label for specific information.
Balance total fat and saturated fat over time.
In a day, you’ll likely eat some foods that are lower in fat or saturated fat, some higher. What’s important is that the combination of foods you eat over several days averages out to meet these recommendations.
- Example: To enjoy a sandwich with a higher-fat lunch meat like pastrami, use a slice of 2% milk reduced fat cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and light mayonnaise to help balance the fat in the lunch meat.
Try lower-fat or fat-free foods. Supermarkets today are stocked with reduced-fat and fat-free foods such as salad dressings, sour cream, cream cheese and yogurt. These choices can help you reduce fat, yet they still taste great.
Cook smart. Bake, broil, grill or roast foods instead of frying.
Zero in on trans fat. Read the Nutrition Facts panel to find products with 0 grams of trans fat per serving. Learn more about trans fat.
Replace saturated fats with unsaturated oils. Choose plant-derived or liquid (unsaturated) oils in place of animal or solid (saturated) fats. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, can reduce total and LDL-cholesterol, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Checking in on Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance used by the body to make cells, vitamins and hormones. Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need for these purposes. We also get cholesterol from eating animal foods such as meat, poultry, fish and milk products. While there is no longer a dietary cholesterol consumption recommendation, it is important to limit cholesterol intake as most foods that are higher in cholesterol are also higher in saturated fats.
Recommendations for cholesterol previously focused on target levels for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. However, the American Heart Association currently recommends taking into consideration overall risk assessment rather than focusing on numbers alone. The AHA recommends adults 20 years and older should have their cholesterol and traditional risk factors checked by their healthcare providers every four to six years.
For more information on cholesterol levels, visit the American Heart Association’s website here.
Some steps to keep blood cholesterol at healthy levels are to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and not too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol; maintain a healthy body weight; be physically active, and avoid smoking.