Saturated fats are one of the types of dietary fats that exist and can eventually cause health problems. They are mainly present in foods of animal origin such as meat, egg yolk and milk and their derivatives.
Saturated fats become solid at room temperature and are sometimes visible to the naked eye in foods, as is the case with chicken skin, around red meat or cream. Other times they are not visible, since they are used during food processing.
This type of fat is also found in some foods of vegetable origin, such as palm or coconut oil. Experts have determined that high saturated fat consumption can lead to health problems and especially cardiovascular disease.
However, this claim has been questioned in recent years. There is considerable debate on the subject in the scientific literature, as this article in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition says.
Fats and types of fats
Fat is a nutrient that provides energy to the body so that it can function normally. If we exercise during the first 20 minutes, the body works thanks to the calories that carbohydrates provide. From then on, it takes energy from fat.
Fat also plays an important role in maintaining the health of our hair and skin, as well as balancing body temperature and for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Therefore, such vitamins are called fat soluble.
There are basically three types of fats: unsaturated, saturated and trans fats. Let us see:
- Unsaturated fats : These are liquid in the environment and are found mainly in foods of vegetable origin and fish. Their consumption helps to improve cholesterol levels.
- Saturated fats : We also know them as solid fats and their high consumption increases the level of bad cholesterol, which clogs the arteries.
- Trans fat : This is fat that is treated by a method called hydrogenation. They are the most harmful and are found mainly in industrial foods, according to a study published in BMJ.
The effect of saturated fat
When we eat too much saturated fat, they can cause problems in the body. The most relevant is that they cause an accumulation of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the arteries. When this happens, the risk of developing heart disease, arteriosclerosis or stroke can increase significantly. Although this is currently in doubt.
Excess cholesterol causes a lesion to develop on the walls of the arteries, called an atherosclerotic plaque. The consequence of this is that it reduces the diameter of the arteries, which prevents blood passage. This is what can lead to cardiovascular problems.
Another undesirable effect of this type of fat is that it easily leads to weight gain. And if we get in us a large volume of it, especially if this is accompanied by little physical activity, the result is overweight and obesity. Both have a notorious impact on health.
Myths and misconceptions about saturated fat
The topic of fat and diet has given rise to popularization of some myths and misconceptions. The first of these is that it is bad to consume saturated fat in all cases. This is not true. Experts recommended that saturated fat does not represent more than 6% of daily caloric intake.
Similarly, saturated fats are often eliminated from the diet without considering how they can be replaced for proper nutrition. The right thing to do in these cases is to replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats, and not to eliminate all types of fats completely.
Another healthy alternative is to increase your intake of whole grain carbohydrates, such as brown rice. On the other hand, it is not a good idea to replace bad fats with carbohydrates such as white flour or sugar. A study on the subject pointed out that those who do this not only reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It will rather increase the risk.
Fat and a healthy diet
The key to a healthy diet is balance. The golden formula is still a diet that contains plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and unsaturated fats. In small amounts and in a regulated manner, carbohydrates and saturated fats.
It is estimated that 25-30% of daily calories should come from fat. In turn, only 6-7% of these should be saturated fats. This is equivalent to about 15-25 grams of saturated fat per day.
In general, we should consume low amounts of foods such as industrial pastries, fatty or processed meats, fatty dairy products, whole or fried foods. Of course, we can indulge occasionally, but make it the exception and not the rule.