The Truth about Saturated Fat: What you Need to Know
Ever since Time magazine famously called on us to “Eat Butter” in its June 2014 cover story, people wanted to know the truth about saturated fat. Is it really bad for us, or not? In this article, we will try to cut through the misinformation and give you the facts.
What is Saturated Fat?
These are the so-called “unhealthy fats” found in foods such as red meat and dairy products like butter and cheese. They are considered bad for you because they raise levels of LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol in your blood, which can increase your risk of developing stroke and heart disease.
Are Saturated Fats Really Bad for You?
According to the Time article, despite dietary guidelines dating back to the eighties urging Americans to cut down their fat consumption, the incidence of type-2 diabetes grew by almost 170% from 1980 to 2012, while cardiovascular disease remained the No. 1 cause of death. Meanwhile, more than one-third of the US suffers from obesity.
The above facts led researchers to seriously consider reversing recommendations on fat intake. But are they right to do so?
Looking at the Bigger Picture
Despite calls for us to return butter and bacon to our diets, it may be wise to stop and take a look at the wider context behind these findings.
As it turns out, while Americans did reduce their intake of saturated fat, the problem was that they had to replace it with something else. What they replaced it with were carbohydrates, such as those found in white bread, pasta and even fruits.
So, what’s wrong with carbohydrates? Although carbohydrates are essential nutrients that provide us with energy, they also convert to glucose in our body. This, in turn, causes the release of insulin, a substance that helps our bodies retain fat.
Thus, what was happening is that the benefits from reducing our intake of saturated fats were being canceled out by increasing our consumption of carbohydrates.
Also read: The Truth About Low Carb Diets
What Should I Eat?
When it comes to nutrition, what is important is not to focus on one aspect of your diet, but to look at the whole picture.
Officially, the American Heart Association still recommends limiting your overall consumption of saturated fats to no more than 6% of your total calories. If you eat around 2,000 calories daily, only 120 of these should be from saturated fats.
The basic recommendations for what constitutes a healthy diet are still valid
These include eating more:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- If eating meat, opt for lean meats – such as chicken or turkey with the skin removed – or fish/seafood
- Whole grain foods such as quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat
- Probiotic or fermented food
While limiting your consumption of:
- Sugary drinks such as soft drinks
- Red meat
- Baked goods
- Refined grains such as white bread, pasta or white rice
- Processed foods
Also, you need to replace saturated fats in your diet with healthier plant-based fats, such as avocado or avocado oil, coconut oil (which is also a saturated fat but the healthy kind), olive oil, seeds, and nuts.
The truth about saturated fat is that although occasionally indulging in foods, such as bacon or butter, is not necessarily bad for you – what is more important is that you take a look at your overall diet to ensure you’re making healthier nutritional choices.
Also, not all saturated fats are created equal. Think of coconut oil which is one of the healthiest fat out there. Click here to learn what makes coconut’s saturated fats so healthy and good for us.