nutrient glossary
Green tea leaves for NUTRILITE vitamin, mineral supplements
How Nutrients Work Vitamin K
Carbohydrates Calcium
Protein Chromium
Fats Iron
Vitamin A Magnesium
Vitamin B Selenium
Vitamin C Omega Fatty Acids
Vitamin D Phytonutrients
Vitamin E

Role of Fats in Good Nutrition

Fats are essential for good health. They aid in energy production, cell building, oxygen transport, blood clotting, and the production of extremely active hormone-like substances called prostaglandins.

Fats can be saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. Our bodies can produce both monounsaturated and saturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats, or essential fatty acids, cannot be produced in the body and must come from the diet.

Key Functions

  • Fat is mostly stored in the body's adipose (fat) cells but is also found in blood plasma and other body cells.
  • Fat insulates your body, cushions vital organs, and can be converted into energy.
  • Fat is used to build new cells and is critical for normal brain development and nerve function.
  • Fat is also needed to carry and help absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, and carotenoids.

Food Sources

Fat is twice as calorie-dense (1 gram = 9 calories) as carbohydrates or protein (1 gram = 4 calories). Although there are health benefits associated with olive and canola oils, they are still high in calories (1 tbsp = 120 calories). In addition, many processed foods and fast foods are high in fat, especially saturated fat.

  • Mono-unsaturated fats are found in olive and canola oils.
  • Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats, as well as some vegetable oils – coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found in safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils.

Usage: Upper Limits

Carbohydrates typically consist of 45 - 60% of your total caloric intake.

  • Keep total fat intake between 20 and 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats.
  • Consume less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol.
  • Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible. Any packaged goods containing "partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils," "hydrogenated vegetable oils," or "shortening" most likely contain trans fats.

Check with your local market for the recommended daily intake of fats.

Safety Evidence

All healthy people need some fats in their diet to aid in many bodily functions. The risks from fat intake come from eating too much fat on a long-term basis.

For healthy adults, 30% or less of total calories should come from foods high in fat, according to general guidelines. Of that 30%, 10% or less should come from foods high in saturated fats.