While being the simplest macronutrient in terms of structure, fats are complex when it comes to their effects on body metabolism and weight.
Where low fat percentage is associated with malabsorption syndromes, high amounts of fat in the body is the root cause of obesity and a whole other set of health complications. Therefore, ensuring an ideal fat intake in your daily diet is crucial.
In this article, we discuss the fat intake calculator and how it works. We also explain the importance of fat as a macronutrient, as well as how to estimate how much fat you need in your daily caloric intake to achieve your weight loss goals.
What Is Fat?
Fats or lipids are organic compounds made of small units called fatty acids.
A large portion of natural fats is present in oils:
- Canola oil
- Coconut oil
- Corn oil
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Soy oil
- Palm oil
- Peanut oil
- Salad oil
Apart from that seafood, fish oil, meat, nuts, butter, margarine, egg yolk, whole milk, etc., are also rich in fat.
Here’s the grams of fat per 100 gm of all these foods:
- Nuts (pistachio) – 45 gm
- Meat – 3.5 gm
- Oil – 100 gm
- Fatty fish (salmon) – 12 gm
- Butter and margarine – 81 gm
Most of the body fat comes from excess protein and carbs. This process, called lipogenesis, is carried out in the liver, where extra protein and carbohydrates not immediately required for energy are converted and stored as fats.
However, certain types of fats, crucial for vital functions, are not formed in the human body and, therefore, need to be taken in foods. These are termed “essential fats.”
There are two main types of essential fats:
- Omega-3 Fats: Found in seafood, nuts, seeds, and plant oils (like canola oil), omega-3 fatty acids are an integral element of body functions. They form cell membranes and initiate hormone formation, which is required to regulate physiological processes.
- Omega-6 Fats: These are a type of polyunsaturated fats found in some plant oils and seeds. They stimulate skin and hair growth and maintain the reproductive system. Research also found Omega-6 deficiency to be associated with severe osteoporosis (weak bones).
Non-Essential Fats (Unhealthy Fats)
Non-essential fat is what you don’t need to function. This is excess fat stored in the body as energy reserves to be used in fasting /starvation states. While this fat insulates the body in low temperatures, it also contributes to unhealthy weight gain, which leads to metabolic disorders, heart disease, and several other health complications.
Non-essential fats are concentrated in meat, dairy, nuts, and seeds, as well as fruits like avocados and olives.
Since most sources of essential and non-essential fatty acids are common, it is better to plan a balanced diet that includes both types of fats in moderation.
Types Of Fats In Foods
Apart from the essential and non-essential classification of fatty acids, fats are further divided into saturated and unsaturated on the basis of chemical structure.
Saturated fat is found in nuts, oils like sunflower and corn oil, seeds, poultry, red meat, and dairy products. They are considered harmful fats that raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the body.
High LDL due to saturated fatty acids is associated with cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, which is why restricting saturated fat intake to 30g a day for men, and 20 g a day for women is recommended.
Unsaturated fats are primarily found in avocados, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, etc.), vegetable oils, pumpkins, and sesame seeds.
They are considered healthy fats and are proven to improve blood cholesterol levels, inflammation, and arrhythmia (unstable heart rhythms).
Ideally, in a healthy diet, 20% to 35% of your total daily caloric intake should be fats. Of this, unsaturated fat intake should be at least 50% to 65%.
Importance Of Dietary Fats
Fats are an essential nutrient vital to several body functions:
Dietary fat is transported to the intestine, where it is broken down into fatty acids and glycerol. These are further metabolized to produce energy.
Fats are the slowest energy source because fat metabolism is longer than that of proteins and carbohydrates.
However, they are also one of the most efficient energy sources. A gram of fat generates nine calories, which is more than twice the number of calories produced from equivalent amounts of protein and carbs. This is why fat serves as an energy reserve during calorie deficit.
Absorption Of Vitamins
Dietary fat is essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, i.e., vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Vitamin A (retinoic acid) aids in vision, growth, fertility, and the immune system
- Vitamin D absorbs calcium which you need for strong bones
- Vitamin E prevents free radical damage and thus protects skin health
- Vitamin K synthesizes proteins that we need for coagulation (blood clotting at the site of injury)
Low fat intake leads to malabsorptive disorders, which can cause severe health complications like weak eyesight, bleeding disorders, osteoporosis, skin diseases, etc.
Unsaturated fats are essential to immunity. According to research, T helper cells are enhanced upon fat intake, which helps prevent /restrict diseases.
Some evidence also suggests the beneficial role of saturated fats in regulating cellular immune responses.
Fats are metabolized into fatty acids, which then produce energy. Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fat intake are especially crucial for proper brain development.
In adequate amounts, these essential fatty acids can prevent cognitive disorders. For this reason, fat-rich food like fish oils is often used as brain supplements to improve brain fog and enhance memory.
Fats are components of reproductive and sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. This is why the low fat intake is associated with reduced libido in men and women.
Fats are also important to reproduction. In women especially, fats form prostaglandins, which are integral to menstruation, and ovulation cycles. These chemicals also induce labor.
Factors Affecting Fat Intake
Several factors determine how much fat you should include in your daily diet:
Your body composition and shape change with age. Loss in lean muscle mass and increase in fat percentage is one of the major signs of aging.
This is primarily attributed to a reduction in metabolic rate. From the time you hit 20, your metabolism slows down by 2 to 3% every ten years. Between ages 40 to 60, the reduction becomes more significant and rapid, which is why high fat intake at this age can lead to obesity.
On the other hand, in the case of children and young adults, the fat intake requirement is the highest as they have developing brains.
Here’s the recommended daily fat intake for different age groups:
- 2 to 3 years of age – 20% to 40% of total calories
- 4 to 18 years of age – 25% to 35% of total calories
- 19+ years of age – 20% to 35% of total calories
Metabolism, as well as body composition, vary based on gender.
Men have more lean muscle mass and burn body fat at a fast rate. In contrast, women tend to have a high body fat percentage and a slower metabolic rate for macronutrients than men. Both of these factors contribute to unhealthy weight gain.
Therefore, the recommended fat intake is often higher for men.
Current Weight and Height
Your current weight and height are also crucial in determining your ideal dietary cholesterol intake.
There’s a healthy weight (associated with lowest risk of heart disease and other health complications) relative to height, age, and sex. This ideal weight is determined by a series of different calculations and formulas, of which body mass index charts are the most reliable criteria.
Your weight needs to always be in a healthy body mass index BMI range, i.e., between 18.5 to 25. Based on your current weight and the corresponding BMI category (underweight, normal, overweight, or obese), the fat intake calculator decides the adequate fat intake for you.
Physical activity has a huge influence on your total daily energy expenditure TDEE. TDEE is the total number of calories your body burns in a day.
The more you engage in physical exercises, the more will be your energy consumption, which allows you to include more fat in your diet.
There are six levels of physical activity:
- Sedentary: Little to no exercise
- Light: Exercise 1 to 3 times a week
- Moderate: Exercise 4 to 5 times a week
- Active: Daily exercise or intense exercise 3 to 4 times a week
- Very Intense: Daily intense exercise
- Extra Active: Very intense exercise daily or a physical job
In the above classification:
- Exercise – 15 to 30 minutes of increased heart rate
- Intense exercise – 45 to 120 minutes of high heart rate
- Very intense exercise – 2+ hours of increased heart rate
Calculating Daily Fat Intake
Your daily fat intake depends on your daily calorie requirement. Therefore, a fat intake calculator first counts how many calories you need in a day.
Your required daily calorie intake is obtained by multiplying your basal metabolic rate with an activity factor.
Daily Calorie Intake = Basal Metabolic Rate BMR x Activity Factor
Basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is the minimum number of calories you need for survival. An activity factor is a constant number, ranging between 1.2 to 1.95, that is specific to each level of physical activity.
A calorie calculator can be used to estimate your total daily calorie requirement.
Once you put in your age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level on the fat intake calculator, it generates healthy content for you.
Generally, the daily calories recommended for healthy adult men and women are 2500 and 2000, respectively.
Since 20% to 35% of fat content in a daily diet is ideal, you can roughly have 300 to 400 calories of fats (33 to 44 gm) in a day. However, this varies based on other variables of metabolic rate (height, weight, age, gender, physical activity level), which is why the exact result that daily fat intake calculator estimates varies for different individuals.