In this article, you will find whether saturated fat is bad or good, how much should you eat and best alternatives to saturated fat to reduce risk of heart disease or getting obese.
For years I have been told that saturated is unhealthy. It’s claimed to make us obese, elevate cholesterol levels and can cause heart disease.
However, what turns out – recent studies suggested that this is not the complete truth.
So, I studied this subject extensively to dig out whether saturated fat is bad or good for health? Read on to know the complete truth..
Let Us First Understand What Is Saturated Fat?
Fats are “macronutrients”. They are nutrients that we consume in large amounts as they supply us energy. A fat molecule consists of one glycerol molecule and any of three fatty acids – which can be either saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
Saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. (Source: American Heart Association )
While saturated fatty acids have no double bonds, unsaturated fatty acids have double bonds.
Examples Of Saturated Fats
Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods. Most of saturated fat foods come generally from animal sources, such as:
(i) fatty beef
(iv) poultry with skin
(v) beef fat (tallow)
(vi) lard and cream
(ix) other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk.
(x) many baked goods and fried foods can contain high levels of saturated fats.
In addition, some plant-based oils, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain primarily saturated fats, but do not contain cholesterol.
In reality, no food is pure saturated fat or pure mono- or polyunsaturated. Foods contain a combination of different fatty acids.
Foods that contain mainly saturated fat, for example butter, are solid at room temperature, while foods that contain mainly unsaturated fat, for example olive oil, tend to be liquid at room temperature.
Fats, whether saturated or unsaturated, contains 9 calories per gram.
So, now you know saturated fats are those fats that have a high ratio of saturated fatty acids and have no double bonds. They are in solid form at room temperature.
Is Saturated Fat Good Or Bad For Your Health?
Majority of the dieticians claim that a diet rich in saturated fats can push up total cholesterol, and turn the scales toward more harmful LDL cholesterol, which causes blockages to build up in arteries in the heart and elsewhere in the body.
However, after decades of attacking saturated fat as the culprit, the medical community was astonished by a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This study concluded that there was not enough evidence to support that saturated fat either increases the risk of heart disease or heart stroke.
Two other major studies supported this conclusion further, determining that substituting saturated fat with polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils or high-fiber carbohydrates may indeed reduce risk of heart disease, but substituting saturated fat with highly processed carbohydrates could do the opposite.
How Much Saturated Fat?
As these studies have not so far been proven scientifically, most nutrition experts take a cautious stand, and accordingly recommend for limiting saturated fat to under 10% of calories a day. As saturated fats are common in typical American diets – so the American Heart Association norms are more stringent and recommend aiming for 5% to 6% of your calories intake from saturated fat.
For instance, for 2,000 calories diet, no more than 120 calories should come from saturated fats, which amounts to about 13 grams of saturated fats a day.
So What Should You Do, Eat Saturated Fats Or Not?
To protect yourself from heart disease or getting obese, we recommend:
(i) Limit saturated fats that are found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods. There are enough evidence that saturated fats tend to push up your “bad” cholesterol, so you will be vulnerable to heart disease.
(ii) Opt for lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat
(iii) Substitute foods that are high in saturated fats with foods high in monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats. This you can achieve easily by simply eating foods made with liquid vegetable oil but not tropical oils. Also you should try to include fish and nuts in your diet. In addition, replace some of the meat you eat with beans or legumes.
(iv) Give priority to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry without skin, fish and nuts.
(iv) Limit red meat and sugary foods and beverages.
After reading this article, you can plan now how will you prefer to reduce your saturated fats intake with in the recommended limits. Please share your thoughts with us under the comments below.