It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Ask Dr. Gourmet

How many grams of fat should a woman eat per day?

I have just started a diet and exercise program, and I'm finding I have a lot to learn. I have been reading your food reports and I have a question. Just how many fat grams should a woman consume in a day?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

A smiling woman using dumbbells while participating in an exercise class

The amount of fat that you should be consuming each day is a controversial topic. There are some diet plans that call for more fat and others less. This is, however, generally a small difference, with studies ranging from around 30% of calories from fat to 40%.

There is less difference found in research in the health results from the amount of fat as there is in the type of fat. The key is to work toward eating more of your fats as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. These are fats that are known to be protective.

I've written some columns to help you understand the different types of fats:

Fats (Dr. Tim Says... 10/27/08)
Saturated Fats (Dr. Tim Says.... 11/03/08)
Unsaturated Fats (Dr. Tim Says.... 11/10/08)

Looking at the research on a Mediterranean style diet, total fat consumed falls somewhere in the 30% - 35% range. The recommendations at this time by the American Heart Association are 30% of calories from fat with no more than 10% from saturated fat. This is a reasonable recommendation.

There are 9 calories in a gram of fat. Since 30% of a 1,500 calorie diet would be 450 calories, that would allow for 50 grams of fat per day (450 calories / 9 = 50 grams). No more than about 17 grams of that should be saturated fat (10% of 1,500 = 150 and 150 / 9 = 16.67 grams).

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet