How to detect saturated fat and steer away from it

Excess saturated fat intake may have harmful effects on our health including an increased risk for obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

The marbling in meats are high in saturated fat.

The marbling in meats are high in saturated fat.

Excess saturated fat intake has harmful effects on our health. Consuming too much saturated fat in your diet can lead to increased cholesterol, which increases the chance of having a heart attack, the risk for Type 2 diabetes and a greater risk for obesity.

Saturated fats are similar to a building made of solid bricks. The bricks are stacked together like the tightly packed bonds in saturated fats. The bonds are often solid at room temperature, which is visible with butter and the fat inside or around meat. Unfortunately, foods loaded with saturated fats surround us on a daily basis. We may recognize some foods that are high in saturated fat and others we may not, especially in baked products or sauces.

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 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.

Higher fat foods are twice as calorically dense than other foods. 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. This recommendation is based on scientific evidence that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

So how can we eat less saturated fat?

  • Eat high fat food items less often
  • Eat smaller amounts of high-fat foods
  • Make substitutions that are lower in fat and calories to replace high fat foods

Eating high saturated fat food items less often and in smaller amounts can assist us when dining away from home. When at home or at a convenience store consider healthier substitutions.

Examples of high saturated fat food substitutions may include:

  • Vegetable chips for potato chips
  • Low fat cheese for full fat cheese
  • Skinless, boneless baked chicken breast for fried chicken with skin
  • Skim milk for whole milk
  • Apple for a muffin
  • Pretzels for fried chips
  • Ground turkey breast or ground sirloin for ground beef

Additional information can also be found at http://mihealthmatters.msu.edu/

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