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How Do Saturated Fats Affect Health?

author image Madison Hawthorne
Madison Hawthorne holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing, a master's degree in social work and a master's degree in elementary education. She also holds a reading endorsement and two years experience working with ELD students. She has been a writer for more than five years, served as a magazine submission reviewer and secured funding for a federal grant for a nonprofit organization. Hawthorne also swam competitively for 10 years and taught for two years.
How Do Saturated Fats Affect Health?
A young girl is about to eat french fries. Photo Credit: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Not all fat is bad for you. Fats help you feel full after a meal, but many foods containing saturated fats also contain higher amounts of cholesterol, which compounds the potentially harmful impact from consuming high amounts of some foods. Saturated fats increase blood cholesterol, which increases your risk of contracting heart disease and having other health problems.

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Saturated Fat

Each gram of fat provides 9 calories, which is more than twice the calories of 1 g of protein. High amounts of saturated fats can usually be found in animal products and fried foods. Saturated fats are made of carbon atoms, which are saturated with hydrogen atoms. When saturated fats are at room temperature, they usually form a solid.

Health Problems

In addition to heart disease, eating too many calories or foods high in saturated fats can increase your risk of serious health problems, including obesity and Type 2 diabetes. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 17 percent of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese and over one-third of American adults are obese. Changing eating habits to include a variety of fruits and vegetables and adding exercise can help you prevent some of the health problems associated with eating unhealthy foods.


It is important to limit your intake of saturated fats to help maintain a healthful lifestyle. Including a variety of foods rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, such as vegetables, will help you feel full without the extra fat content. You need a variety of nutrients to provide your body with energy. Saturated fat should be less than 7 percent of your total calorie intake, according to the American Heart Association. No more than 140 calories or 16 g of food should contain saturated fat as part of a 2,000-calorie diet.


Avoid or limit your intake of foods high in saturated fats, which include beef, veal, lamb, pork, butter, cream, milk, cheeses, coconut and cocoa butter. Not all fats are bad for you, but all foods containing fat should be eaten in moderation. Try replacing saturated fats with foods that have monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, such as eating fish and nuts and using liquid vegetable oil for cooking. Some products like milk can be bought with lower fat content. Monitor your nutritional intake by keeping a daily diary of foods consumed. The USDA has created an interactive tool called MyPyramid Tracker that can help you track calories and fat intake and assess nutritional intake (see Resources).

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