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Getting Fat from Eating Fat

The consequence from eating excessive fat is one that most of us know all too well: weight gain. Gram for gram, fat delivers more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein. In other words, high-fat foods (such as chips, cakes, and whole milk dairy products) are more calorically dense than low-fat foods (grains, fruits, and veggies). And boy, those fat calories can add up quickly. A measly chocolate bar contains 240 calories; by contrast, so does an entire plateful of low-fat foods such as an apple, a banana, and a handful of pretzels. There is no comparison; you get a lot more quantity for the same amount of calories when you go low-fat. Sure, the candy bar might sound more appealing, but consider the other fats you may have consumed that same day: salad dressings, fried foods, whole milk dairy, and fatty meats. That's a lot of fat, which means a tremendous amount of calories.


Even though excess calories from carbohydrates and protein can put on pounds, it's a lot easier to get fat from eating a lot of fat. One gram of fat supplies more than twice the number of calories your body gets from carbohydrates and protein:
1 gram carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram protein = 4 calories
1 gram fat = 9 calories

Don't get me wrong: no one should deprive himself of the things he loves. However, as with money, you must budget your fat so you don't go overboard by the end of the day. In this case, consistently going over budget won't leave you broke; it will leave you fat.

Filling up on fatty foods might also crowd out the healthy stuff that keeps us fit. Great—chubby and malnourished! Believe me, I sympathize. It's tough limiting all those delicious donuts, cakes, and gooey, chocolate treats. I'm certainly not one of those “genetic lean machines” who can eat whatever he wants and not gain an ounce. (I hate every one of them.) For most people, maintaining an ideal weight means watching total fat intake.

How Much Fat and Cholesterol Should We Eat?

The American Heart Association recommends the following:

  • No more than 30 percent of the day's total calories should come from fat.
  • For healthy people, saturated fat plus trans fat should not exceed 10 percent of total calories. If you have coronary heart disease, diabetes, or high LDL cholesterol, keep that number to less than 7 percent.
  • Healthy people should limit their total daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams. For people with cardiovascular disease, keep it to less than 200 milligrams.
A Guide to Recommended Daily Fat Intake for Healthy People
Total Fat
Fat Grams

1,200 <360 <40 <13
1,500 <450 <50 <17
1,800 <540 <60 <20
2,000 <600 <67 <22
2,500 <750 <83 <24
2,800 <840 <93 <28
3,000 <900 <100 <33

**Based on 30 percent of total calories coming from fat and 10 percent of total calories coming from saturated fat.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Total Nutrition © 2005 by Joy Bauer. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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