Choose heart-healthy, plant-based oils when possible.

What Is the Relationship Between a Fat Calorie & a Gram of Fat ?

by Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.

The calories in dietary fat – rather than grams of fat -- are what many ladies are concerned about when trying to maintain healthy body weights. Yet, both fat calories and fat grams are listed on food nutrition facts labels. Although your total calorie intake determines whether or not you meet your weight-management goals, the total number of grams of fat – especially from saturated fat – is important when trying to reduce your heart disease risks.

Calories per Gram

The relationship between a fat calorie and a gram of fat is simple. One gram of fat equals 9 calories, according to MedlinePlus. Therefore, if you’re consuming 9 grams of fat you’re eating 81 calories from fat, and if a food provides 3 grams of fat it contains 27 calories from fat. In comparison, protein and carbs each provide 4 calories per gram instead of 9 calories per gram like fat.

Fat Recommendations

Dietary fat recommendations use percentages of your total calorie intake, not grams of fat. For this reason, it’s helpful to be able to determine your fat-gram requirements based on your total calorie intake. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults get 20 to 35 percent of their calorie needs from dietary fat, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest obtaining less than 10 percent of your total calorie intake from saturated fat – a contributor to high cholesterol and heart disease.

Individualized Fat Requirements

Using the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 as a reference, women consuming 2,000 calories a day should aim to eat 400 to 700 calories from fat, which equals 44 to 78 grams of total fat daily. The same group of women following 2,000-calorie meal plans should consume fewer than 200 calories from saturated fat per day, which is equivalent to 22 grams daily.

Fat in Foods

When choosing foods to meet your daily fat allotment, pick heart-healthy fats when possible. Examples include plant-based oils, seeds, nuts, avocados, nut butters and olives. Steer clear from – or limit as much as you can – not-so-healthy fats found in butter, margarines, shortenings, fried foods, commercial baked goods, high-fat meats and full-fat dairy foods. To determine the fat content in your favorite foods, use nutrition facts labels. Or, reference online nutrition databases, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

About the Author

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.

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