Eating too much fat can lead to health problems, but so can eating too little fat.

Confused about your daily intake of fat? What are the “good” fats? What are the “bad” ones?

Everyone seems to have their own personal opinion on how much fat you should eat, what kind is more beneficial and what sources to get them from. Let’s first begin with some basic information about fat.

Fat plays many roles in our body. It helps to balance our hormones and surrounds and protect organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. The subcutaneous fat (layer of fat beneath the skin) helps to insulate the body. Dietary fat provides the body with fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), which help with everyday functions.

Types of fat

Saturated fat is usually found in animal products and processed foods such as meats, dairy products, pastries and chips. It can raise both your total cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Other examples of saturated fat are butter, lard, beef fat, pork fat, coconut oil and whole milk.

Trans fat is usually found in vegetable shortening, sticks of margarine, and partially hydrogenated oil. It increases the bad cholesterol (LDL) and total cholesterol. Trans fat has one more negative effect. It can decrease the good cholesterol (HDL- high-density lipoprotein).

Unsaturated fat is commonly derived from plant sources. It can help decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Unsaturated fats may also help to increase your HDL levels. There are two categories: monounsaturated (olive oil, nuts, avocados) and polyunsaturated (corn oil, mayonnaise, tuna, salmon, walnuts, canola oil).

How much fat do you need daily?

Let’s put an end to a common myth…you do not need to eliminate fat in your diet to be healthy.

As mentioned above, fat plays a few different roles in the body. Eating too little fat can actually cause an essential fatty acid deficiency, leading to hair loss, fatigue, and skin integrity issues. Of course we know that if you eat an abundance of fat it is stored in adipose tissue and fat cells.

Dietary fat intake should be restricted to 30 percent of your total calories each day. Of course the type of fat you consume plays a key role.

Low-fat alternatives

Try some of these low fat recipes as alternate choices:

• Low fat chips: Thinly slice a whole bagel into little rounds. Place the bagel on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle it with garlic powder and herbs if desired. Bake in oven at 350 F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp. Try topping it with a low fat yogurt cheese or spread.

• Flavored vegetables: Instead of using butter or margarine on your vegetables, try lightly topping with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with Parmesan or Romano cheese.

• Try replacing the ground beef in your tacos with ground turkey, grilled chicken or even fish.

LaDale Walker, RD, LDN, of Middletown Family Wellness and Counseling is a registered dietician and licensed nutritionist. She can be reached at (302) 449-4166 or