Whether you want to lose weight, lower your “bad” cholesterol, or improve your overall health, it’s a good idea to reduce your intake of foods that are high in saturated fats. While you may already have an idea what foods to avoid, there are some that might surprise you. In this post, we’ll answer the question, “What are saturated fats?” Also, we will enumerate foods that contain saturated fat, so you’ll be guided accordingly.
What are Saturated Fats?
Saturated fat is a type of fat that is usually solid at room temperature. It is found primarily in animal products but can be also found in some plant sources. Saturated fats are called “bad fats”. They have been linked to an increased risk of high cholesterol levels in the body — a risk factor for heart disease. For this reason, you should only consume saturated fat in small quantities.
What Foods Contain Saturated Fat?
Saturated fats can be found in many foods. The majority come from animal sources, such as:
• Beef fat
• Poultry with skin
• Processed meats
• Cold cuts
• Hot dogs
• Breakfast sausages
Dairy products also contain saturated fats. These include:
• Whole and 2% milk
• Ice cream
In addition, fried foods and many baked goods usually contain saturated fats. Plant-based oils, such as coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil also contain saturated fats, but don’t contain cholesterol. Many prepared foods contain saturated fat, like dairy desserts and pizza.
Types of Fats
There are different types of fat. The body makes its own fat from excess calories. Some fats are found in the foods that we eat. These are called dietary fats. Dietary fat provides energy for the body.
Fat is essential to health as it supports various body functions. However, some types of dietary fat are believed to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, fats are high in calories. If you always eat more calories than you need, you’ll gain weight, stored as fat. Being overweight or obese may make you more prone to health problems.
There are two types of unhealthy fats:
Saturated fat – This type of fat comes mainly from animal and dairy products. Too much consumption of saturated fats can raise “bad” cholesterol (LDL), which can lead to heart disease.
Trans fat – This type of fat can be found naturally in some foods in little amounts. But a majority of trans fats are made from oils through a method called partial hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated trans fats can increase triglyceride levels, total blood cholesterol, and “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
The healthier types of fat are primarily unsaturated fats:
Monounsaturated fatty acids – This type of fat is found in some foods and oils. Eating foods that contain monounsaturated fatty acids improves blood cholesterol levels, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some examples of foods that contain monounsaturated fatty acids include avocados, nuts, and canola oil.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids – This type of fat is mostly found in plant-based foods and oils. Eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids improves blood cholesterol levels. Some examples of foods that contain polyunsaturated fatty acids include salmon, tuna, walnuts, corn oil, and soybean oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids – One type of polyunsaturated fat may be beneficial for heart health. Omega-3, found in some species of fatty fish, may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Foods that are rich in Omega-3s include salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, chia seeds, seaweed, hemp seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and edamame.
The Link Between Saturated Fat and Cardiovascular Disease
Many health authorities such as the American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association, and the World Heart Federation, say that saturated fats are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization recommends switching from saturated fats to unsaturated fats.
Systematic reviews have studied the relationship between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease. But they have come to different conclusions.
A systematic review in 2017 by the American Heart Association (AHA) of randomized controlled clinical trials shows that reducing the intake of saturated fat and replacing it with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats may reduce cardiovascular disease by 30%.
Other studies have not found direct correlations. That notwithstanding, the predominant medical opinion is that saturated fat and cardiovascular disease are related.
How to Cut Down on Saturated Fat
Check the labels – When you’re shopping for food products, always check the labels for total fat and saturated fat. Saturated fat might also be written as “sat fat” or “saturates”. For every 100 grams of food, 1.5 grams or less of saturated fat is considered low, while 5 grams or more of saturated fat is considered high.
Choose foods that have unsaturated fats – Some foods such as oily fish, nuts, and some oils contain healthy unsaturated fats. Again, check the labels.
Compare products – Similar food products may have different amounts of saturated fat. Check a few brands before you buy.
Boil or steam instead of frying – Consider boiling or steaming foods instead of frying them. Use only a small amount of healthy oil made from vegetables. Avoid butter and other animal fats.
Eat a vegan or vegetarian diet – Since saturated fat is present in many animal products, eating a vegan diet consisting of fruits and vegetables can be a healthier option. To meet your protein needs, you can replace meat with plant-based sources of protein such as beans, legumes, and nuts.
What Foods Should You Eat Instead?
To get the nutrients you need, eat a balanced diet consisting of:
• Whole grains
• Low-fat dairy products, or better yet, non-dairy substitutes made from plant-based sources like almond milk or coconut milk.
If you’re following a 2,000-calorie diet, you should limit consumption of saturated fat to less than 13 grams each day. Now that you know “what are saturated fats”, you can think about this and plan meals accordingly. There are lots of healthy recipes out there; you just have to do some research. The nutrition plan in the FITin56 program offers a lot of help with this. Lowering your intake of saturated fats may take a little work and restraint, but in the end, the potential benefits to your overall health will definitely be worth it.