I know this is probably a stupid question,” a client says as she approaches you after class. “I’ve often read that it’s important to limit fat intake to 30 percent or less. I guess some people say 20 percent or less. But I’ve never really understood what this means for me and my diet. I know how to count calories and fat grams and all that stuff. Here are the stupid questions: What is a gram anyway? And doesn’t it matter what kind of fat is in the food? And why do they always say ‘or less?’ Is less always more healthy? Is there some minimal fat intake I should be aware of?”

The reasons for keeping an eye on fat intake are many. Risk for high cholesterol, obesity and cancers of the breast and colon appears to increase with an increase in fat consumption. Most clients can repeat the “30 percent of calories or less” recommendations in their sleep since they have heard it so many times. But some have only a vague idea of how these recommendations translate into making food choices to come up with a magic daily fat intake level. Others, like the client above, want more information on where these numbers come from and what they really mean.

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