Saturated Fat: General Info

Fat is a food substance formed from molecules linked to chemicals known as fatty acids. Although the term commonly possesses a negative connotation, fat is in fact essential to the health of the body. It provides energy, yields vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K, helps in the construction of skin and hair, protects body organs, and keeps the system warm. Commonly linked to weight gain and heart disease, fat is in fact a neutral substance in this regard. In fact, certain forms of fats are much more unhealthy than others--most notably “saturated,” or solid, fats.

Saturated fat and your health 

Saturated fat is fat consisting of saturated fatty acids. Unlike its healthier unsaturated counterpart, which is found in a liquid form, saturated fat maintains a solid consistency at room temperature. Common sources of saturated fats are meats and dairy products such as eggs, milk, butter, and cheese. All of these products are known to raise levels of cholesterol, a waxy substance produced by the body for cell construction which can clog up arteries when produced in excess and thus lead to heart disease. Consumption of saturated fat is also believed to have some connection to mild increases in the rates of colon cancer and breast cancer, although these studies are not wholly conclusive. However, contrary to popular belief, diets with low intake of saturated fat do not appear to lead to any significant weight loss over standard diets.

How much saturated fat should I eat?

Experts generally recommend that saturated fat be reduced from the diet as much as possible or replaced with healthier, unsaturated fats. Eating lean meat, switching to dairy products derived from soybeans, and eschewing deep-fried foods can all assist in this regard. Other foods to avoid are fatty yogurts, as well as biscuits and pastries, which are commonly made from butters and margarines high in saturated-fat content. One should also be careful of trans fats, an extremely unhealthy form of fat produced during industrial processing of many food products. Far worse for the heart than even the most cholesterol-rich saturated fats, trans fats should be avoided as much as possible.

For further information on what fat you should include in a health diet see the following articles from TheDietChannel: Fat Facts:Fat Confusion Cleared Up, Healthy and Fat? 5 High-Fat Foods You Should Not Avoid and A Guide To Healthy Cooking Oils.