Is saturated fat bad for you? This post will answer your questions about it and let you know the absolute best sources for including saturated fat in your diet.
Many of us, when we hear the word, "fat" think it’s something to avoid or stay away from.
Not all fat is equal, though, my friends.
You’ve got your bad fat – trans fat as we all know it, found in most packaged and highly processed foods.
Then you’ve got the good fats, which are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. We find these fats in avocados, olive oil, fatty fish, seeds, and nuts.
But what about saturated fat? Is saturated fat bad for you?
Although a diet with too much saturated fat can tip the scales towards an excess of LDL cholesterol, some saturated fat is definitely okay. Sources are cheese, whole-milk dairy, and coconut oil.
There is a lot to learn about fat and its purpose.
Being knowledgeable about sources of dietary fat can help you make good choices when it comes to making meals or eating in a restaurant.
So, to answer the question “Is saturated fat bad for you?” in brief, the answer is no. Let’s find out why I say that.
WHAT IS DIETARY FAT?
Dietary fats are one of three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and proteins.
What are macronutrients? Well, they are the components of calories. Or, we can say they are the basis of what you eat every day. I’ve written a post all about macros and how to count them to your benefit (to feel awesome, folks!) if you want to know more. Being in-the-know about macros can work to your advantage so you can lose or maintain weight, have more energy, and build muscle.
Fat, as a macronutrient, serves many purposes. Fats provide you with energy. They also help your brain and nerves to function, and can even affect hormonal balance. Including fat in your diet ensures that you get the needed fatty acids for healthy cell formation.
Remember, the important thing is to know where to get these fats. Animal and plant sources are the best place. Processed foods are not. We’ll look more into saturated fats and how they fit into the fat picture as we move along.
WHAT IS SATURATED FAT?
Saturated fat is found naturally in many animal-based foods (but not in fish) and in some oils.
It can be added to processed foods, and in this case, it is in the form of hydrogenated oils. This is where saturated fats get their bad name, and rightly so. You see, in packaged foods, unsaturated liquid fat is changed into a solid fat. Although these solid fats keep the food from going rancid, they aren’t heart-healthy.
If you are going to eat saturated fat, make sure it is from foods like milk products (cheese and butter), red meat, and tropical oils like coconut. Why use coconut oil? Ready more in my post here. I touch on how it’s been proven that coconut oil increases metabolism and more. Take a look to see how this saturated fat can be good for you.
HOW MUCH SATURATED FAT IS BAD FOR YOU?
Even though saturated fats have their good points, it is still better to consume them in moderation. Don’t go over 10% of your daily calories in the form of saturated fats. You can still enjoy a nice steak, but be sure to pair it with a large salad and plenty of vegetables on the side.
And enjoy full-fat Greek yogurt instead of sugar-laden low-fat brands, even though the Greek yogurt has saturated fat. Doing so, you see, is the better choice. I explain all that in my post Is Dairy Good for Weight Loss? | Benefits of Full-Fat Dairy.
DOES SATURATED FAT CAUSE HEART DISEASE?
Heart disease is a combination of a lot of factors. If you follow a diet high in saturated fats like packaged foods, sweets, french fries and nuggets, and potato chips, your heart will not thank you for it.
Healthy saturated fats are the better choice, but should still be eaten in moderation. Choose these foods:
- Full-fat dairy like yogurt
- Dark chocolate (see the benefits!)
- Coconuts and coconut oil
Remember, recent studies now point out saturated fat alone does not clog the arteries – your lifestyle also plays a part. Brisk walking regularly can fight heart disease, as can trying to reduce your stress load. It’s a proven fact that movement and exercise reduce stress. Help your heart three-fold with a healthy diet, physical activity of 30 minutes at least 3 times a week, and reduction of stress.
IS SATURATED OR UNSATURATED FAT BETTER?
The overall consensus is that saturated fat is less healthy than unsaturated fat. Recently, nutritionists are on the fence when it comes to saturated fat. Although decades of science have concluded that saturated fats are not heart-healthy, studies are being done on the accuracy of the statement.
Here are some recent findings. A review of long-term trials on saturated fat suggested there was no correlation between reducing saturated fat for at least two years having an effect on all-cause death or cardiovascular mortality, including strokes or heart attacks. It was noted that partially replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat may reduce the chance of cardiovascular problems (but not strokes, heart attack, or death).
Basically, while it is fine to enjoy saturated fats (coconut oil, red meat, full-fat dairy), look to moderation. Remember to also eat fish, walnuts, and flax seeds.
Along the same lines, in a study reviewing saturated fat and its relation to type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, or any cause of death, the conclusion was that the saturated fat intake of those in the trials reviewed was not linked.
ARE EGGS HIGH IN SATURATED FAT?
Eggs are not high in saturated fat. And saturated fat is not the first thing we typically think about when we’re considering eggs. Cholesterol is usually at the top of the list.
But here’s an interesting bit of science for you. Most of the cholesterol in our body does not come from what we eat. In fact, most of it is produced in the liver. Why does the liver make the cholesterol? It is stimulated to do so by the trans fat and saturated fat we consume.
One large egg only contains 1.5 grams of saturated fat. However, it’s how you cook the egg (if you use butter) and what you serve for sides (bacon or sausage, anyone?) that can up the saturated fat intake.
Check out my post on 10 Benefits of Eggs and Why You Should Eat Them More Often! to see exactly what is so good about them.
THE SATURATED FAT TAKE-AWAY
Saturated fat is not all bad. I think by now, we know that junk food, fast food, and any other type of “convenience food” will be high in saturated fat. Many packaged foods in the freezer aisle and baked goods like donuts and cookies are just a few examples of saturated fats that can harm your body.
And although it is best to get your fat sources from monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, eating saturated fat is okay as long as you use moderation and choose the healthiest options.
Examples of monounsaturated fats are:
- Olives and olive oil
- Nut butter
Examples of polyunsaturated fats are:
- Flax seeds
Examples of good-for-you saturated fats are:
- Whole milk
- Red meat
And while I did not cover trans fats, it is all-important to stay away from them. Like the saturated fat in packaged foods, trans fats are in there, too. Avoid baked treats made with hydrogenated oils, crackers with high-fat content, and foods like french fries. That way, both unhealthy trans fats and saturated fats are avoided.
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