Fat is one of the six nutrients vital to optimum health. In addition to fat, you need carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and water in your daily diet. Protein and carbohydrates each have about four calories per gram, while a gram of fat has about nine calories per gram. Calories are the measure of energy provided by food and the amount of energy your body uses. Calories that are not burned are stored in the body as fat.
Fat receives a lot of attention in the weight-loss field for a number of reasons, reports the Cleveland Clinic. The only way to successfully lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn. Because carbohydrates and proteins contain less than half the calories of fat, you can eat nearly twice as much and maintain the same calorie intake.
Fat is a necessary nutrient because it controls inflammation and supports healthy blood clotting and proper brain development. According to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, fat helps to keep the body warm and stores excess energy for when you need it. Fat supports the movement of fat-soluble vitamins through the bloodstream and plays a major role in healthy hair, nails and skin.
The average daily diet for a moderately active adult should stay close to about 2,000 calories. According to the Mayo Clinic, fat calories should make up between 20 and 35 percent of that total. The total amount of fat needed to maintain optimum health should not exceed 44 to 78 grams.
Because you can't eliminate fat from your diet, you should make the fat you eat more productive. While healthy fats still contain nine calories per gram, they also provide other benefits. Calories that come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help to lower blood cholesterol levels, provide healthy antioxidants in the body and keep arteries clear. According to the NIH, monounsaturated fats primarily are found in olive oil and canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats are found in fish, corn, safflower and soybean oils.
Saturated and trans fats also have nine calories in each gram, but carry serious side effects if eaten in excess. According to the NIH, saturated fats cause high cholesterol and are the most common cause of heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure. Saturated fats should take up no more than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake as part of the total 20 to 35 percent of fats you consume in a day. Saturated fats are found in foods such as ice cream, butter, cheese and meat. Trans fats used in the production of baked goods and solid oils should be eliminated completely.