Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are usually solid or waxy at room temperature. Foods contain a mix of varius types of the following saturated fats: lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid.

Animal-derived foods and some plant foods are rich sources of saturated fats. Here are some examples of foods high in saturated fat from each category:

• Animal foods – Fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat (tallow), lard, cream, butter, cheese, ice cream, and foods made with animal fats (including many baked foods and fried foods)
• Plant foods – Coconut, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, palm and foods made with these

Although saturated fats are found in various combinations in foods, here are some specific saturated fats and their main food sources:

• Lauric acid – Coconut oil
• Myristic acid – Palm kernel and coconut oils
• Palmitic acid – Most fats and oils
• Stearic acid – Most fats and oils, cocoa butter, chocolate, and fully hydrogenated vegetable oils

Too much saturated fat in the diet can raise total cholesterol and bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to deposits in artery walls that make it tough for blood to flow through to the heart and brain. This can increase risk of heart attack or stroke.

Not all saturated fats are created equal; some are more harmful than others. Consider this:

• Lauric acid and myristic acid raise blood cholesterol much more than palmitic acid
• Stearic acid has little effect on total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol levels; when consumed, it’s converted to oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can have a positive effect on blood cholesterol.

Some studies also show that interesterified oils (listed as high-stearate, stearic-rich, or interesterified fats on food labels), which are increasingly being used to replace trans fats in many processed and packaged foods, can raise blood cholesterol levels (though not as much as trans fats do) and blood sugar levels.

Choosing mostly lean cuts of meat and poultry instead of fattier ones, vegetable oils instead of solid fats like butter, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products can help you decrease your saturated fat intake and improve your overall dietary pattern. It can even help you curb your calorie intake and help you manage your weight or lose weight if you need to.

Fully hydrogenated oils are saturated fats that are made when liquid vegetable oils rich in unsaturated fats are turned into more solid fats by adding hydrogen molecules. These oils are used to create margarines and baked products and are used in cooking. Unlike partially hydrogenated oils, fully hydrogenated oils do not contain any trans fats.

Interesterified oils are chemically or enzymatically altered to create more solid fats; for example, an oil rich in saturated fats (palm oil or a fully hydrogenated oil) is blended with an edible liquid oil to create margarines or shortening. The resulting oils do not contain trans fats.

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