Saturated fats are a type of dietary fat, which you should consume in moderation. Indiscreet consumption can have adverse health effects on your body, especially on your heart.

Certain foods contain a high amount of these fats. You should avoid these foods. The list of such foods is given below.

Fats obtained from animal food sources are mostly saturated fats. The other types of fats are unsaturated fats and trans fats.

Of these three types of fats, unsaturated fats are the healthy or the good fats while the saturated and the trans fats are very unhealthy for your cardiovascular system. They increase your LDL cholesterol in the blood and increase your risk of heart disease.

However, trans fat is the worst of the two, while if you stick to moderation in consuming saturated fats, you’re good.

Saturated fats do have some essential functions in the body and you cannot just ignore them.

The key, therefore, is to stick to moderation.

Chemical structure

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature as against unsaturated fats that stay liquid at room temperature.

Saturated fats are fat molecules containing saturated fatty acid radicals. They have hydrocarbon molecules in which every carbon has a hydrogen atom on it. They are thus fully hydrogenated.

These naturally occurring fats have no double bonds between their carbon atoms in their chemical structure. Therefore, their chemical structure is saturated with hydrogen atoms – hence the name.

Examples

Examples of saturated fatty acids and the foods that contain them

  • Butyric acid found in butter
  • Lauric acid present in palm kernel oil, coconut oil
  • Myristic acid found in cow’s milk and its dairy products
  • Palmitic acid present in palm oil and meat
  • Stearic acid contained in cocoa butter and meat

Importance of saturated fats

The saturated fats do have their benefits and advantages:

  • They are less likely to spoil than unsaturated fats.
  • They are stable at high temperatures and resistant to oxidation. Therefore, saturated fats stay more stable during cooking.
  • The importance of saturated fats lies in the fact that they generate more energy than unsaturated fats.
  • They provide the taste and consistency to food and keep it stable.
  • They are essential for cell and organ growth.
  • Saturated fats are necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are necessary for a healthy bony structure, preventing congenital defects in the newborn, a healthy pregnancy, and for preventing colon cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Dangers of saturated  fats

Consuming a diet, which is rich in saturated fats regularly, can give rise to certain health disorders that can be serious. Saturated fats and heart diseases are often linked together.

  • Saturated fats increase the cholesterol levels in your blood. LDL or the bad cholesterol is raised while the levels of HDL or good cholesterol are reduced.
  • This can lead to Atherosclerosis – a predisposing factor to coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • A 2017 review by the American Heart Association showed that reducing intake of saturated fat in your diet and replacing it with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can reduce cardiovascular disease by about 30%.
  • Some researchers have indicated that high levels of saturated fats are associated with cancer of the prostate.
  • Research also correlates the intake of saturated fats to cancer of the small intestine.

List of foods containing saturated fats

Saturated fats do have their uses, but can cause serious health problems if consumed indiscreetly. Learn which foods can be your poison.

Animal food sources

  • Sausages, Hot dogs and Brats
  • Duck and Goose
  • Organ meat like liver and kidney
  • Processed meat like ham, turkey, and bologna
  • Bacon
  • Meat
  • Lard

Dairy products

  • Whole milk
  • Whole milk butter
  • Whole milk cheese
  • Whole milk cream
  • Whole milk ghee
  • Ice cream,  chocolates

Plant sources | Saturated fat oils

  • Coconut
  • Coconut oil
  • Palm kernel oil
  • Palm oil
  • Cottonseed oil

How much saturated fat per day?

The American Heart Association advises that saturated fats should not form more than 7% of your calorie intake.

Therefore, if your calorie intake is about 2000 calories a day, your calorie intake from saturated fats should not be more than 120 calories. That means your saturated fat intake per day should be 13 grams.

What foods should you have in your diet?

  • Use skimmed milk and its products instead of whole milk.
  • Use olive or canola oils instead of the oils mentioned above.
  • Eat lean meat, turkey or chicken without skin instead animal sources mentioned above.
  • Have more vegetables and fruits in your diet.
  • Use whole grains instead of processed ones.
  • Fish and nuts should form part of your diet.
  • Limit consumption of red meat, sweetened foods, and beverages.

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