Are Saturated Fats Bad For Your Health?

How harmful for your health are foods such as meats, eggs, milk, and coconut? Here we'll give you the latest research on saturated fats.
Are Saturated Fats Bad For Your Health?

Last update: 28 January, 2021

For many years now, saturated fats have been classified as a harmful nutrient for our health. However, expert opinions on the matter have begun to shift in recent years. This is due to the fact that recent scientific studies have debunked certain claims that were thought to be concrete evidence.

Up until now, we have divided fats into two main groups: good and bad. The first group corresponds to unsaturated fatty acids, and the second group is made up of saturated fats and trans fats. However, the most recent studies point to evidence that only trans fats are able to have negative effects on your health.

Saturated fats

Saturated fats are characteristic because of the fact that they’re solid at room temperature. This quality is seen in animal products such as butter, as well as some vegetable products, such as coconut oil.

The intake of saturated fats has been linked to an increase in dietary cholesterol, although this association is now out of date. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, there’s actually not a significant correlation between the consumption of eggs -which contain saturated fat- and the modulation of the body’s lipid profile.

The same thing has happened with coconut oil. The journal Nutrition Reviews published a study showing that coconut oil is actually beneficial for cardiovascular health despite having an elevated level of saturated fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides. This all points to evidence that it’s more important where your nutrient is coming from rather than what it’s made up of.

Saturated fats transforming into trans fats

Despite the fact that saturated fats aren’t considered harmful on their own, they do become harmful when they are transformed into trans fats. This situation happens when lipids are submitted to high temperatures.

It’s worth noting that due to the nature of their chemical links, saturated fats are more susceptible to undergo this transformation than unsaturated fats. This is the main reason why it’s better to cook with olive oil than with butter.

Olive oil

At the same time, it’s important to avoid industrial ultra-processed products. These food products usually contain high levels of saturated fats in order to make them more palatable. In addition, they’re usually baked or cooked at high temperatures, which as we mentioned, turns these saturated fats into trans fats. Not to mention the high levels of sugars and additives in them as well.

Could eating more fats be helpful?

Contrary to popular belief, consuming fats isn’t harmful to your body. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The body needs both saturated and unsaturated fats in the diet in order to correctly function.

Because of this, there’s no need to worry if lipids make up 30 to 40 percent of the total calories in your diet. In fact, it’s even healthy to reduce your intake of carbohydrates in favor of fats. Although it’s not necessary to completely exclude them from your diet.

In addition, keep in mind where your fats are coming from. Always choose fresh, high-quality products. In this high-quality category are meats, fish, eggs, dairy, oils, and dried fruits, among others.

Always try to avoid pastries, pre-made industrialized foods, and processed red meats. This last item is especially harmful to your health.

Saturated fats aren’t all bad

Cooked eggs with saturated fats

As you can see, saturated fats aren’t harmful to your health, and in fact, are necessary for your body. Its consumption isn’t related to any negative change in lipid profiles or with any higher risk of cardiovascular illness. It’s not been associated with higher incidents of cancer, so long as it comes from fresh foods.

Therefore, there’s no reason to fear saturated fats. They should form part of your diet, although in reasonable quantities. It’s also important to ensure a proper intake of unsaturated fats since these fats can keep inflammation in check and are imperative for many physiological and hormonal reactions. Pay attention to your cooking methods, since submitting fatty acids to high temperatures decreases their quality.

In any case, don’t forget that fat is an especially high-calorie food, although satiating. Including high quantities of fats in your diet can knock your energetic balance off and cause you to gain weight.

Consume fats! There’s no reason to be afraid of them, so long as you consume them in a balanced way. Remembering to exercise regularly can help you avoid problems and reduce your risk of illness.

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  • Blesso CN., Fernandez ML., Dietary cholesterol, serum lipids, and heart disease: are eggs working for or against you? Nutrients, 2018.
  • Eyres L., Eyres MF., Chisholm A., Brown RC., Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutr Rev, 2016. 74 (4): 267-80.