The truth about fat

An assortment of grains, nuts, veggies, fruit and salmon

Believe it or not, fat is not the enemy of eating well. Everyone needs some fat in their diet.

The benefits of fat:

  • It makes you feel full longer.
  • It helps your body absorb certain vitamins.
  • It adds taste and texture to food.
An assortment of grains, nuts, veggies, fruit and salmon

Fat and cancer

So far, research hasn’t given us a clear answer to whether certain types of fat increase cancer risk. But eating a diet high in fat may contribute to excess weight, which increases your risk of cancer, so it’s important to limit how much fat we eat.

How much fat is healthy?

Health Canada recommends that adult Canadians get 20% to 35% of their total daily calories from fat. The number of calories you should consume depends on your age, sex and activity level.

For women, this means about 45 to 75 grams of fat, based on an average of 2,000 calories per day.

For men, this means about 60 to 105 grams of fat, based on an average of 2,500 calories per day.

The total amount of fat you eat may come from fat that occurs naturally in foods (such as meat and milk) and foods with added fat (such as oil or margarine).

What do I need to know about the different types of fat?

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are found in:

  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds
  • non-hydrogenated soft margarines
  • oils like olive oil, corn oil, canola oil and sunflower oil – and salad dressings that contain these oils

A healthy diet includes a small amount – 30 to 45 mL (2 to 3 tbsp) – of unsaturated oil and fat each day.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are found in animal sources of food such as meat, poultry, butter and cheese. They’re also found in tropical oils like coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.

Trans fats

Trans fats are found in foods that are made with or cooked in partially hydrogenated fat. Some crackers, potato chips, baked goods, deep-fried fast foods and margarines contain trans fats. It’s best to avoid these types of fats – or make them a once-in-a-while part of your diet.