Fat often has a poor reputation, but it isn’t all bad. Some types of fat safeguard your heart by evening out your cholesterol levels. Your body even uses fat to regulate your core body temperature, produce hormones and aid in the production of enzymes used during digestion. Be aware, not all fats are created equal. Because different types of fat have positive or negative effects on your body, you should keep track of which types you consume, as well as how many grams you consume daily.
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Total Fat Recommendation
Fat should account for 20 to 35 percent of your total calories, as pointed out in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. So the exact requirement for you ultimately depends on the average number of calories in your diet. For example, if you adhere to a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, you can have 400 to 700 calories from fat every day. All fat has 9 calories per gram, meaning if you divide those calories by 9, you’ll get your recommendation of 44 to 78 grams of fat per day for a 2,000-calorie diet.
Getting the Good Fats
The total fat gram recommendation includes all fats in your diet, whether they are beneficial or not. Ideally, all of the fat you consume should come from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated sources, known as PUFAs and MUFAs. These fats -- which come from cold-water fish, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and avocados -- can help lower your overall cholesterol level, and thus protect your heart, when you consume them in place of saturated and trans fats.
You probably won’t be able to avoid saturated fats altogether, although you do have to minimize them in your diet. This harmful fat can contribute to hardening of your arteries, as well as a high total cholesterol level. Over time, a diet rich in saturated fats can elevate your risk of heart disease and stroke. No more than 10 percent of your total calories should come from saturated fat -- no more than 7 percent if you’re already at risk for developing heart disease. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this amounts to a maximum of 22 grams of saturated fat if you’re healthy, or just 15.5 grams if you’re worried about your heart. These fat grams take up some of your total fat gram allowance for the day.
Artificial trans fats are particularly dangerous because they can elevate your low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, levels. While saturated fat can do this too, the major concern with artificial trans fats is that they can also lower your high-density lipoprotein, or HDL. To put it into perspective, this dangerous fat raises your bad cholesterol while lowering your good cholesterol, throwing the entire ratio out of balance. Your risk of developing cardiovascular problems goes up immensely if you overindulge in processed foods that are loaded with trans fats. The American Heart Association says that you should limit trans fats to less than 1 percent of your caloric intake. That would be a maximum of 2.2 grams of trans fat for a 2,000-calorie diet. As with saturated fats, if you do have trans fats, they’ll take away from your total fat gram daily requirement.