Fat is a nutrient that our bodies need daily to provide long-term energy, provide warmth, and help absorb certain vitamins. While all fat has the same number of calories, different types of fat have different effects on our health. The two major types of dietary fat are saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, full-fat dairy products, eggs, and butter, and in baked goods, pastries, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil. They are solid at room temperature and are not beneficial for heart health. Saturated fats can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol which can increase the risk of heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that less than 10% of daily calories come from saturated fat.
For example, if you eat 2,000 calories per day, fewer than 200 calories should be from saturated fat. That is less than 22g of saturated fat per day.
Unsaturated fats are found in salmon, trout, avocados, walnuts, soybeans, peanuts, tree nuts, seeds, and oils like olive, canola, safflower, and sunflower.
There are two types of unsaturated fat – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, both of which are liquid at room temperature. These types of fat are beneficial for heart health and can increase “good” HDL cholesterol when eaten in moderation.
The Bottom Line
It is impossible to completely avoid saturated fat, but we can be mindful about replacing foods that are higher in saturated fat with foods containing more unsaturated fats.
Track your fat intake this week using a written log or an app like MyFitnessPal. Then replace one item that is high in saturated fat with one that is higher in unsaturated fat.
Example: Cooking with butter? Switch to olive or canola oil!