Because of its chemical composition saturated fat tends to be solid at room temperature. You can spot it easily when you leave your meal out and see how the oils begin to turn into a jelly like substance. The most common sources of saturated fat are dairy and meat: milk, butter, cream cheese, lard, the fat in animal meats like steak and chicken. However, there are some plant sources like coconut, palm oil and chocolate.
Overconsumption of saturated fats tends to increase cholesterol levels, increase the risk of certain cancers and accelerate the onset of cardiovascular disease. However, the scientific community doesn’t exactly know the mechanism by which dietary saturated fat becomes the one of the main culprits in these conditions. On the other hand, saturated fats play a large role in the integrity of cells, lung function, and protect the digestive tract. Nevertheless, our bodies can manufacture saturated fats. They are not considered an essential part of our diet. Finally, as you learned today, you can still get saturated fats from items classified as unsaturated fats like nuts, olive oil or canola oil because no fat source is 100% unsaturated. Olive oil has 14% of saturated fat; the fat in salmon is 20% saturated.
So, it is wise to reduce the consumption saturated fats (oils, butter,, creamy sauces and dressings) to less than 1/3 of your fat intake and to limit the consumption of red meat (pork, beef and lamb) whose fat is 50% saturated.
Does that mean that you should never have a burger, a steak, French fries, ice cream or any other guilty pleasure? No, just keep tabs on what you eat and don’t let it become a habit (code for Show Restraint).
Next Up: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats as well as omega 3 fatty acid sources