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  • Fats are an essential nutrient and your body needs fat to work properly. But, too much saturated fat or trans fat can increase your blood cholesterol level and your risk of heart disease.

    Listed below are the types of fat found in food.

    • Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream and fatty meats. They are also found in some vegetable products (coconut, palm and palm kernel oil). Saturated fats and trans fats raise blood cholesterol more than anything else in your diet.
    • Trans fats result from a chemical process known as hydrogenation. Trans fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels and add to heart disease. Shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil are examples of trans fats. Trans fats are often used in cooking in many restaurant and fast food chains.

      (Note: Trans fats also occur naturally in some foods such as meat and milk but are not thought to be as harmful as those formed with hydrogenation.

      Read ingredient labels and buy items that have a recommended fat, such as canola or olive oil. Avoid foods that have hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated oil or shortening. Choose foods that have as close to 0 grams trans fat as possible.
    • Monounsaturated fats include olive, peanut and canola oils. Avocados and most nuts are also high in monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats, in the right amounts, may lower total cholesterol and LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the "bad cholesterol."
    • Polyunsaturated fats include corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, olive and sesame seed oils. Polyunsaturated fats can help lower blood cholesterol, if you use them in place of saturated fats.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. They include ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, soybean, soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, etc.). Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help lower triglyceride levels. If your triglyceride levels are high, talk to your primary care provider.

    How much fat and saturated fat should you eat?

    The chart below shows the recommended amount of total fat and saturated fat at various calorie levels.

    Daily calories Total fat grams* Saturated fat grams**
    1,200 33 to 47 6.5 to 8
    1,300 36 to 51 7 to 8.5
    1,400 39 to 54 8 to 9
    1,500 42 to 58 8.5 to 10
    1,600 44 to 62 9 to 10.5
    1,700 47 to 66 9.5 to 11
    1,800 50 to 70 10 to 12
    1,900 53 to 74 10.5 to 12.5
    2,000 56 to 78 11 to 13
    2,100 58 to 82 11.5 to 14
    2,200 61 to 86 12 to 14.5
    2,300 64 to 89 13 to 15
    2,400 67 to 93 13.5 to 16
    2,500 69 to 97 14 to 16.5

    * 25 to 35 percent of total calories

    ** 5 to 6 percent of total calories

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  • Tip

    If you have heart disease or several risk factors for heart disease, you need to reduce your saturated fat to five to six percent of your total calories.


    Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (butter or stick margarine). Trans fats make these solid.

    Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (oils).

    Whenever possible, replace saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.


    Because butter is rich in both saturated fat and cholesterol, it could raise your cholesterol levels. Most margarine is made from vegetable fat and provides no dietary cholesterol. Select margarines that do not contain trans fats.

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