Let me guess: you're investigating saturated fatty acids because your doctor told you that your cholesterol levels are quite high and you're afraid that your diet might be the problem.
And that's usually right...
First of all, we've seen that fats, or fatty acids, are divided into three categories:
even though most people just divide them into saturated and unsaturated.
Unsaturated fatty acids are the good ones, because they help remove cholesterol from the arteries walls, allowing the blood to flow more easily, therefore reducing blood pressure and the risk of developing heart diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
On the other hand, saturated fats are responsible for the increase of cholesterol on the arteries walls, and it's dangerous because in this case the blood can't flow freely, which increases the risk of heart disease.
This is why saturated fats are also called bad fats.
Saturated Fatty Acids and Health
Together with high cholesterol levels, there is an association between a diet rich in saturated fats and the increase of some cardiovascular diseases, especially heart attacks and strokes.
On the other hand, it has been shown that monounsaturated (i.e. olive oil) and polyunsaturated (omega 3 and omega 6) fats have a protective effect against those diseases.
Based on the result of many studies, a healthy diet suggests that
No more than 10% of daily calories should come from saturated fats
Although even more recent studies suggest the limit should be 7%.
This means that on a diet of 2,000 cal/day, saturated fats should be 15/22 grams max.
Oh, thanks so much you're probably thinking...how do I know how many grams of saturated fats I am eating?
Legit question, and you're right, it's almost impossible...unless you read the nutrition facts of everything you eat, and calculate how much of each food you eat.
That is why numbers don't really mean much here, and most times it is just recommended to moderate the consumption of the following foods:
- Fatty ed meats
- Fried foods
- Whole milk
- Fat cheese
- Meats and foods with high glycemic index (including sodas)
These are, instead, the foods to be preferred:
- Lean white meats (turkey and chicken breast)
- Vegetables and fruits
- Vegetable oils, raw
- Fish oils
- Yogurt (low fat yogurts)
- Bread, pasta and other cereals (whole grains)
What I suggest is not to completely eliminate some foods and eat the others all the time, because that would probably cause other issues (first of all you would HATE this diet, become irritable and be in bad mood all the time).
The best thing to do is always to moderate what is considered "bad" and rich in saturated fatty acids.
Well, in some cases I actually eliminate junk foods completely. I can't recall the last time I had a Mac Donald's burger for example, or other crap like that. I guess the fact that they taste really bad for me helps a lot!
The foods that we eat every day contain variable quantities of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
Saturated fats are mostly contained in dairy products (whole milk, butter and cheese), meat (especially with visible fat), animal fats (lard), but also in certain plants such as coconut oil, palm oil and chocolate.
These ingredients are widely used for the production of confectionery foods and bakery products, so the bottom line advice is to watch out for these types of products when you're hungry!
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