Are you tracking your macros? Or on a diet? Or just curious how much fat you’re eating in a day? You’ll need to know how many calories are in a gram of fat! This quick guide breaks down everything you know about calculating your fat intake.
Today I’m putting on my nutritionist hat to talk all things fat! There is a growing trend to measure macros (short for macronutrients) instead of calories. Macros simply refers to the grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat one consumes.
The advantage to this technique is that it is not only an effective means of tracking energy consumption but also a way of ensuring you balance your daily intake of each of these three macros (protein, carbs, and fats) to ensure a proper balance.
many calories are in a gram?
So how many calories are in a gram of each macronutrient?
- 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories
- 1 gram of protein provides 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories
Is Fat healthy?
Let’s start by opening up a whole can of worms (which are surprisingly low-fat by the way). The conventional wisdom on whether or not fat is healthy has changed over the years and has been sadly affected by the agendas of various food industry groups. Sound advice, however, is provided by Harvard Health’s recommendations:
- Avoid trans fat
- Limit saturated fats
- Focus on eating healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
Fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet, and has many functions in your body. Fat is needed to build cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. It is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and preventing inflammation. Fats are also used as an energy source, protect your organs, support cell growth, keep blood pressure under control, and help your body absorb vital nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. That is some serious heavy lifting for a macronutrient that had a bad rap for so long!
Will Eating Fat make me Fat?
No, eating fat will not directly translate to fat on your body. Fat grams do have more calories than either protein or carb grams (9 calories per gram of fat vs. 4 calories per gram of protein or carbs), but there is a lot of evidence that consuming fat makes you feel more satiated (fat satisfies your hunger) and can thus trigger you to eat less.
What are the bad fats?
There are two fats to look out for and minimize in your diet as much as possible: trans fats and saturated fats.
The worst type of dietary fat is the kind known as trans fat. It is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn healthy liquid fats into solids and to prevent them from becoming rancid. Basically, it was long used in making many processed foods. Trans fats have no known health benefits and there is no safe level of consumption.
Unlike trans fats, saturated fats are naturally occurring. A saturated fat molecule is “saturated” with many hydrogen atoms. Okay, that wasn’t really very helpful, so we’ll get away from the technical stuff. Saturated fat is primarily found in animal products like beef, pork, butter, whole milk, cream, and cheese. High amounts of saturated fat are often found in processed and “fast” foods like pizza, hamburgers, cookies, chips, etc. A diet heavy in saturated fats can drive up your LDL cholesterol and prompt blockages to form in arteries. For this reason many nutrition experts recommend limiting saturated fat to under 10% of daily calories.
How much fat do you need?
The Cleveland Clinic recommends fat intake of 20-35% of daily calories.
- If you need 1500 calories then eat 33-58 grams of fat per day
- If you need 2000 calories then eat 44-78 grams of fat per day
- If you need 2500 calories then eat 56-97 grams of fat per day
What do “Fat Free” and “Low Fat” really mean?
Did you know that labels on food packages that have claims about fat content are actually regulated? Here’s what they mean!
- Fat-Free = less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving
- Low-Fat = 3 grams or less of fat per serving
- Reduced-Fat = 25% less fat than regular versions
- Low Saturated Fat = less than 1 gram of fat per serving and have no more than 15% of total calories derived from saturated fat.
Deceptive marketing is still possible with fat content. Take, for example, beef hamburger sold as 85% fat-free. With 15.5 grams of fat per serving fat makes up 62% of the calories in a 226 calorie serving. That certainly doesn’t sound like 85% fat-free. The 85% fat-free claim simply means that fat constitutes only 15% of the serving by weight. Since water makes up much of the weight in many foods this type of marketing can be deceptive in understanding total fat as a proportion of macronutrients.