Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature – think bacon grease, butter, and lard. They are mostly found in animal products and processed foods. There are two plant-based exceptions found in palm and coconut oil.
Foods Containing Saturated Fats
lamb, pork, poultry with skin, fatty beef, lard, sausages, fried chicken, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs
cream, butter, cheese, ice cream, and full-fat dairy products
desserts and baked goods, cookies, cakes, donuts, french fries, pastries, croissants, french fries, and fried foods
palm and coconut oil
Should You Eat Saturated Fats?
Saturated fats are somewhere in between trans fats and unsaturated fats. They take the cake for being the most controversial fat in the scientific community, even within the halls of Harvard.
Saturated Fats > Trans Fats
This is an easy one to agree on. Out of all the fats – trans are by far the worst. I’d rather you consumed saturated fats instead of trans fat. However, meat and dairy products naturally contain small amounts of trans fats. As you can see some fatty foods (ie bacon) will have both trans and saturated fat.
Saturated Fats < Unsaturated Fats
Studies have shown you can reduce your risk of heart disease by replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats. Another reason to trade your steak for salmon. You will also reduce your risk of heart disease by swapping saturated fats for high-quality carbohydrates and unsaturated fats.
Don’t Replace Fat with Crappy Carbs
If you reduce your saturated fat content by replacing it with refined carbohydrates your health won’t improve. Don’t swap your full-fat greek yogurt with a sugary breakfast scone.
Don’t Make Saturated Fat Your Primary Source
Increased intake of saturated fat is associated with higher levels of LDL. Higher LDL levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Consuming less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and replacing the rest with unsaturated fats is associated with low blood cholesterol levels, and therefore a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
[bctt tweet=”A Moderate Approach to Saturated Fat (4 Thoughts From a Nutritionist)” username=”Alexandra_Eats”]
Should You Stop Eating Butter?
I try not to hone in on specific foods and label them good or bad. Holistic nutrition is about the whole diet – not systematic food groups. As a result, I like to zoom out and take a look at dietary patterns.
I think of butter, in the same way, I think of salt. If the majority of your diet consists of low sodium foods like legumes, vegetables, grains, and fruits – then, by all means, add salt to your salad. But if you eat processed foods with added sodium on a daily basis… I’d put down that salt shaker.
Same scenario goes for butter. Take a second to peruse the list of foods containing saturated fats.
If you are eating a lot of saturated fat then go easy on the butter. But I would also beg you to go easy on the bacon. Saturated fat isn’t doing you any favors. In fact, you would likely be better off without it. However, if the alternative for you is switching to a trans fat tub of margarine I would keep your butter block.
[bctt tweet=”Why This Nutritionist Isn’t Afraid of Butter #thesharpguide” username=”Alexandra_Eats”]
Coconut Oil Has Saturated Fat
Coconut oil has been the industry favorite for pretty much everything. It’s continued to be a trending topic that’s touted for way too many health cures, even by the internet’s standards.
I cook with coconut oil but I use it sparingly. One hundred percent of the calories in coconut oil come from fat. Consuming 1 tablespoon of organic coconut oil is 60% of the DV of saturated fat. Everything I said about butter applies here. Zoom out and look at your entire diet. But be aware that this “health food” is equivalent to a glob of tropical vegan butter when it comes to saturated fat.
This nifty chart from the USDA guidelines breaks down the percentage of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in particular fats and oils. Note: coconut oil has the highest percentage of saturated fat so use it sparingly.
TAKEAWAY ON SATURATED FAT
• Unsaturated Fats > Saturated Fats > Trans Fats
• If you reduce your saturated fat consumption don’t replace it with trans fats, refined carbohydrates, or sugar.
• Saturated fats should be consumed in moderation – but don’t freak out if they are sprinkled sparingly in your diet.
• You can reduce your saturated fat intake by eating less meat, dairy, and processed foods.
• Whole plants are free of saturated fat with the exception of palm and coconut oil.