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Saturated Fat: What's the deal?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

The topic of saturated fats—found in coconut, chocolate, butter, and fattier cuts of meat—is a hot topic.

Some say it’s terrible for your health, gumming up your arteries and leading to heart attacks.

Others say caution is outdated—and even advise you eat more of it.

But what’s the research say?

In a nutshell:

1. When consumed in excess, saturated fats increase cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular events.


2. Saturated fats don’tincrease your risk of dying.

The truth is, saturated fat is neither all bad nor completely harmless.

Rather, it’s a matter of consuming saturated fats in the appropriate doses, in the right context.


10-Second Takeaway

  • A good general guideline: Keep saturated fats to about 10 percent or less of total daily calories to reduce risk of negative health effects

  • Trans fatty acids are the bigger concern: They’re directly linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and allergy

  • Cutting back on saturated fat isn’t always a good thing, because it depends on what you’re adding in its place: When people lower their consumption of saturated fats and replace those calories with refined carbohydrates, the risk of heart attack goes up

  • If you’re eating a balanced whole foods diet, and you’re not eating excess calories, you probably don’t need to worry about your saturated fat intake

  • Some people feel good on a higher fat diet (including more saturated fat). However, if saturated fats are a main calorie source, consider testing cholesterol levels and blood lipids periodically to ensure they’re in a normal range


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