Foods High in Lipids

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 15, 2022
4 min read

The word “lipid” is another word for “fat.” Lipids can be both solid or liquid at room temperature, in which case they are called fats or oils, respectively.

For several decades, fats were considered bad for your health, and low-fat foods were regularly proclaimed to be healthier than full-fat options. However, your body requires dietary fats to function properly. Getting healthy lipids in your diet is necessary, but not all lipids will help your health. 

There are four types of fats:

  • Mono-unsaturated fats
  • Poly-unsaturated fats
  • Saturated fats
  • Trans fats

The difference between these lipids is in how they are structured. The structure of saturated and trans fats lets them stack together easily, which makes them solid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are “messier,” with bends in their structure. This makes most unsaturated fats liquid at room temperature. Butter is a saturated fat, for example, while olive oil is unsaturated. 

Different lipids have different effects on your health. Your body can use all types of fats, and in small quantities they are all perfectly healthy. However, trans and saturated fats appear to be bad for your health in large amounts.

Consuming saturated lipids is connected to higher levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in most people. Saturated fats seem to cause your body to create more LDL cholesterol and reduce the number of receptors that remove LDL cholesterol from your blood. 

Trans fats are very rarely found in nature. Most trans fats are produced by converting unsaturated oils into saturated fats. These unnatural fats appear to not only increase your LDL cholesterol, they also seem to reduce levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in your body. Because of this, the FDA has taken steps to completely remove artificial trans fats from foods. 

High levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream can cause atherosclerosis (the hardening and narrowing of arteries). If there are high levels of LDL in your bloodstream, fat particles will attach to the walls of your arteries and eventually develop into plaques that restrict blood flow. This can lead to coronary heart disease that includes heart attacks and strokes.

Unsaturated fats don’t have these same problems. Both mono- and polyunsaturated fats seem to decrease the amount of bad cholesterol in your body and may increase the number of LDL receptors to keep your cholesterol lower.

Because of this stark contrast between saturated and unsaturated fat, physicians recommend that saturated lipids make up less than 10% of your daily food intake. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is even better for your health.

There are many foods that contain lipids, but some foods are worse than others. Avoiding saturated fats is an important step to maintain your health. These 6 foods are particularly high in saturated fats and should be avoided.

1. Beef Fat

Beef fat, also known as beef tallow, is almost entirely made of saturated fats. Almost half of the lipids in beef fat consist of saturated fats. In fact, a single tablespoon, or 12 grams, can add more than 6 grams of saturated fat to your diet.

2. Poultry Skin

Chicken and turkey are generally quite healthy. However, their skin is not. Poultry skin is rich in lipids. A single ounce of chicken skin can contain up to 2.26 grams of saturated fat. 

3. Heavy Cream

When fresh milk is processed, a lot of the fat is removed and combined into heavy cream. As a result, heavy cream is a high-fat liquid. Even though it is liquid at room temperature, it still contains a large amount of saturated fat: a hundred-gram serving of heavy cream contains more than 23 grams of saturated fats.

4. Butter

Butter is made by condensing the saturated fats from cream into a single block. As a result, butter is more than half saturated fat. A single tablespoon of butter contains up to 7 grams of saturated fats.

5. Soft Cheese

Different types of cheese are produced from milk with different amounts of fat. In general, fat makes cheese softer, so soft cheeses like brie contain more lipids. A single serving of brie contains up to 9 grams of saturated fats in a 50 gram portion.

6. Bacon

Bacon is a particularly fatty cut of pork, and bacon fat is largely made of saturated fats. As a result, eating 100 grams of bacon adds 12.6 grams of saturated fats to your diet.

It’s possible to lower your saturated fat intake by replacing it with unsaturated options. These saturated fat alternatives are still delicious but don’t carry the same risk of high cholesterol levels. Alternatives include:

  1. Lean beef instead of fattier cuts
  2. Poultry without the skin
  3. Skim milk instead of heavy cream
  4. Olive oil instead of butter
  5. Fat-free cheese instead of soft cheese
  6. Turkey bacon instead of pork.