What is saturated fat?
Fat (Lipid) is commonly known in chemistry or biology as an esterification form of fatty acids. When it comes to fat, researchers often think of triglycerides (neutral fat/saturated fat) as an ester form originating from one glycerin and three fatty acids. Fat is the main component of vegetable oil and adipose tissue in animals as well as humans.
In terms of physical properties, fat is a group of soluble compounds in typical solvent environments (but insoluble in water). Fat is lighter than water, and when mixed with water, fat floats on top. You can try experimenting with oil and water to observe the composition of fat in oil.
Fat, protein, and carbohydrates belong to the same group of energy-providing substances, but fat is considered the most concentrated energy source. It is classified this way because, according to research, 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories to the body, while 1 gram of protein or carbohydrates only provides 4 calories.
Fat is further divided into two main types:
Unsaturated fat: These fats provide many nutrients to the body. This type of fat is often found in seed oils such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, etc.
Saturated fat: They are abundant in animal fats or certain fruits such as palm, coconut, cocoa, and some fast foods like fried chicken, french fries, etc.
Saturated Fat: Good or Bad?
At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a “pandemic” of heart disease in the United States. While heart disease was rare worldwide, it emerged as a leading cause of death following that “pandemic.” During that period, researchers also discovered that saturated fat was the main cause of increased cholesterol levels in the blood.
From then on, they believed that saturated fat was the primary factor leading to heart disease. But what is the truth? It became a major question for researchers.
What is LDL-cholesterol? Do you truly understand it?
Cholesterol is an essential component that plays a crucial role in most bodily functions. It is obtained from two main sources: endogenous synthesis within the body and dietary intake. Cholesterol is also divided into two symbolic categories, representing two almost contrasting aspects: “good and bad.” Specifically, they are categorized as:
HDL-C: It stands for High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol, also known as “good cholesterol.” Its function is to transport unnecessary nutrients to consuming organs for digestion.
LDL-C: It stands for Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol.” But is it truly bad? Let’s explore it in detail with goodheathplan.
In reality, LDL-C functions by transporting cholesterol to various tissues throughout the body through interaction with LDL receptors. It also generates LDL when cells are “starved” to provide the necessary cholesterol for the body.
However, the term “bad cholesterol” is not naturally coined. In fact, if LDL-C cannot enter cells and becomes deposited, it leads to the formation of arterial plaque. This plaque formation can lead to dangerous complications and even death.
Since LDL-C is not entirely bad, there are cases where it is still necessary. However, it should be used in appropriate amounts based on age and health status, and LDL-C levels should be categorized accordingly:
Healthy adults: LDL levels should be kept below 100 mg/dL and not exceed 129 mg/dL.
Adults with cardiovascular issues: LDL levels should be kept below 100 mg/dL. It is important not to exceed this threshold to avoid severe pathological conditions that pose a threat to patients’ lives.
Children: LDL levels should be kept below 110 mg/dL and not exceed 129 mg/dL.
LDL-C levels can be influenced by various factors such as family diet, unhealthy habits (e.g., smoking, lack of regular exercise), among others. By understanding and eliminating these habits, it is possible to easily control LDL-C levels in the body.
Is Saturated Fat Really the Cause of Heart Disease?
Elevated cholesterol levels (also known as saturated fat) in the blood are the primary cause of excessive fat deposits in the blood and also contribute to the formation of arterial plaque. Many people believe that it is also the cause of other cardiovascular diseases.
However, despite decades of research on this issue, no scientist has been able to definitively prove that saturated fat is the cause of blood fat and seems to have not found any direct link between saturated fat and heart disease. So, is saturated fat good or bad for the body?
According to a study from the Cochrane Collaboration system, reducing saturated fat in the body does not have any impact on the risk of developing heart disease or mortality in humans. In other words, reducing saturated fat in the body does not lower the rate of death or heart disease.
However, changing saturated fat to unsaturated fat can benefit your body. Specific data shows that this change can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 14% as well as decrease the risk of mortality by 14%.
In conclusion, numerous studies have shown that saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease. There is no direct association between heart disease and saturated fat. However, it is a contributing factor to the development of arterial plaque (which can lead to strokes). Therefore, it is advisable to replace most of the saturated fat in your daily diet with unsaturated fat.
In summary, is saturated fat good or bad?
In reality, no nutrient in the body can be entirely good or bad, and saturated fat is no exception. It is important to control cholesterol levels in the body to maintain an adequate amount for it to perform its functions effectively, promote metabolic processes, and provide a sense of satiety.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), on average, each person should consume only 20-35% of total fat intake, equivalent to 22g-47g of fat in a 2000-calorie diet. Within this, saturated fat should only make up around 5-6% of total fat intake.
Which Food Groups Contain Saturated Fat?
The majority of our daily food consumption includes varying amounts of saturated fat. However, there are several food groups that are not essential for us and therefore foods containing saturated fat are categorized into main groups to facilitate reduction and protect our health.
Protein-rich Food Group
There are numerous foods that provide us with an adequate amount of protein. Within this group, there is also a moderate amount of saturated fat, and consuming these foods helps keep us satiated for longer periods. Specifically, the following foods:
Beef: A familiar meat for many of us, beef is not only known for being protein-rich and containing saturated fat but also for its other nutrients such as Vitamin B1, iron, zinc, etc. In 86g of cooked beef, there is 10% fat, 22g of protein, and 184 calories. It does not contain starch but it helps keep us full for an extended period. It is recommended to choose lean beef with less fat, more lean meat, and naturally raised beef is preferable over industrially raised ones.
Chicken breast (boneless): Chicken breast is a common food for those who are dieting. It is a type of meat that is high in protein and low in fat. In 180g of cooked chicken breast (without skin and bones), there are 285 calories, 55.4g of protein, and 7g of fat.
Pork: Besides being delicious and easy to cook, pork is a source of many nutrients for the body. In 100g of lean pork, there are 4.5g of fat, 19g of protein, and 145 calories.
Eggs: Eggs are easy to eat and prepare, and they are rich in protein but also contain a fair amount of saturated fat. Therefore, it is recommended not to consume more than 2 egg yolks per day and no more than 3 egg yolks per week.
Protein-rich foods are mostly meat, especially those with darker hues. To reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, it is advisable to limit meat consumption, especially for individuals with high cholesterol levels. It is recommended to reduce the intake of the aforementioned foods to ensure stable health.
Milk and Dairy Products
Milk and dairy products are abundant sources of energy and meet the criteria of being delicious, nutritious, and affordable. However, these foods also contain a significant amount of saturated fat, which is not beneficial for the body. Specifically, the following foods:
Fresh cow’s milk: Many people believe that cow’s milk is a highly nutritious food that helps in the intellectual development of children, making them smarter and taller, and this may not be entirely untrue. However, research shows that a 220ml pack of cow’s milk contains 5g of fat, 24mg of cholesterol, and 146 calories. The cholesterol content in the pack of milk is excessively high, providing a day’s worth of cholesterol to the body without the need for other foods. Therefore, if you consume a pack of milk, it is necessary to reduce the fat content in other foods to ensure that your body does not have an excess of fat.
Cheese: Cheese is a popular accompaniment in many dishes, loved by many young people for its creamy and delicious taste. Some people worry that “eating cheese will cause weight gain,” but if consumed in the right way, it will not lead to weight gain as the fat content in cheese is not excessively high.
Oils and Fats
Perhaps everyone knows that oils and fats are the highest sources of fat in food, and most of them are saturated fats. Is this really true? How much fat does each type contain? Let’s find out:
Beef fat, pork fat, or lamb fat (animal fats in general): In cooking, the most commonly used is pork fat due to its low cost and its ability to melt at high temperatures to form liquid for cooking, frying, and stir-frying. However, research shows that 100g of pork fat rendered into oil contains only 19g of protein but provides 890 calories and 37.3g of fat. These figures indicate that pork fat contains a significantly higher amount of fat compared to other types of meat. Therefore, it is important to consider the usage of this type of meat to ensure your health remains at its best.
Mayonnaise: Also known as the “miracle sauce,” it has a creamy, slightly sweet, and tangy flavor that is not only appetizing but also enhances the taste of food. It may be considered a food that can lead to weight gain, but it is only a condiment, so it does not contribute a significant amount of fat to the body if consumed in small quantities as recommended. It is known that a tablespoon of mayonnaise provides about 45 calories, 4.5g of fat (including only 0.5g of saturated fat).
Other Types of Food
In addition to the aforementioned food groups, saturated fat also exists in many other types of food and continuously enters our bodies every day. Let’s explore what these foods are:
Fast food: A box of french fries paired with fried chicken, a perfect combo. The crispy and sweet exterior of the fries and the crispy and juicy chicken inside make it easy to forget the way back home. However, this combo is actually the cause of high cholesterol, particularly an increase in LDL-C levels exceeding the amount of HDL-C. This is a serious issue for our health.
Packaged and processed foods: Similar to fast food, LDL-C levels increase rapidly, partly due to excessive consumption of processed foods. This lack of control over eating habits and the intake of fat contributes to a higher risk of developing high cholesterol levels.
The best advice for everyone is to prepare homemade meals, limiting the consumption of outside foods to easily monitor your body and maintain your own health.
How to Supplement Saturated Fat Correctly and Adequately
Based on research, the American Heart Association recommends that an individual should only consume about 5%-6% of their calorie intake from saturated fat. It is important to use saturated fat reasonably, in appropriate amounts, without excess or deficiency. Saturated fat should be considered as part of the body and not as an essential nutrient.
Additionally, aiming for a healthy diet involves replacing foods high in saturated fat with necessary nutrients or, at the very least, transforming them into forms of unsaturated fats to ensure that your health remains stable or in a good state.
In conclusion, through this article, we have provided an overview of saturated fat. As we conclude this journey, take a moment to reconsider the question: “Is saturated fat good or bad for the body?” Find your own answer to maintain your health and that of your family.
Johnny Jacks was born in 1985 in Texas, USA. He is the founder of Good Health Plan and is passionate about helping people improve their health and physical well-being. With over a decade of experience working in the healthcare industry, he currently works at Goodheathplan.com – a blog that shares knowledge on beauty and health.