Saturated fat is often referred to as ‘unhealthy’ fat. While it’s true that we shouldn’t be eating much of it in our diet, understanding what saturated fat is, the foods it’s in and how it affects our bodies can help us to make healthy food choices.
What is saturated fat?
Saturated fat is a type of fat that is solid at room temperature and mostly found in animal-based foods but also in some plant-based foods. Examples include fatty cuts of meat, full-fat milk, butter, cream, coconut and palm oil, most commercially baked products and deep-fried foods.
Why do our bodies need saturated fat?
Saturated fat can be made by the body, so it is not required in the diet. Saturated fat has both physiological and structural functions but contributes to the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke as it raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in our blood.
What are the recommendations for saturated fat consumption?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that we limit the intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol. This includes choosing lower saturated fat options or replacing with unsaturated fat, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which tend to lower LDL cholesterol levels.
When reading nutrition information on packaged foods, aim for products with 3g or less per 100g of saturated fat. Products with less than 1.5g saturated fat per 100g are the healthiest choice.
What happens if we consume too much or too little saturated fat?
Consuming too much saturated fat can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke. As the body can produce saturated fat there are no negative health outcomes if we don’t eat saturated fat, however eating less saturated and trans fats may help lower the risk of heart disease.