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The Risks of Diets High in Saturated Fats

author image Chelsea Flahive, RDN, LD
Chelsea Flahive is a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian with a passion for health and wellness, weight management and disease prevention. She received a Bachelor of Science in human nutrition, foods and exercise from Virginia Tech and completed her dietetic internship through the University of Delaware. Flahive is completing a certificate of training in weight management through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Risks of Diets High in Saturated Fats
Fats like butter add flavor to meals but should be used in moderation. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

When it comes to fat, it can be hard to navigate the different types, their health benefits and the risks they present. Fats are sources of energy and add flavor to food. But some types of fats -- such as saturated fats -- can be harmful to your health and are linked to chronic diseases, such as high cholesterol and coronary heart disease.

The Three Types

The Risks of Diets High in Saturated Fats
Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat. Photo Credit Sebastian Duda/iStock/Getty Images

Fats are divided into three groups -- monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are beneficial to your health and can help to lower LDL cholesterol. They are liquid at room temperature and include fats such as canola oil and olive oil. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found in animal products, including meats and dairy, and in some vegetable sources, such as coconut oil and palm oil. Hydrogenated fats, such as margarine, also contain saturated fats.

Where's the Saturated Fat?

The Risks of Diets High in Saturated Fats
A 5-ounce hamburger can contain up to 12.5 grams of saturated fat. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Meats that are high in saturated fat include bacon, sausage, ground beef and pork ribs. Saturated fat can also be found in high-fat cheeses, whole-fat milk, ice cream and packaged snacks, such as potato chips.

Fats and Your Heart

The Risks of Diets High in Saturated Fats
Limit saturated fat to 10 percent of your total calories. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Diets high in saturated fat are linked to high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is caused by plaque buildup in the walls of arteries. This makes it difficult for your blood to flow and increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend that 20 to 35 percent of calories come from fat, with less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat.

Lower It

The Risks of Diets High in Saturated Fats
Check food labels to ensure that foods are low in saturated fat. Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Lower your saturated fat intake by making a few simple changes. Trim off the fat and skin of meats, then bake, broil, roast or grill them rather than frying them. Shop for lean meats, fish and poultry, as these tend to have less saturated fat. Choose low-fat or skim milk and cheeses. Prepare meatless or low-meat meals several times a week to help decrease overall fat intake. Read food labels to avoid hidden sources of saturated fat in packaged foods; steer clear of food with hydrogenated oil and partially hydrogenated oil.

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