What Percentage of Fat Is Considered Low Fat?

Limit your intake of saturated fat, which is found in animal products.
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Fat is an essential macronutrient but is very dense in calories. Low-fat diets and products are marketed as ways to help you maintain your weight and health. Too much fat, especially the wrong kinds, can contribute to weight gain and heart disease. Too little fat, however, can leave you feeling ravenous and deprive you of proper nutrition. Low-fat diets contain anywhere from zero to 30 percent fat. Instead of focusing only on percentages, focus on the types of fat you choose for optimal health.

Fat Signficance

Fat contains 9 calories per gram, compared to the 4 calories found in a gram of protein or carbohydrates. Limiting fat can thus reduce your overall calorie intake, leading to weight loss. A healthy low-fat diet contains enough fat to provide energy for your body, help you absorb certain vitamins and make you feel full. When you eat less than 20 percent fat, you run the risk of feeling overly hungry, warns registered dietitian Joanne Larsen. You need some fat in your diet so you can lay down padding for internal organs and maintain proper hormone production.


The Institute of Medicine recommends you consume between 20 and 35 percent of your daily calories from fats. Consuming less than 20 percent of calories from fat is considered a very low-fat diet, while limiting yourself to 20 to 30 percent of calories from fat is considered a low-fat diet. A typical 2,000-calorie diet that is low in fat contains between 44 and 66 grams of fat.

Low-Fat Foods

Foods labeled “low fat” contain 3 grams or less of fat per serving. A “fat-free” product contains less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving. Reduced-fat products contain 25 percent less fat than their full-fat counterparts. Just because a food is labeled low-fat does not make it healthy. Manufacturers often replace the missing fat with extra refined carbohydrates, sugar or sodium. You can end up consuming nearly the same number of calories in a low-fat and traditional cookie, but might overeat the low-fat versions because you perceive them to be healthier. Foods labeled “low-fat” can help you maintain a healthy diet as long as you eat them in moderation.

Fat Types

Instead of focusing only on the total percentage of fat in your diet, look at the types of fats you consume. Too much saturated or trans fats can cause health problems, including heart disease and high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you consume no more than 7 percent of your total daily calories in the form of saturated fats, found in full-fat dairy, poultry and meat. You should limit your intake of trans fats -- a man-made fat found in some commercially fried foods and processed snacks -- to less than 1 percent of your daily calories. Unsaturated fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, should make up most of the fat in your diet. This type of fat may actually protect you against heart disease and support brain health.

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