What to Ask About the Fat Content in Foods


Woman Pointing to Fat Content on FDA Food Label

Fat does not mix with water, so the foods in which it is found tend to be more energy dense. This causes the density of fat in foods from animal sources to be high. In addition to the presence of fat and the absence of water, animal fats do not contain dietary fiber. On the other hand, fats of plant origin may have dietary fiber in bulk which helps to counter the density. Also known as lipid, fat is mainly present in food in a form of triglycerides. Foods such as butter (saturated fats) and margarine (polyunsaturated fats) as well as olive oil (monounsaturated fats) may contain other fats in addition to triglycerides.

When you are very active and participate in routine physical activities, fat can be a useful source of energy. However, if you live an inactive lifestyle, too much fat can lead to weight gain and obesity. The simplest means of determining fat and cholesterol content is to read the FDA Food Nutrition Label to calculate:

How many calories come from fat? In the picture, one cookie has 80 calories and 35 of those calories come from fat. The total fat content of each cookie is 4 grams of fat or about 6% of your daily requirement. In this case, 2.5 grams come from a saturated fat source and a cookie contains 15 milligrams of cholesterol with 0 grams of dietary fiber (a fat fighter).

Is fat a major ingredient? If you look closely at the FDA Food Label, the major ingredient is sugar (6 grams) followed by a fat total of 4 grams. Since a sugar molecule is not a natural part of metabolism, few cells in the body can make use of it. For the most part, sugars get metabolized in the liver and turned into fat that is secreted into the blood. So, yes fat is a major ingredient.

Are there multiple sources of fat? Multiple sources of fat can be determined by looking at the list of ingredients. For example, if the contents include butter, hydrogenated oils, cream, etc., it is most likely a high-fat food product.

Generally speaking, you can live a very healthy life with a minimal consumption of fat by relying on other energy dense foods. Plus, the quality of the fat consumed is equally as important as the quantity that you eat. To learn more about what foods you should limit or completely avoid, contact the Metabolic Research Center.

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