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How Much Fat Should We Eat?

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Question: How Much Fat Should We Eat?
This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, as the official suggested range is rather broad: between 20 and 35 percent of calories. But the government's new dietary guidelines have some things to say about fats.
Answer:

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are less concerned with total fat intake. Instead, the guidelines' fat focus is on reducing solid fats and replacing them with heart-healthy oils.

The fundamental message of the revised dietary guidelines is to balance calories with physical activity. It also recommends eating more whole grains, fruit, and vegetables, and less added sugars, sodium and saturated fats.

Here are the specifics relating to fat:

  • Reduce saturated-fat intake to less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats and replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends we consume less than 7 percent of calories from saturated fat. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's report, published in June 2010, had suggested this lower limit, too, but this did not make it into the final guidelines.
  • Keep trans fat consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain manufactured sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats
  • We should consume less than 300mg of cholesterol a day
  • Meat and poultry selections should be lean or low fat.
  • Other suggested lean forms of protein should include seafood, poultry, eggs, beans and peas
  • Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.
  • We should replace whole milk and full-fat milk products with fat-free or low-fat choices to reduce solid fat intake.

By filling half our plates with fruits and vegetables, which the guidelines suggest, and which is visually represented in the new food-guide symbol, MyPlate, the odds are that we will keep our fat intake within healthy limits.

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