Fats are often seen as being dangerous or unhealthy, but that's not entirely accurate. Your body needs some fat to function. Getting healthy fats in your diet is critical to keeping your skin, organs, and endocrine system (responsible for making and managing hormones) working properly. But not all fats are created equal.
There are four types of fats:
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
Each type of fat is structured slightly differently. Saturated fats have a chemical composition that allows them to solidify more easily, while unsaturated fats are structured in a way that keeps them liquid at room temperature. For example, butter and bacon grease are saturated fats, while olive oil and canola oil are unsaturated fats.
While small quantities of fats typically aren’t a problem, eating large amounts of saturated or trans fats is generally considered to be bad for your health.
Why You Should Avoid Saturated Fats
Saturated fats raise LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol.
High LDL cholesterol levels can seriously and negatively affect your body. LDL cholesterol is one of the biggest causes of and risk factors for heart disease. This is the type of cholesterol that causes plaque buildup in your arteries, which is a primary cause of heart attacks. Plaque in your arteries can also break off and travel to your brain, leading to strokes.
Similarly, trans fats, or partially hydrogenated fats, not only raise your LDL cholesterol but also lower your “good” HDL cholesterol level. The FDA has taken steps to completely remove artificial trans fats from processed foods.
On the other hand, mono- and polyunsaturated fats decrease the amount of bad cholesterol in your body. Because of this, it’s recommended that you keep saturated fats to less than 10% of your daily calories and replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats as much as possible.
Foods With Saturated Fats
If you’re looking to eat healthier, avoiding saturated fats is an important step to take. Here are six foods high in saturated fats to avoid.
1. Fatty Meats
Fatty meats are one of the worst sources of saturated fats. A 4-ounce serving of 90%-lean ground beef contains 5 grams of saturated fat, or 23% of your recommended daily intake.
2. Poultry Skin
While poultry is generally low in saturated fats, that’s not true of the skin. An ounce of chicken skin contains 2.26 grams of saturated fat. If you’re looking to lower your intake of saturated fats, skip the skin.
3. Heavy Cream
Cream is made from the fat and liquids that rise to the top of unhomogenized milk when it is allowed to rest. This high-fat liquid is almost one-quarter saturated fats, with a 100-gram serving containing more than 23 grams of saturated fats.
Butter is made from the fats found in heavy cream, so it should be no surprise that it is also high in saturated fat. A one-tablespoon serving of butter (about 14 grams) contains more than 7 grams of saturated fats.
5. Soft Cheese
Different cheeses contain varying levels of fat. Soft cheeses tend to be higher in fat, with brie and Camembert each containing more than 17 grams of saturated fats per 100-gram serving.
As with high-fat cuts of beef, bacon is a major source of saturated fats. For every 100 grams of bacon you eat, you’re eating about 12.6 grams of saturated fats.
7. Potato Chips
The crunchy combination of fried potatoes and salt comes at a nutritional cost of 10 grams of fat per ounce.
8. Pork Sausage Links
Before you serve up some pigs in a blanket, you should know that three links of regular pork sausage have about 24 grams of fat (8 grams of saturated fat).
9. Vanilla Shake
At one of the national chains, this drive-thru favorite has 700 calories, 34 grams of fat (23 grams of saturated fat), and 75 grams of sugar.
10. Ice Cream
Just a small scoop (1/2 cup) can have 19 grams of fat (12 grams of saturated fat) and 300 calories.
11. French Fries
Sometimes a burger, chicken sandwich, or hot dog doesn’t seem complete without a side of fries. But a typical side of fast-food fries could serve up about 17 grams of fat (3.5 grams saturated) and 340 calories.
12. Chicken Potpie
For comfort food, it’s hard to beat the flaky crust and creamy gravy of frozen chicken potpies. But the numbers add up fast with a popular brand, which has about 41 grams of fat (14 grams saturated) and 670 calories.
13. Deep-Dish Cheese Pizza
Whether it’s from your grocer’s freezer or a pizza parlor, one slice of deep-dish cheese pizza can have at least 20 grams of fat (10 grams saturated) and 350 calories.
14. Caesar Salad
Even if you make your salad at home, 2 tablespoons of a bottled regular-calorie Caesar dressing totals about 18 grams of fat (3 grams saturated) with 170 calories.
It’s possible to cut down on saturated fat by replacing it with unsaturated options. These alternatives are delicious but don’t carry the same high saturated fats.
1. Lean Beef
Trimming the extra fat off of your beef or draining hamburger meat can remove a significant amount of fats from your meal.
2. Low-Fat Cheese
Cottage cheese and hard cheeses are usually lower in saturated fats. A 100-gram serving of cottage cheese contains less than 1 gram of saturated fat.
3. Skin-Free Poultry
Removing the skin from your chicken breast removes most of the fat, especially saturated fat.
4. Skim Milk
Skim milk is nearly fat-free, making it a healthier alternative to cream for your morning coffee.
5. Olive Oil
This butter alternative is almost entirely made of unsaturated fats, which makes it a great replacement when you’re cooking.
6. Turkey Bacon
Compared with pork bacon, turkey bacon has just a third of the saturated fats per serving.
7. Baked Potato Chips
Almost every brand of potato chips has a baked option, typically with 3 grams of fat per ounce. If that doesn’t satisfy your chip craving, sample some of the light chip options, with 4 grams of fat or less per ounce.
8. Turkey Sausage
Choose turkey sausage for an alternative to pork sausage. It typically has the same herbs and spices as pork sausage, and three links have only about 7 grams of fat (2 grams of saturated fat).
9. Creamy Yogurt Parfait
Get your cold-treat fix with a yogurt parfait, a reduced-fat vanilla cone, or a small frozen yogurt. If you really have to have a shake, order a kid-sized portion. Depending on the fast-food chain you are visiting, the fat grams and calories go down because of the portion size or lighter choice.
10. Reduced-Fat Ice Cream
Some supermarket brands offer super-satisfying substitutes to full-fat ice creams. These varieties are usually 75% lower in fat and 60% lower in calories. The frozen aisle is also stacked with nonfat sorbets and frozen yogurts in many flavors.
11. Homemade Fries
Make your own lower fat but still crisp, baked fries from scratch. Toss two potatoes, cut into sticks, in 2 teaspoons canola oil, and bake them in a nonstick jellyroll pan at 450 degrees until crispy. Another option: Frozen steak fries typically have 3 grams (1.5 grams saturated) and 100 calories per 3-ounce serving.
12. DIY Chicken Potpie
Cook up a chunkier chicken potpie casserole at home with shredded rotisserie chicken and assorted veggies. Make your own homemade gravy using reduced-fat canned cream of chicken or mushroom soup, and add in the chicken and veggies. Then top the mixture with whole wheat piecrust, which cuts the amount of crust in half and reduces the fat to about 12 grams (4 grams saturated fat) and 300 calories per serving.
13. Bagel Pizzas
When you’re craving that deep-dish taste, try an easy recipe for individual pizzas at home. Top whole wheat bagel halves, whole wheat English muffin halves, or a whole wheat pita pocket (not halved) with pizza or pesto sauce, shredded reduced-fat cheese, and veggie toppings. Pop in the toaster oven or regular oven broiler until the cheese is bubbly.
14. Make Your Own Caesar Salad Dressing
Skip the croutons and whip up your own salad dressing. Put the following in a food processor or blender: a teaspoon of minced or crushed garlic, about 6 anchovy filets, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon drained capers (rinsed), 3/4 teaspoon dried mustard, 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse to make a puree. Add 1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil in a slow, steady stream until a creamy emulsion forms. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and stir in 1/4 cup lower-fat sour cream or plain yogurt and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. If the dressing is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of low-fat milk.