You may feel as though those greasy fries go straight to your hips, but fat from foods doesn't directly cause the jiggle. A calorie is a calorie, no matter where it comes from. In fact, you could eat nothing but butter and not gain a pound, as long as you don't take in too many calories. The reason fat is dangerous for your physique is that it contains more than twice the number of calories as protein and carbohydrates. Therefore, high-fat foods can bust your diet if you eat too much of them.
Fat and Weight
At 9 calories per gram, fat tops the energy charts compared to other macronutrients. Protein and carbohydrates each carry 4 calories per gram, and alcohol provides 7. For every 3,500 calories you eat and don't burn off, you gain a pound of body fat. These calories might come from any food source and still make you gain. However, you can eat the same volume of proteins and carbohydrates and get fewer calories than you would from fat.
Types of Fat
Not all fats are created equal. The main types are saturated fats, trans fats, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. They all have the same calorie count, but they affect your body in very different ways. Saturated fats, found mainly in animal products such as cheese and meat, are usually solid at room temperature and are linked to high "bad" LDL cholesterol levels and low "good" HDL cholesterol levels, increasing heart disease risk. Trans fats, found in animal products as well as hydrogenated oils, also lead to dangerous cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, encourage healthy cholesterol levels and may reduce diabetes risk.
Don't shy away from all fatty foods for fear of gaining weight. Your body needs fat to function, and some high-fat foods are incredibly healthy. Plus, eating them satisfies your tummy, making you less likely to snack later on -- which could lead to lower daily calorie consumption, combatting weight gain. Munch on ultra-healthy avocados, nuts and seeds, all of which contain fiber in addition to other vitamins and minerals.
To avoid calorie overload and ensure a balanced diet, get 20 to 35 percent of your total calories from fats. Less than 10 percent of these should be saturated fats. Avoid trans fats altogether -- they're the worst health offenders of the bunch. For optimal heart health, include some omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found in certain fish, seed and nut varieties.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.