Healthy fats are an important component in any woman's diet. They help you absorb vitamins, aid in producing hormones and bolster heart and brain health, per the American Heart Association.
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Yes, chowing down on high-fat foods without being mindful of quantity can be, well, fattening. A gram of fat (of any type) contains nine 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.
Read more: Why You Need to Eat Fat to Burn Fat
Ideal Total Fat Intake for Women
The amount of total fat women need is expressed as an Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range, or AMDR, which spans from the minimum amount of fat you need to stay healthy and the maximum amount you can consume without increasing your risk of chronic disease.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, women should get between 20 and 35 percent of their total daily calories from fat.
Most women need 1,600 to 2,400 calories daily, depending on age and activity level. Based on a consumption of 2,000 calories daily, 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:
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 that 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 dietician 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 marbled red meat (beef and pork), chicken with skin, butter, cheese, ice cream and many restaurant foods.
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.
Consumption of 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 consume 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 that 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 that one portion is equal to one teaspoon for nut butters, one tablespoon for whole nuts, one-quarter of an avocado or one 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"
- U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines: "Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"
- 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"
- Wake Forest Baptist Health: Fat Calculator