Sunday, September 29, 2019

What are saturated fats and why are they bad for your health?

Look on any package and you usually see the amount of saturated fat grams listed.  Nice information but what is the average consumer supposed to do with that information?  Why are saturated fat grams on the nutrition label and how do saturated fats affect our health?

What are saturated fats?

Think of fats solid at room temperature like Crisco, lard, butter or bacon fat.  Look at steak, bacon, pork chops, salami and you can see the streaks of white – that is the saturated fat in the meat.  Whole fat dairy foods like whole milk, whole fat cheese contain saturated fat.  The chemical structure of saturated fats means the fat has no double bonds, is saturated with hydrogen and these fats can pack tightly together, and that is why saturated fats form solids at room temperature.  
Foods with saturated fat
What foods have saturated fats?

The American Heart Association is a go- to place for information on diet and heart health.  The heart association and other sources list examples of saturated fat as:
  • Processed Meats – salami, pepperoni, cured ham, bratwurst sausage, sausage, bacon, hot dogs
  • Dairy – whole milk, full-fat cheese, cream cheese, cream, whipping cream, ice cream
  • Meat – hamburger, pork ribs, pork chop with fat, poultry with the skin
  • Lard, Crisco,
  • Oils – palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil
  •  Fast Food- think fried food, double bacon cheeseburger, fried chicken nuggets, fried chicken
Why are saturated fats listed on nutrition labels?  

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates nutrition labeling on our food packages.  FDA notes that diets with high levels of saturated fat are linked to an increase risk of heart disease.  
Look for saturated fat on nutrition labels
Why are saturated fats considered bad for your health?

Eating a lot of foods high in saturated fats can adversely affect our health in a number of ways:
  • Increase risk of heart disease – saturated fats increased the bad cholesterol in our blood, known as LDL cholesterol.  The medical profession used to focus on the amount of cholesterol we eat but now the focus is on saturated fat in foods.  Why?  Because eating diets high in saturated fat can raise the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in our blood and cause a build up of cholesterol in your arteries. 
  • Weight gain – saturated fat doesn’t just increase heart disease risk but it also can be linked to weight gain.  Foods like pepperoni pizza, baked goods like pies, cakes and fried foods are high in fat and can have a lot of saturated fat.  Diets high in fat can pile on the pounds as fats provide more calories per gram than carbs or protein. 
How can you cut back on saturated fat?

Who doesn’t enjoy a steak, cheese, pepperoni pizza?  One doesn’t have to give up these foods.  The Dietary Guidelines recommend that we limit saturated fat calories to 10% of our calories a day.  Who counts this?  I don’t.  But simple changes can help anyone cut back on saturated fat in their every day diet.
  • Dairy – choose low-fat milk, low-fat cheese like Mozzarella, low-fat cream cheese, low-fat yogurt.
  • Meat:  choose leaner hamburger, cook the pork chop and then cut off the fat rink, microwave the bacon and dab off the fat, eat poultry without the skin like baked chicken breasts.  Cut back on fried foods.
  • Oils – choose olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and margarine in a tub like Smart Balance margarine.  
Smart Balance is heart healthy

We don’t eliminate saturated fat from our diet but we do choose low-fat dairy products and have found a low-fat ice cream that is quite good.  We choose lean hamburger, except when grilling as one needs regular hamburger for burgers on the grill.  I used to buy Cool Whip but stopped when they added the high fructose corn syrup.  So now we use light whipping cream, the real stuff, not the fake stuff, just some for taste on pudding or desserts.  Open our fridge and find the Smart Balance margarine and find canola oil in the pantry.  We also enjoy foods that do have saturated fat.  You will also find hot dogs in the freezer and we like pizza about once a week.  Find some ways you can cut back but not eliminate saturated fats from your diet.

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