The role of saturated fat in your diet may not be clear

Saturated fat may be or may not be harmful to your health.

The marbling in meats are high in saturated fat.
The marbling in meats are high in saturated fat.

Excess saturated fat intake may have harmful effects on our health. This is the recommendation we have heard for many years. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages eating styles that emphasize unsaturated fats and are low in saturated fats. Specifically, the Dietary Guidelines recommends keeping saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of calories per day. But what you do not hear as much is that current research recommendations deemphasize saturated fat as a nutrient of concern. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper on dietary fats similarly concluded that "..despite documented influence of saturated fat on surrogate disease markers, the effect of saturated fat intake on disease end points is not clear."

As a consumer, you can personally decide the level of saturated fat that you are comfortable consuming. Keep in mind that higher fat foods are twice as calorically dense than other foods. So you may consider one of the following options:

  • Eat high-fat food items less often
  • Eat smaller amounts of high-fat foods

Some food groups that may be higher in saturated fat include:

  • Meats (marbling)
  • Dairy foods
  • Snack foods (potato chips)
  • Butter/margarine
  • Gravy/sauces
  • Mayonnaise
  • Baked goods
  • Oil heavy foods

Meals that are eaten away from home tend to be higher in saturated fat compared to meals prepared at home. How do you monitor the amount of saturated fat in foods that are consumed away from home? It is a good idea to check to see if the restaurant or fast food establishment you are going to lists their menu with nutritional content on their website. Additionally, they may provide an in-person menu with nutritional content at the establishment.     

It is important to consume foods and beverages that provide a high level of nutrients each day, including vitamins and minerals. Emphasizing or deemphasizing fat may not be key but instead as a consumer focus on increasing the nutrients you consume each day through fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy.

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