Dietary Fat: Why It’s Important

Eating fat in the diet world has been downright confusing. We’ll break down why fat is not a foe and what types are the healthiest.

Table tob with Omega-3 rich foods such as walnuts, avocado and olive oil.
Omega-3 rich foods
  • Published: 3/21/2022
  • 4 min. read

Eating fat in the diet world has been downright confusing. Back in the 80s, it had a really bad rap but nowadays it seems it’s the focus to fill up on. So what’s the deal with dietary fat and why is it important? We’ll break down why fat is not a foe and what types are the healthiest.

Dietary fat: why is it important

Dietary fat is one of three macronutrients that our bodies need in significant amounts in order to function at our best. Dietary fat is needed to give us energy, help absorb nutrients, protect our organs, support cell function, keep us warm, and produce hormones (1). 

"Good" fats

Certain fats can help lower the risk of disease and help benefit our skin, eyes, and brain health. They also help reduce blood cholesterol levels and keep our hearts healthy. Plus, adding these types of fats to your diet can help make you feel more satisfied (2). 

Monounsaturated fats 

These fats are good for our health in several ways including helping to lower our “bad” LDL cholesterol. When we keep these levels lower, we’re at less of a risk for heart disease and stroke.

  • Monounsaturated fat: plant-based oils like olive or canola, avocado, olives, and nuts.

Polyunsaturated fats

Polyunsaturated fats include omega 3 and omega 6. They’re important for our cell membranes and help create substances in our bodies that regulate blood pressure and inflammation

Since many foods in our diets already contain a good amount of omega 6, it’s more important to focus on getting omega 3. In fact, about 95-99% of the population doesn’t get the recommended amount of omega 3 (3). Omega 3 is particularly important for brain and mental health. 

Focus on getting a balance of both of these omega sources.

  • Omega 3: salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts (4).
  • Omega 6: soybeans, corn, nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds and oil, meat, and eggs.

Fat-soluble vitamins  

Fat is also needed to help our bodies absorb some vitamins. Fat helps our body take in and use vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K (5). These vitamins are needed for functions such as helping our skin, eye, and bone health. These differ from water-soluble vitamins which can be absorbed and transported through our body with only water. 

Check out these fat-soluble vitamin sources. These are the ones that are best absorbed when combined with healthy fats.

  • Vitamin A: dairy, fish, broccoli, squash, cantaloupe, and tomato. 
  • Vitamin D: oily fish, mushrooms, eggs, and fortified cereals (6).
  • Vitamin E: almonds, salmon, avocado, and sweet bell pepper.
  • Vitamin K: leafy green vegetables, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and fish. 


Interestingly, many local cuisines naturally pair these foods with fat. For instance, in the Mediterranean diet, tomato sauce will be made with olive oil. A match made in health heaven!

Fat: what to watch for

Some types of fats such as saturated and trans fats can contribute to an increased risk of diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. New research is emerging in relation to how saturated fats may not be as bad as we previously thought. The American Heart Association states that for people who need to lower their cholesterol, it’s best to limit saturated fat to less than 6% of daily calories (7). In general, it's recommended to limit or avoid trans or hydrogenated fats. 

  • Saturated fats: fatty cuts of meat, cheese, biscuits, cakes, and butter. 
  • Trans/hydrogenated fats: fried foods, nondairy creamer, margarine, frozen meals such as pizza, and baked goods.

In addition to the type of fat, the amount of fat we eat is important to consider. When compared to the number of calories per gram, fat has almost twice as much as carbohydrates or protein. This is why it’s been cut out for many weight-loss diets; however, since fat contributes to feeling full and satisfied, plus the essential function in our body, it’s still important to include some in our diets (8).

Fat summary

Just like any macronutrient or food group, you don’t need to go to an extreme and cut it from your diet. But, it’s important to focus on choosing the right types of fats. This means focusing on fats that come from natural plant sources, such as avocado, olives, and nuts versus packaged products which add in extra fat. 

Keep in mind that fat is high in calories, so it can be easy to get in a lot without even noticing. But aiming for more natural plant-based fats is important for an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.

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