Healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet. They help you absorb vitamins, aid in producing hormones and bolster heart and brain health, per the American Heart Association.
Yes, eating high-fat foods without being mindful of quantity can be, well, fattening. A gram of fat (of any type) contains 9 calories, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is more than double that in a gram of carbohydrate or protein (those have 4 calories each). The key is to incorporate the healthiest varieties of fat into your diet in the right amounts.
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A Note on Language
Here at LIVESTRONG.com, we try to use inclusive language when it comes to sex and gender. Some dietary guidelines distinguish between nutritional needs for women and men, but nutrient requirements are usually more accurate when tailored to a person's individual calorie needs, activity level and overall health.
Still, we understand many people look up this information in relation to their own sex and gender, so we have used the word "women" throughout this article.
Ideal Total Fat Intake for Adults
The ideal fat intake for any person typically has more to do with their overall calorie needs versus their sex or gender.
To find the percentage of fat individuals need daily, experts consult the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range, or AMDR, which spans from the minimum amount of fat you need to stay healthy to the maximum amount you can eat without increasing your risk for chronic disease.
And according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, all adults should get between 20 and 35 percent of their total daily calories from fat.
Most women (and anyone, really) will need about 1,600 to 2,400 calories daily, depending on their age, activity level and body size. Based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet, the AMDR translates to 400 to 700 calories from fat a day, which works out to 44 grams to 78 grams.
Here's a look at the ADMR for a range of calorie levels. (Keep in mind this is true for any gender eating this number of calories.)
Recommended Fat Grams per Day for Women
Total Daily Calories
Total Daily Fat Grams
36 - 62
40 - 70
44 - 78
49 - 86
53 - 93
Limit Saturated Fats
Keep in mind the type of fat you're eating makes a difference.
"High saturated fat intake is linked to increases in LDL or bad cholesterol over time, which can lead to plaque buildup in our arteries and, in turn, heart disease," explains Mariska Gordon, RD, a dietitian at Copeman Healthcare in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
For this reason, you should watch your saturated fat intake. The most common sources of saturated fat in the American diet are beef, pork, chicken with skin, butter, cheese and ice cream.
The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 6 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. On a 2,000-calorie daily diet, no more than 120 calories (about 13 grams) should come from saturated fat.
Here's what that looks like for other common daily calorie levels:
Recommended Saturated Fat Grams per Day
Total Daily Saturated Fat Grams
Load Up on MUFAs and PUFAs
Most of your daily fats should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) include the essential omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent inflammation and reduce blood levels of triglycerides and "bad" cholesterol. They can be found in fatty fish, walnuts, corn oil, sunflower seeds and safflower oil.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) do the same — while also boosting good cholesterol. Good sources of MUFAs include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil and avocados.
The Institute of Medicine hasn't established recommendations specifically for MUFAs or PUFAs, but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) suggests PUFAs account for 3 to 10 percent of daily fat calories, while 15 to 20 percent of fat calories should come from MUFAs.
Here's what AND's recommendations look like for common calorie counts:
Recommended Daily Grams of MUFAs and PUFAs
Total Daily Calories
Total Daily Grams of MUFAs
Total Daily Grams of PUFAs
27 - 36
5 - 18
30 - 40
6 - 20
33 - 44
7 - 22
37 - 49
7 - 24
40 - 53
8 - 27
As you replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats, you may gain more than cardiovascular benefits.
Eating primarily unsaturated fats may help you maintain a healthy weight. After you eat, your metabolism increases as it digests food. This food-induced thermogenesis goes up more after you eat unsaturated fats than saturated fats, according to a report in the April 2014 issue of the European Journal of Nutrition. More specifically, in the study, MUFAs boosted thermogenesis even more than PUFAs.
If tracking grams seems daunting, the main point to remember is the majority of your overall fat intake should come from MUFAs and PUFAs.
Cindy Klinger, RDN, LDN, an integrative dietitian at Cambiati Wellness in Lafayette, California, says simplifying things is the way to go. "We don't do calorie or gram counting," she says of her practice. "Instead, we focus on portions and typically recommend one or two portions of fat per meal."
Keep in mind one portion is equal to 1 teaspoon for nut butters, 1 tablespoon for whole nuts, 1/4 of an avocado or 1 teaspoon of oil.
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary Fatty Acids for Healthy Adults"
- European Journal of Nutrition: "Effect of Dietary Fatty Acid Composition on Substrate Utilization and Body Weight Maintenance in Humans"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "How many calories are in one gram of fat, carbohydrate, or protein?"
- American Heart Association: "Dietary Fats"
- Clinical and Experimental Hypertension: "Acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges and hypertension"
- 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines: "Daily Nutritional Goals, Ages 2 and older"
- Wake Forest Baptist Health: Fat Calculator