Happy Herbivore Blog

January 10, 2012

Calories from Fat vs. Total Fat - What’s the Difference

I get asked about fat content in food often, about the difference between fat from calories and total fat. It is so important to understand food labels and how not to be fooled by them (such as paying attention to what the serving size is and keeping that in consideration before looking at the numbers).

First, there are total calories (all the calories that come from fat, protein and carbohydrates--the three components to all foods), calories that just come from fat, and then the total amount of fat in the serving (this is reflected in grams).

Together, these three figures help show how “fatty” a food is.

For example, let’s look at Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter has 188 total calories per serving; 145 of those calories comes from fat. The total amount of fat in the serving is 16.1 grams.

Compare that to Black Beans (Canned)

Black Beans have 227 total calories per serving but only 8 of those calories comes from fat. The total amount of fat in the serving is 0.9 grams.

Compare that to Raisins

Raisins have 130 total calories per serving. 0 calories come from fat because raisins have 0 grams of fat. 

Now, let’s compare those three to Vegetable Oil

Vegetable Oil has 40 calories per serving. All 40 calories come from fat. The total amount of fat is 4.5 grams. (This is why oil is sometimes referred to as “pure fat”).

See the difference? For me, knowing how many calories come from fat is often an easier way for me to determine whether a food is a high fat (or low fat) food. I find total fat grams can sometimes be misleading without this caloric perspective. (The beans are a great example of this.)

And since I will no doubt get a nasty gram about how I’m not an RD or RN (and am therefore unqualified to report information that is plucked directly from a label) here is a resource supporting my statements... though you will find this same information all over the place. 

*This is not medical advice, talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

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