Eating too much saturated fat can raise the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood. A high level of LDL cholesterol in your blood increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
What are saturated fats?
Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.
How do saturated fats affect my health?
Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products and eggs and tropical oils like coconut, and palm. Because they are typically solid at room temperature, they are sometimes called “solid fats.” Saturated fats can cause problems with your cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with healthier options can lower risk of heart disease.
What foods contain saturated fat?
Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods. Most come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products, as well as tropical fats like coconut, palm and palm kernel.
Examples of foods with saturated fat are:
- poultry, especially with skin
- beef fat (tallow)
- lard and cream
- ice cream
- palm oil
- palm kernel oil
- some baked and fried foods
The American Heart Association recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat.
For example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of them should come from saturated fat.
That’s about 13 grams of saturated fat per day.
Remember the big picture, your overall eating pattern. Apply this general guidance regardless of where your food is prepared or consumed:
- Balance calorie intake with calorie needs to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Choose whole grains, lean and plant-based protein and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit salt, sugar, animal fat, processed foods and alcohol.
What are alternatives to replace saturated fats in the foods I eat?
As part of an overall heart-healthy dietary pattern, choose lean meats and poultry without skin. Prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
Eat foods made with liquid vegetable oil but not tropical oils. It also means eating fish and nuts. You also might try to replace some of the meat you eat with beans or legumes.
There’s a lot of conflicting information about saturated fats. Should I eat them or not?
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats – which are found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods, and tropical oils. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease.
The more important thing to remember is the overall dietary picture. Saturated fats are just one piece of the puzzle. In general, you can’t go wrong eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains – and taking in fewer calories.
When you hear about the latest “diet of the day” or a new or odd-sounding theory about food, consider the source. The American Heart Association makes dietary recommendations only after carefully considering the latest scientific evidence.