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What is the function of fats in my diet?

Although almost every cell in the body contains some fat in the form of cell membranes, fat is not an essential nutrient. That’s because the body is able to make the fat it needs -- and then some! The fats we consume in food are used primarily as an energy source. Each gram of fat has 9 calories -- nearly double that of carbohydrates and protein. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, recommends that 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories come from fats, which equates to between 44 and 78 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet.
Everyone needs some fat in their diet to make sure their bodies function properly. Fat is used to rebuild the membranes that protect the cells in your body and to help the cells in your body send signals. Fats are also stored and used as energy reserves.

However, too much saturated fat and trans fats can clog up blood vessels and increase your chance of developing heart disease and stroke. Many Americans eat too much fat. You are better off trying to limit the amount of fat you eat, especially unhealthy fats.

Keep in mind that your body also makes its own cholesterol, which is separate from the cholesterol that you eat in food. Your body’s cholesterol is used to make and repair cell membranes and to make many of the essential steroid hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. You’ll need to limit the amount of dietary cholesterol and harmful fats you take in from foods in order to keep your cholesterol in check.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.