On average westerns consume 35-40 % of total calories from fat. Though fat is not the enemy, Westerners still need to monitor their consumption.
There are animal-based fats and plant-based fats. Saturated fats and trans fats are mostly found in processed foods and animal foods (meat, cheese, dairy, cream, butter and some plants like palm or coconut). They tend to increase blood cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are mostly found in plant foods (nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil) and fish (omega-3). They can reduce the risk of heart disease and help lowering blood cholesterol levels.
What Are The Best Guidelines to Follow?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans we should consume between 20 % to 35 % of calories from fat (less than 10 % for saturated fats and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol). According to the American Heart Association we should keep our fat intake between 25 % – 35 % of total calories each day (less than 7 % for saturated fats, less than 1% for trans-fats and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol).
As you can see the dietary recommendations above suggest we should decrease our fat intake below 30%. Is this the right level? To me this may lead to confusion for most people.
Why is Everyone Concerned About Fat Intake?
Studies have shown that there is a correlation between fat consumption and cancer . Since these, most experts have associated a high fat diet with a high risk of cancer.
In the study linked above, this is not the primarily conclusion….the study above showed that cancer was associated with animal fat and not plant fat. This indicates that fat intake increases in parallel with animal protein intake…making dietary fat an indicator of how much animal based food we eat in the diet. It’s more correct to indicate that a higher consumption of animal based food is correlated to a higher risk of cancer.
To me the conclusion is simple, you won’t reduce the risk of cancer by eating “low fat” or “fat free” animal foods, you should limit the consumption of animal based foods instead.
The Mediterranean Diet is Rich in Fat…So What’s the Secret?
Consider this….the Mediterranean diet is a diet rich in fats (studies estimate that the percentage of calories from fat are between 35 % – 40 % ….much higher than the guidelines above). The primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet is Olive Oil. So….why people following the Mediterranean diet typically have a lower incidence of heart disease and cancer?
This is due to the high consumption of olive oil which is considered a healthy plant-based fat. The Mediterraneans have taught us that if we consume the right types of fats, we will be healthier in general.
What Should I Do Now?
I personally recommend you don’t stress about looking at fat percentages….you should not be obsessed by fats….consider how healthy your fat intake is instead. Make your diet mostly plant based and use balance and moderation. If you already have our free diet menu you should be already on the right track :-)