Saturated fats are those ‘harder’ type of fats including lard, butter and animal fats. They can be high in cholesterol and triglycerides (the main form of fat in the body). Eating more than the recommended daily allowance of saturated fats can increase levels in your blood leading to heart attacks, narrowed arteries and strokes.
Recommended saturated fat intake
People in the UK tend to eat too much saturated fat. NHS guidelines recommend:
- The average man should ideally have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.
- The average woman should ideally have no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.
While occasionally exceeding the recommended daily limit should be fine, if you regularly exceed the daily limit you will probably put on weight and could experience health problems. The more saturated fat you eat, the greater the potential health risks.
Foods high in saturated fat
Some foods are particularly high in saturated fat. While you needn’t remove these foods from your diet altogether, you should certainly limit your weekly intake. We cannot provide a full list of foods high in saturated fat as it would run for pages! However a commonly encountered selection includes:
- Fried foods (e.g. chips)
- Full fat milk (blue lid)
- Red meat
- Cheese, especially hard cheese
- Sour cream
- Ice cream
- Processed meats (e.g. pepperoni)
- Butter, lard and margarine
- Chocolate (especially baking chocolate)
- Biscuits, cakes and pastries
- Palm oil
- Coconut oil and coconut cream
Most packaged food carries a nutrition label. This label tells you the levels of fat, saturated fat, sugars, salt, carbohydrates and other nutrients found in the food. You can use this label to form a balanced diet, consume nutrients you wish to boost (so athletes need a lot of protein) and avoid the ones you wish to cut down on.
In the case of saturated fat:
- High Level: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
- Low Level: equal or under 1.5g of saturated per 100g
Normally the nutrient label will tell you the nutrient level per 100g regardless of the size of the food portion. If your food portion isn’t 100g, multiply or divide as appropriate to find the actual amount of saturated fat it contains.
Healthy alternatives to saturated fat
A healthy diet is a balanced diet. You shouldn’t remove foods high in saturated fat from your diet altogether: just take care not to eat too much of them. Replace them with lower fat foods such as:
- Whole grains (bread, pasta, rice)
- Semi-skimmed or no fat milk (green or red lid)
- Reduced fat dairy products (cheese, yoghurt)
- Poultry (although not too much skin)
- Lean meats without fat
- Fish (not battered a la fish and chips)
Visit our Healthy Eating page for deliciously simple, heart-healthy recipes that taste great and take no time to cook.