Over the years there have been a ton of headlines in the media that claim saturated fat is now good – while others say too much is harmful and can cause heart disease. Because of this inconsistent information, you probably don’t know what to think. And that can be a problem since you could be putting your health at risk.
Here are a few things we can say with confidence about fat:
The topic of saturated fat is and will continue to be a hot debate, and for good reason. Saturated fat is known to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, the kind that’s associated with heart disease. But scientists have found conflicting evidence about eating saturated fat and having an increased risk of heart attack or heart disease. The findings can boil down to the quality of the study itself and the types of saturated fatty acids studied.
What newer research is telling us; however, is there’s much variability within the category of saturated fat and how individual fatty acids affect health.
Some saturated fats, like coconut oil, raise both LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol about the same. Others, like dark chocolate, don’t seem to affect LDL cholesterol at all. These two examples of saturated fats don’t seem to pose much of a problem when they are eaten in moderation. But other saturated fats, like red meat, raise bad cholesterol more than they do good cholesterol— and that causes concern about how much people should consume.
While we wait for more clarity on saturated fat, it’s best to follow the recommendations of professional health organizations such as the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, World Heart Federation, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They agree you should limit your daily intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake, and 7 percent if you’re at high risk for heart disease. For women this equates to 12 to 15 grams of saturated fat per day and for men 15 to 20 grams per day.
Saturated fat mainly comes from animal sources. Example foods are:
Focusing solely on saturated fat, or even a single food for that matter, detracts from the bigger picture. Your risk for heart disease is determined by an overall dietary pattern rather than a single food or nutrient. The primary goal in eating healthy is about balance, moderation, portion control, and consistency.
Here are 10 tips you can use to get on the right track to a healthy eating plan:
BONUS READING: Check out our article on 9 risk factors for heart disease that you can control.