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What Is Saturated Fat? How Much Should I Have?


The difference between saturated fat and other types of dietary fat has to do with its chemical structure. Saturated fats contain carbon atoms saturated with hydrogen atoms and no double bonds, notes Indiana University. The amount of saturated fat you should eat daily depends on your recommended caloric intake and your blood cholesterol levels.
Recommendations for Women

Healthy women with normal blood cholesterol levels should limit saturated fat to 7 percent of their total caloric intake, while women with high blood cholesterol should aim to obtain no more than 5 or 6 percent of their calories from saturated fat, suggests the American Heart Association. This means women who eat 2,000 calories daily should limit saturated fat intake to 11 to 16 grams per day. Women eating reduced-calorie diets, providing 1,200 to 1,600 calories, should eat no more than 7 to 12 grams of saturated fat daily.

Guidelines for Men

Men should follow the same guidelines as women, which means they should limit saturated fat to 5 to 7 percent of their daily caloric intake. However, since men typically require more calories than women to maintain healthy body weights, their saturated fat allotment is slightly higher. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest many men need 2,000 to 3,000 calories daily to maintain healthy weights. Men eating 2,000 calories should limit saturated fat to 11 to 16 grams daily, and men consuming 3,000 calories should eat no more than 17 to 23 grams of saturated fat per day. Men who eat 1,600 calories daily to lose weight should aim for 9 to 12 grams of saturated fat per day.

Foods High in Saturated Fat

Saturated fat is mainly found in high-fat meats, egg yolks, whole-milk dairy foods and tropical oils. Specific examples of foods high in saturated fat include butter, lard, cheese, whole milk, buttermilk, cream, ice cream, bacon, sausage and high-fat ground beef. Coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil are some of the few plant-based foods that are rich in saturated fat. However, a study published in 2011 in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that saturated fat in tropical oils, such as coconut oil, may not negatively affect your cholesterol levels like saturated fat from animal sources. One large egg yolk contains about 2 grams of saturated fat, 1 cup of whole milk provides almost 5 grams, a slice of cheddar cheese contains 5 grams, and a 3-ounce portion of cooked 30-percent-fat ground beef has 6 grams of saturated fat in it.

Total Fat Suggestions

Your body needs dietary fat on a daily basis to function properly and absorb certain vitamins. Choosing heart-healthy unsaturated fat in place of saturated fat reduces your risk for developing high cholesterol and heart disease. Adults should make 20 to 35 percent of their daily calories from fat, suggests the Institute of Medicine. This means if you're eating 2,000 calories per day, aim for 44 to 78 grams of total (because fat contains 9 calories per gram). Get the majority of your dietary fat from plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, nut butters, fatty fish, olives and avocados instead of saturated fat from animal sources.


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An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as and J

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