Food Pyramid: Fats

Eat 1 to 5 portions a day

Butter in bowl

Butter in bowl

Unlike fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates, which can be eaten in abundance, fatty foods should not exceed 33% of the day's calories in a balanced diet, and only 10% of this should be from saturated fat.

This quantity of fat may seem a lot, but it isn't—fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram as either carbohydrate or protein. Overconsumption of fat is a major cause of weight and health problems.

A healthy diet must contain a certain amount of fat to provide fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids, needed for the development and function of the brain, eyes and nervous system, but we only need a small amount each day—just 25 g is required, which is much less than we consume in our Western diet. One recommendation is a maximum of 71 g fat (of this, 21.5 g saturated) for women each day and 93.5 g fat (28.5 g saturated) for men. The best sources of the essential fatty acids are natural fish oils and pure vegetable oils.

What is a "portion" of fatty food?

Some examples are:

  • 1 tsp butter or margarine
  • 2 tsp low-fat spread
  • 1 tsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or vinaigrette
    (salad dressing)
  • 1 tbsp cream