While fat is essential for your body to function, consuming too much saturated fat may raise your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Saturated fat is a relatively unhealthy fat that you should limit in your diet.
There are many forms of fat, and some are healthier than others.
In general, dietary fat is necessary because it provides your body with energy and supports numerous bodily functions. Some vitamins even need fat to be absorbed by the body.
But foods high in saturated fat may raise cholesterol levels in your blood, which can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Many foods that are high in saturated fats are also high in calories, so they may contribute to being overweight or obese.
Excess body weight is linked to a number of health problems.
Foods High in Saturated Fat
While saturated fat is found naturally in many kinds of foods, it mainly comes from animal sources such as red meat, poultry, and dairy products.
Many baked goods and fried foods also contain large amounts of saturated fats.
Saturated fat from food sources tends to be solid (not liquid) at room temperature. Examples of this include butter and lard.
The following foods are some of the top sources of saturated fat in the American diet:
- Regular cheese (not low-fat)
- Whole milk
- Reduced-fat milk
- Eggs and egg dishes
- Dairy-based desserts
- Candy (especially chocolate)
- Cakes and cookies
- Pasta dishes (especially ones containing cheese)
- Potato chips and corn chips
- French fries and fried potatoes
- Chicken and chicken dishes
- Sausage, frankfurters, bacon, and ribs
- Beef and beef dishes
- Mexican dishes
Certain plant-based oils such as palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter also contain large amounts of saturated fat.
How Much Saturated Fat Should I Eat?
Generally, you should aim to keep the amount of saturated fat in your diet low.
It's not possible, though, to eliminate all saturated fat from a healthy diet because foods that contain healthy fat — such as olive oil, peanuts, and salmon — also contain some saturated fat.
Since red meat and full-fat dairy products like milk are some of the main sources of saturated fat in the American diet, limiting these foods is a good way to reduce your intake of saturated fat.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting only 5 to 6 percent of your calories from saturated fat.
For example, if you eat about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of those calories should come from saturated fat. This would be about 13 grams of saturated fat daily.
Keep in mind that when you reduce saturated fat in your diet, you should replace it with healthy fats — such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated — rather than foods that are high in refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, pasta, and many snack foods).
Healthy foods to consider as replacements for saturated fat include fatty fish like salmon, nuts and seeds, plant oils, and avocados.
Replacing some of the meat you eat with legumes (beans, lentils, peas) may also be a good idea.
To get the nutrients you need, the AHA suggests following a dietary pattern that emphasizes the following foods:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Poultry, fish, and nuts
- Lean meats without skin
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Saturated Fats; American Heart Association.
- Dietary fats: Know which types to choose; Mayo Clinic.
- Top Food Sources of Saturated Fat in the U.S.; Harvard P.H. Chan School of Public Health.