How Much Saturated Fat Should You Eat?

healthy fats
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Few food groups inspire the kind of loyalty saturated fats can, and the reason for this is simple: they are often found in foods that taste fantastic. So when they’re labelled “bad fats”, it’s tempting to ignore that advice, especially when the muddle of news stories about saturated fat studies can make it seem far from clear-cut that they really are so bad. To get the facts, Coach spoke to Monika Siemicka, dietitian and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association.

What’s the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats?

Generally, you find saturated fats in animal produce, and they tend to be solid at room temperature, such as harder fats including butter and fats on meat. They are also found in dairy foods, biscuits and pastries. Palm oil and coconut oil are also saturated fats.

Then you have unsaturated fats, found in plant foods. Vegetable oils such as olive oil or rapeseed oil are higher in monounsaturated fats, which are found in avocados and nuts as well.

RECOMMENDED: Is Coconut Oil Good for You?

Why are saturated fats “bad” for us?

Saturated fats are more likely to increase the bad cholesterol circulating in our blood, whereas unsaturated fats don’t. There’s a huge body of evidence to support that, and I know that it has been questioned in the media and there is quite a lot of research being done into it, but we do know that saturated fat will raise the bad cholesterol, and that will lead to an increased risk of heart disease. That’s why we recommend that people try to swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats.

How much fat should you eat?

They are both very high in calories, so we don’t need a huge amount. Overall, we shouldn’t get more than 30% of our total intake from fat, and with saturated fat that’s about 11% – for men that means about 30g a day of saturated fat. Most Brits eat too much saturated fat. If you’re having a lot of meat, try cutting off the skin and the visible fat and if you eat a lot of biscuits and cake, try to replace them with healthier snacks such as sticks of fruit and vegetables.

What’s the best way to respond to news stories about fats? 

There are reliable sources such as the British Heart Foundation, and the NHS online has the evidence behind the headlines. When you see the headline “Everyone should eat fat again”, it’s worth questioning the source, what kind of study it’s in and how many people they’ve looked at.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.