- The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Nutrition Committee recommends that healthy Americans over the age of two:
- Consume 25 to 35 percent of their total daily calories from fats in foods such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- Limit the amount of saturated fats consumed to less than seven percent of total daily calories. For example, individuals that need approximately 2,000 calories per day should consume less than 140 calories (or 16 grams) from saturated fats.
- Limit the amount of trans fats consumed per day to less than one percent of total daily calories. For example, individuals that need approximately 2,000 calories per day should consume less than 20 calories (or 2 grams) from trans fats.
- Consume fats that are mainly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
- The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that the total fat intake for adults 19 years of age and older be limited to no more that 20 to 35 percent of total calories. The IOM does not indicate maximum levels for saturated fat or trans fat, but suggests that individuals consume as little of these fats as possible.
- The Guidelines recommend that Americans consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. To reduce cardiovascular disease risk further, the Guidelines suggest lowering the percentage to seven percent. Additionally, the consumption of trans fats should be should be kept as low as possible.
Nutrition Facts LabelIt is important for individuals to monitor their fat intake. The Nutrition Facts label found on foods and beverages is there to help individuals compare foods and make informed food choices. The Nutrition Facts label must display the total fat per serving as well as the amount of saturated fat and trans fat per serving. Different brands of the same food type can vary widely in their fat content. When choosing between products, the FDA recommends looking at the Nutrition Facts label and combining the saturated and trans fats and choosing the product with the lower combined total. Health experts recommend that the consumption of fats be kept as low as possible, but recognize that eliminating them completely from the diet is not practical. An important caveat to be aware of is that manufacturers are able to list trans fats that fall below .5 grams per serving as “0 grams of trans fat per serving.” Consumers can view the products ingredient list, however, to see if a product does indeed contain some trans fats. If the terms, “shortening," "partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil," or "hydrogenated vegetable oil" appear on the ingredient list, then the product does contain trans fats.
The consistent consumption of excessive fat, particularly the wrong types of fat, can lead to serious health complications. Individuals must educate themselves regarding the many foods and beverages—both expected and unexpected—that contains saturated and trans fats so that they may monitor their intake and not exceed recommendations. The key is to choose unsaturated fats and to stay within individual calorie needs.