You’ve surely heard over and over again that you need to reduce the saturated fat in your diet. But it can be tricky to figure out exactly how much you can have and where it comes from. If you’re getting 6 grams of saturated fat from a single food though, it’s probably not something you want to eat a lot of.
1. Why It’s a Problem
Saturated fat has such a bad rep because it elevates risk factors associated with heart disease. It starts by upping the LDL -- or low-density lipoprotein -- in your blood, which clogs up your arteries. As that plaque builds up, arteries become rigid and less pliable. Blood cells get backed up, sometimes forming clots, and your heart works even harder to keep blood flowing. Eventually as blood flow slows down or stops in certain places, you could wind up having a stroke or heart attack.
2. Daily Allowance
Ideally less than 10 percent of your total calories should come from saturated fat, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states. For example, if you usually have around 1,800 calories a day, no more than 180 calories can come from saturated fat. Because fats have 9 calories in a gram, this is equal to 20 grams of saturated fat per day. So in this case, having 6 grams of saturated fat from one food takes up 30 percent of your allotment for the entire day.
3. Special Considerations
The recommendation is lower if you have a family history of heart disease or have any risk factors yourself, like high cholesterol. If you fall into this category, less than 7 percent of your calories can come from saturated fat. Based on an 1,800-calorie diet, this would be a maximum of 126 calories from saturated fat, or 14 grams for the entire day. If you were to eat something with 6 grams of saturated fat, you’d be getting about 43 percent of your daily saturated fat intake, based on an 1,800-calorie diet.
4. Where It Comes From
Fatty red meats are some of the biggest contributors of saturated fat in your diet. Just 3 ounces of ribs have around 9.5 grams, while a 3-ounce cut of lamb shoulder contains nearly 8.5 grams. Butter is another danger food. A single tablespoon of butter has roughly 7.3 grams of saturated fat. An ounce of Muenster cheese has 5.5 grams, blue cheese provides 5.3 grams per ounce and American cheese offers 5.1 grams of saturated fat in a 1-ounce slice. Clearly anything deep-fried, heavily processed or made with whole milk or cream will also add a load of saturated fat to your diet. Always opt for low-fat dairy, skinless light poultry meat, lean loin cuts of red meat and reduced-fat cheeses to keep your saturated fat intake to a minimum.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Saturated Fat
- WomensHealth.gov: Fats
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Fatty Acids, Total Saturated (g) Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Sorted by Nutrient Content
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images