How Do I Avoid Saturated Fats?
“How do I avoid saturated fats?” is a question that individuals might ask as they try to cut calories, eat better and/or improve their heart health. While some trendy diets and food products promote saturated fat intake, most major health organizations still warn against excessive intake. So, where do you find saturated fat in food, how much should you eat and how can you avoid it?
Where are saturated fats found?
Saturated fats are naturally occurring in animal products like beef, lamb, pork, chicken with skin, butter, cream, full-fat and 2 percent fat dairy products, egg yolks, as well as in the plant oils, coconut, palm and palm kernel.
However, the main source of saturated fats in the U.S. comes from mixed dishes containing cheese, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, tacos, fried foods and other casserole-style mixed dishes. Baked goods, desserts and processed packaged foods also often contain large amounts of saturated fat.
How much saturated fat should you eat?
While some popular diets say eat all the saturated fat you want, and some say never eat it at all, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating 10 percent or less of total calories coming from saturated fat. On a 2000-calorie diet, that would allow for 22 grams of saturated fat per day.
The American Heart Association recommends that those looking to improve their heart health and lower cholesterol should only consume 5-6 percent of total calories from saturated fat. That would be approximately 11–13 grams per day. To put it into content, one 8-ounce glass of whole fat milk contains 4.5 grams of saturated fat and a typical “regular” size fast food cheeseburger contains anywhere from 6–20 grams.
Both recommendations state that when possible, you should try to replace saturated fat with poly– and mono–unsaturated fats. Research supports that this swap can help lower cholesterol and improve overall heart health and diet quality.
How can you avoid saturated fat?
It might seem that all your favorite foods are loaded with saturated fat, but there are ways to avoid it and make healthier choices.
Here are 10 swaps to start with:
- Eat your meat, chicken and fish baked, broiled, grilled or pan seared instead of fried
- When eating beef, choose a leaner, less marbled cut
- Remove visible fat from beef, lamb and pork
- Take the skin off chicken and eat the meat only
- Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy foods
- Cook with unsaturated oils like olive, Canola, grapeseed and peanut oils
- Avoid fast food and other processed foods where you can
- When baking, use yogurt or low-fat dairy products instead of cream, whipping cream, cream cheese, etc.
- Instead of creamy spreads and sauces like mayonnaise, Ranch and Caesar salad dressings, Alfredo sauce and more, choose mustard, balsamic vinaigrette style salad dressings and marinara or olive oil-based sauces
- Focus on a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, nut butters, fatty fish, avocado and healthy oils
Emerging Research on Saturated Fat
While there is new research emerging on saturated fat and its impact on overall health, the evidence still supports that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated can improve health long term.
It is, however, important to note that you can eat saturated fat as a part of a healthy eating pattern. They key is to keep your intake within the recommended caloric allotment for your body size and activity level. All foods can fit, some should just be consumed less often than others.
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