How Saturated Fats Affect Your Health
Saturated fats are bad for your health in several ways:
Heart disease risk. Your body needs healthy fats for energy and other functions. But too much saturated fat can cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries . Saturated fats raise your LDL cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Weight gain. Many high-fat foods such as pizza, baked goods, and fried foods have a lot of saturated fat. Eating too much fat can add extra calories to your diet and cause you to gain weight. All fats contain 9 calories per gram of fat. This is more than twice the amount found in carbohydrates and protein.
Cutting out high-fat foods can help keep your weight in check and keep your heart healthy. Staying at a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
Myths About Dietary Fat And Cholesterol
For decades, people have avoided fat- and cholesterol-rich items, such as butter, nuts, egg yolks, and full fat dairy, instead opting for low fat substitutes like margarine, egg whites, and fat-free dairy in hopes of bettering their health and losing weight.
This is due to the misconception that eating foods rich in cholesterol and fat may increase your risk of various diseases.
While recent research has disproven this notion, myths surrounding dietary cholesterol and fat continue to dominate headlines, and many healthcare providers continue to recommend very low fat diets to the general public.
Here are 9 common myths about dietary fat and cholesterol that should be put to rest.
Limiting Saturated And Trans Fats
Here are some ways to lower your intake of saturated and trans fats:
- Maintain a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts. Also limit red meat and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages.
- Opt for naturally occurring unhydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower or olive oil.
- Look for processed foods made with unhydrogenated oil rather than saturated fat or hydrogenated vegetable oils.
- Use soft margarine as a substitute for butter and choose soft margarines over harder stick forms. Look for 0 g trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label.
- Doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pies and cakes are examples of foods high in trans fat. Dont eat them often.
- Limit commercially fried foods and baked goods made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These foods are very high in fat, and its likely to be trans fat.
- Limit fried fast food. Commercial shortening and deep-frying fats are still made by hydrogenation and contain saturated and trans fats.
Consider using a food diary to keep track of what you eat. Its a handy way to evaluate the healthy, not-so-healthy and unhealthy foods youre making a part of your everyday diet.
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Myth #: Eating Cholesterol And Saturated Fat Raises Cholesterol Levels In The Blood
Most of us grew up being told that foods like red meat, eggs and bacon raise our cholesterol levels. This idea is so deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche that few people even question it. But is it really true?
The diet-heart hypothesiswhich holds that eating cholesterol and saturated fat raises cholesterol in our bloodoriginated with studies in both animals and humans more than half a century ago. However, more recent evidence doesnt support it.
Cholesterol and saturated fat: dietary enemies or innocent victims of bad science?
On any given day, we have between 1,100 and 1,700 milligrams of cholesterol in our body. 25% of that comes from our diet, and 75% is produced inside of our bodies by the liver. Much of the cholesterol thats found in food cant be absorbed by our bodies, and most of the cholesterol in our gut was first synthesized in body cells and ended up in the gut via the liver and gall bladder. The body tightly regulates the amount of cholesterol in the blood by controlling internal production when cholesterol intake in the diet goes down, the body makes more. When cholesterol intake in the diet goes up, the body makes less.
Another strike against the diet-heart hypothesis is that many of its original proponents havent believed it for at least two decades. In a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1991, Ancel Keys, the founder of the diet-heart hypothesis said :
Reconsider That Cheeseburger With High Saturated Fat
Speaking of cheeseburgers, if you’re like many Americans, you occasionally eat lunch from a fast food restaurant. But before you order that double cheeseburger, consider this: A McDonalds Big Mac has 10 g of saturated fat and a Wendy’s Classic Double With Everything has a whopping 20 g of saturated fat . You might want to hold the fries and the shake, or better yet, order a plain burger instead.
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Avoid The Trans Fats Limit The Saturated Fats And Replace With Essential Polyunsaturated Fats
Why are trans fats bad for you, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats good for you, and saturated fats somewhere in-between? For years, fat was a four-letter word. We were urged to banish it from our diets whenever possible. We switched to low-fat foods. But the shift didn’t make us healthier, probably because we cut back on healthy fats as well as harmful ones.
You may wonder isn’t fat bad for you, but your body needs some fat from food. It’s a major source of energy. It helps you absorb some vitamins and minerals. Fat is needed to build cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. It is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. For long-term health, some fats are better than others. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Bad ones include industrial-made trans fats. Saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle.
All fats have a similar chemical structure: a chain of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. What makes one fat different from another is the length and shape of the carbon chain and the number of hydrogen atoms connected to the carbon atoms. Seemingly slight differences in structure translate into crucial differences in form and function.
Myth: I Cant Do Anything To Change My Cholesterol Levels
Fact: You can do many things to improve your cholesterol levels and keep them in a healthy range!
- Get tested at least every 5 years .1,2 Learn more about cholesterol screenings.
- Make healthy food choices. Limit foods high in saturated fats. Choose foods naturally high in fiber and unsaturated fats. Learn more about healthy diets and nutrition at CDCs nutrition, physical activity, and obesity website.
- Be active every day. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Learn more about physical activity basics and tips.
- Dont smoke or use tobacco products. Smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries, and greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you dont smoke, dont start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Learn more about tobacco use and ways to quit at CDCs smoking and tobacco use website.
- Talk with your health care provider about ways to manage your cholesterol if any medicines are given to you to manage your cholesterol, take them as they are prescribed. Learn more about medicines to lower cholesterol.
- Know your family history. If your parents or other immediate family members have high cholesterol, you probably should be tested more often. You could have a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia .
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Eating Fat Increases Diabetes Risk
Many dietary patterns recommended for the treatment of type 2 and gestational diabetes are low in fat. This is due to the misconception that consuming dietary fat may increase diabetes risk.
Although consuming certain fat-rich foods, such as trans fat, fatty baked goods, and fast food, can indeed increase your risk of diabetes, research has shown that other high fat foods may offer protection against its development .
For example, fatty fish, full fat dairy, avocados, olive oil, and nuts are high fat foods that have all been shown to improve blood sugar and insulin levels and potentially protect against diabetes development .
While some evidence suggests that a greater intake of saturated fat may increase diabetes risk, more recent studies have found no significant association.
For example, a 2019 study in 2,139 people found no association between the consumption of animal- and plant-based fat or total fat and the risk of type 2 diabetes .
The most important factor in reducing your diabetes risk is the overall quality of your diet, not the breakdown of your macronutrient intake.
Fat-rich foods do not increase diabetes risk. In fact, certain fat-rich foods may help protect against the diseases development.
Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease
While the topic is still hotly debated among healthcare professionals, recent research has shown no consistent link between saturated fat intake and heart disease.
Its true that saturated fat increases well-known heart disease risk factors, such as LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B .
However, saturated fat intake tends to increase the amount of large, fluffy LDL particles, but decrease the amount of smaller, denser LDL particles that are linked to heart disease.
Plus, research has demonstrated that certain types of saturated fat may increase heart-protective HDL cholesterol .
In fact, numerous large studies have found no consistent association between saturated fat intake and heart disease, heart attack, or heart-disease-related death (
Remember that there are many types of saturated fats, all with different effects on health. Your diet as a whole rather than the breakdown of your macronutrient intake is most important when it comes to your overall health and disease risk.
Nutritious foods high in saturated fat like full fat yogurt, unsweetened coconut, cheese, and dark cuts of poultry can certainly be included in a healthy, well-rounded diet.
Although saturated fat intake increases the risk of certain heart disease risk factors, current research shows that its not significantly linked to heart disease development.
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Disadvantages Of Saturated Fats:
Eating a diet high in saturated fats is associate with increasing levels of LDL cholesterol. It is associate with an increased risk of heart and circulatory disease. Studies have shown that people with heart disease or those at risk of heart problems have higher amounts of saturated fat in their diet.
The saturated fats seen in fresh meat and processed meat is knowing to raise cholesterol levels. Processed meats are often also high in salt, which can raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Remember, however, that all types of fat are high in calories, so eating too much can lead to weight gain. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases and many other diseases.
All foods rich in fat contain a combination of fatty acids. Thus, no food consists entirely of just saturated or unsaturated fats, making it very difficult for you to choose or skip just one type.
Eating More unsaturated fats than saturated and trans fats may reduce the risk of heart disease and increase GOOD cholesterol. Add more saturated and trans fat foods like butter, vegetable oils instead of milk, foods high in unsaturated fats like avocado and tuna fish to your diet.
Saturated Fat And Your Heart
Since the diet-heart hypothesis led to official recommendations against saturated-fat intake, it makes sense to address heart disease first.
How does arterial plaque form?
Our arteries are lined with a layer of cells called the endothelium, which functions as a selectively permeable barrier between our blood and the rest of our body. This is akin to our intestinal tract, which allows for the absorption of some nutrients but not others. In our blood, one of the nutrients that penetrates the endothelium is low-density lipoprotein , whose primary job is to transport cholesterol throughout the body.
The key event for the formation of plaques in arteries is the retention of LDL particles in the space beneath the endothelium . Once there, LDL is more susceptible to becoming oxidized, which signals the immune system to attack because oxidized LDL is seen as harmful to the body. This inflammatory response involves certain white blood cells called macrophages that literally eat the oxidized LDL particles. The LDL-engulfing process turns macrophages into foam cells, which cant function properly and accumulate into the fatty build-up we call plaque.
As you can see, several events need to occur for heart disease to develop. This helps explain why heart disease has numerous environmental and genetic risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, and infection.
Effects of saturated fat on blood lipids
LDL and HDL
Effects of saturated fat on inflammation
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Limit Bad Fats And Cholesterol
Research shows that there isn’t really a link between how much fat you eat and your risk of disease. The biggest influence on your risk is the type of fat you eat. Two unhealthy fats, including saturated and trans fats, increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood cholesterol and increase your risk of developing heart disease. However, two very different types of fat monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do just the opposite. In fact, research shows that cutting back on saturated fat and replacing it with mono and polyunsaturated fats can help lower the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
What Are Dietary Fats
Fat is a type of nutrient, and just like protein and carbohydrates, your body needs some fat for energy, to absorb vitamins, and to protect your heart and brain health. For years weve been told that eating fat will add inches to your waistline, raise cholesterol, and cause a myriad of health problems. But now we know that not all fat is the same.
Bad fats, such as artificial trans fats and saturated fats, are guilty of the unhealthy things all fats have been blamed forweight gain, clogged arteries, an increased risk of certain diseases, and so forth. But good fats such as unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids have the opposite effect. In fact, healthy fats play a huge role in helping you manage your moods, stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight.
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Cheeses Lowest In Fat
Commonly used types of cheese such as mozzarella, cheddar, Monterey Jack, blue cheese, provolone, and Swiss all contain similar amounts of saturated fatfrom 3.7 to 5.7 grams per ounce.
Mozzarella and feta are on the lower end of the saturated fat scale. Cheddar and Swiss cheese contain slightly higher amounts of fat. These fat content differences are helpful when deciding on which cheese to use on a sandwich, in a salad, and while cooking food.
Other types of cheese, such as part-skim ricotta cheese and cottage cheese, have even lower amounts of saturated fat per serving. One cup of cottage cheese contains 6 grams of saturated fat, while one cup of shredded cheddar cheese contains about 24 grams of saturated fat.
If you were to select low-fat versions of these products, the saturated fat content would be cut almost in half.
High Fat And Cholesterol
Pregnant women are often told that they should avoid high fat and cholesterol-rich foods during pregnancy. While many women think that following a low fat diet is best for their and their babys health, eating fat is essential during pregnancy.
In fact, the need for fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamin A and choline, as well as omega-3 fats, increases during pregnancy (
Fat-rich foods are important for both fetal and maternal health. Healthy, fat-rich foods should be included in meals and snacks to promote a healthy pregnancy.
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Is Saturated Fat Same As Trans Fat
Saturated fat occurs naturally in red meat and dairy products. Its also found in baked goods and fried foods. Trans fat occurs naturally in small amounts in red meat and dairy products. Trans fat can also be manufactured by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.
Which is worse for you trans fat or saturated fat?
New research has revealed that fats are more on a continuum of good to bad than previously thought. While trans fats are harmful to your health, saturated fats are not currently linked with increased heart disease risk. However, they likely arent as healthy as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can be.
Is saturated fat bad? Eating too much saturated fats in your diet can raise bad LDL cholesterol in your blood, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Good HDL cholesterol has a positive effect by taking cholesterol from parts of the body where theres too much of it to the liver, where its disposed of.
Are trans fats a safe alternative from saturated fats?
The major types of fats in the diet are saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fats. While unsaturated fats are beneficial when consumed in moderation, saturated and trans fats may not be.
Treatment For High Cholesterol
Making lifestyle changes, especially changing some of the foods you eat, and regular physical activity, are very important to help reduce high LDL cholesterol.
You may also need to take cholesterol-lowering medicines to help manage your cholesterol and reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Talk to your doctor about finding the most appropriate treatment for you.
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How To Cut Down On Fat And Saturated Fat
To reach and maintain a healthy weight, keep an eye on your saturated fat and total fat intake. Use these tips to help you.
Check the labels
When youre shopping, check the labels of products to see how much fat they contain and how much they will add up to the daily maximum. Look at the total fat and the saturated fat. Saturated fat might be written as sat fat or saturates.
- Choose foods that have more unsaturated than saturated fats.
- Go for foods that are labelled green or amber for saturated fat.
- Some foods that are high in fat such as oily fish, nuts, oils and spreads may be red for saturated fat. This is OK because these foods contain a higher proportion of the healthy unsaturated fats.
- Per 100g of food low-fat is 3g or less and low saturated fat is 1.5g or less.
- Per 100g of food high fat is 17.5g or more and high saturated fat is 5g or more.
Many foods have labels on the front of pack, making it easy to check the amount and type of fat they contain. If not, it should be on the back. When labels are colour-coded with red, amber and green, go for green and amber as much as possible.
Use the table as a guide for choosing healthy foods.
Sometimes similar products contain very different amounts fat. Check a few options before you buy.
Bake, steam, grill or boil instead of frying
Make simple swaps
Have a look at the foods high in saturated fat and some healthier alternatives with these simple swaps.
Choose healthy snacks