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Getting the Skinny on Fat: Which Kinds to Enjoy and What to Avoid

You are unique and so is your body! Before starting any new health routine, always be sure to talk with your doctor to make sure it is right for your needs. 


Years ago, fat was considered to be unhealthy and we were encouraged to eat as little of it as possible (remember the “low fat” craze?). But in recent years, doctors, dietitians and many others have looked into the science and are setting the record straight about fat. As it turns out, while some fat truly should be avoided, not all fat is bad. In fact, fat is an essential contributor to healthy body function. The key is to eat the right kinds of fat in moderation. 

The Right vs Wrong Kinds of Fat

Ensuring that you get enough of the right kinds of fat into your diet plays an important role in hormone regulation, immune health, brain function and more. So which kinds should you include and which ones should you avoid? 

The Good Stuff: Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated Fats 

Found in foods like olives, nuts and avocados, monounsaturated fats (sometimes referred to as MUFAs) can help lower your LDL, maintain your cells, decrease inflammation, increase energy and lower your risk of heart disease. Studies have also shown that a diet that includes appropriate amounts of MUFAs can help with weight loss. 

Polyunsaturated fats (sometimes called PUFAs) include omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which have long been linked with heart health. Found in walnuts, flax seeds and salmon, PUFAs are also known to lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and more. 

The Bad Stuff: Saturated Fats and Trans Fats

Saturated fats are found in some comfort food favorites, including butter, coconut oil, biscuits, pastries, ice cream and more

Trans fats can be both naturally occurring and artificially produced. But regardless of which type you are eating, this is the worst fat for your health of all the fats. These fats are made when liquid oils are converted to solid oils and are sometimes called partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). Trans fats are in anything fried or battered, foods made with shortening and stick margarine, commercially baked cakes, pies, and cookies and more. 

The big risk of eating too much saturated fat is that it can cause an increase in LDL cholesterol in your blood which can lead to plaque build up and put you at risk for stroke or heart attack. Trans fats have a similar effect on LDL levels while also decreasing HDL levels, further putting you at risk for a cardiac event.

How Much Fat Should You Eat

According to the FDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, individuals 2 years of age and older should aim for saturated fat intake to make up less than 10% of their daily calories, by replacing these fats with MUFAs and PUFAs. They also encourage you to consume as little trans fat as possible. Overall, your total fat should make up 20-35% of daily calories. 

So according to the Mayo Clinic, if you are following a 2000-calorie diet, your target range for total fat consumption should be between 44-78 grams per day, with saturated fat being no more than 22 grams.

If you are looking to fine tune your diet to ensure you are eating the best kinds of fats in the right amounts, we encourage you to talk with your doctor. Everyone is unique and has different health circumstances, so it is important to work with your healthcare team to come up with the right approach for you.

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