Fats are often seen as being dangerous or unhealthy, but that's not entirely accurate. Your body needs fats to function. Getting healthy fats in your diet is critical to keeping your skin, organs, and endocrine system (responsible for making and regulating hormones) functioning properly. However, not all fats are created equal.
There are four different types of 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. Butter and bacon grease are generally saturated fats, while olive oil is an unsaturated fat.
These differences in the chemical composition of fats are the basis for their varying health effects. While small quantities of fats typically aren’t a problem, consuming large amounts of saturated or trans fats is generally considered to be bad for your health.
Why You Should Avoid Fats
Saturated fats appear to raise LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, in most people. These fats encourage the creation of more LDL cholesterol and reduce the receptors that remove this type of cholesterol from your body.
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. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to completely remove artificial trans fats from processed foods because they are deemed unsafe.
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 caloric intake and replace as many saturated fats with unsaturated fats as possible.
Foods With Saturated Fats
If you’re looking to eat healthier, avoiding saturated fats is an important step to take. Here are 6 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 hundred grams of bacon you eat, you’re consuming about 12.6 grams of saturated fats.
It’s possible to lower your saturated fat intake 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 fats.
3. Skin-Free Poultry: Removing the skin from your chicken breast removes the majority 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.