Saturated fat is known as the "bad" fat, and for good reason. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, too much saturated fat in your diet causes your blood cholesterol levels to increase, which raises your risk for heart disease. Six grams of saturated fat in a food is a bit on the high side; but as long as the rest of your diet contains little of this unhealthy fat, it isn't excessive. The amount of saturated fat you should eat depends on your total calorie needs.
Saturated Fat Recommendations
Less is better when it comes to saturated fat in your diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 encourage you to limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total calories. The guidelines estimate that women ages 19 to 50 require 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day for healthy weight maintenance. Diets containing 1,200 daily calories are often effective weight loss diets for overweight women. If you’re eating 1,200 calories a day, limit your saturated fat to less than 13 grams per day; if you eat 1,800 calories a day, consume fewer than 20 grams; and if you exercise regularly and eat 2,400 calories in a day, limit your saturated fat to less than 27 grams per day.
Saturated Fat-Rich Foods
High-fat foods from animal sources are often rich in saturated fat. Examples include high-fat cuts of meat, poultry with the skin, lard, full-fat cheeses, whole milk, cream, butter and ice cream. To significantly reduce the saturated fat in your diet, choose lean cuts of meat instead of fatty cuts and low-fat--or fat-free--dairy products.
Determining Saturated Fat
Knowing the fat content of some of your favorite foods can help you keep your dietary saturated fat intake in check. Nutrition facts labels on packaged foods list how many grams of saturated fat are in one portion of that food. For fresh or restaurant foods, you can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory online reference. For example, 3 ounces of turkey bacon contain about 7 grams of saturated fat, 1 cup of whole milk provides 5.6 grams and 1 tablespoon of butter contains about 7 grams of saturated fat.
Replacing artery-clogging saturated fats with heart-healthy poly- and monounsaturated fats is a move that could increase your life expectancy and quality of life. Healthy, unsaturated fats are found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, peanut butter, soybean oil, flaxseed oil and walnut oil. Since fat is high in calories, the Institute of Medicine suggests your total fat intake should not exceed 35 percent of your calorie intake, or about 78 grams of total fat per day for a 2,000-calorie diet.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: High Blood Cholesterol: What You Need To Know
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 42130, Turkey Bacon, Cooked
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 01001, Butter, Salted
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 01077, Milk, Whole, 3.25% Milkfat, with Added vitamin D
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.