Saturated Fat: What Is It?

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 5, 2022

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All fats are made up of chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. But some of these chains are “saturated” with atoms, which makes them solid at room temperature. This is what we call “saturated fat.”

But there’s more to it than that.

What is saturated fat

What’s the Deal with Saturated Fats?

What are they?

Fats are an important part of our diet, and they come in three types: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found in animal products like milk, cheese, butter, and meats, as well as tropical oils like coconut and palm oil.

Why the Bad Rap?

Saturated fats have been labeled as “bad” for years, but the evidence isn’t clear-cut. Many health organizations have recommended keeping saturated fat intake to a minimum and replacing it with other foods, but heart disease rates have still been on the rise. Could it be that processed, carb-rich, and sugary foods are to blame?

So What’s the Verdict?

It’s complicated. Some studies suggest that polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils are better for us, while others don’t back that up. All this conflicting information has left us scratching our heads and wondering what to believe.

What is the Impact of Saturated Fat on Health?

Heart Health

We all know that eating too much saturated fat isn’t great for our hearts, but what does the research say? Well, it turns out that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that only 5 to 6 percent of our daily calories come from saturated fats (4). This is because studies have shown that eating too much saturated fat can increase certain heart disease risk factors, like LDL (bad) cholesterol and apolipoprotein B (ApoB). LDL transports cholesterol in the body and the more of it we have, the higher our risk of heart disease. ApoB is a protein that is a main component of LDL and is considered a strong predictor of heart disease risk (10).

Other Concerns

It’s not just our hearts that we need to worry about when it comes to consuming too much saturated fat. Studies have also linked it to:

– Increased inflammation

– Cancers

– Mental decline (12)

For example, one study in 12 women found that when compared with a diet high in unsaturated fat from hazelnut oil, a diet high in saturated fat from a blend of 89 percent palm oil increased the pro-inflammatory proteins interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) (13). 

Plus, there’s some evidence that saturated fats can mimic the actions of bacterial toxins called lipopolysaccharides, which can induce inflammation (14).

And, when it comes to mental function, appetite, and metabolism, some studies have shown that saturated fat can have adverse effects. But, other research has shown that fat can be a satiating macronutrient, so it’s not clear cut (16, 17).

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the research isn’t definitive. While it’s true that eating too much saturated fat can increase certain heart disease risk factors, it’s not clear if it’s the only cause. Plus, there’s some evidence that it can have negative effects on other aspects of our health, but more research is needed. So, if you want to stay healthy, it’s best to keep your saturated fat intake to a minimum.

What Should I Do?

It’s not just about the fat – it’s about the whole diet. Eating a balanced diet with lots of whole grains and plant-based foods is key. Plus, don’t forget about the other dietary constituents like added sugars that can also affect your health. 

So, if you want to stay healthy, don’t just focus on one “bad” food – focus on your overall diet. And don’t forget to consider lifestyle and genetic factors too! 

Can Saturated Fats be Part of a Healthy Diet?

The Good

It’s not a secret that some foods high in saturated fat can be part of a healthy diet. Here’s a few examples of nutritious foods that are packed with saturated fat:

– Coconut products like unsweetened coconut flakes and coconut oil

– Grass-fed whole milk yogurt

– Grass-fed meat

Studies have shown that full fat dairy can actually be good for your heart, and coconut oil can help raise your HDL (the good cholesterol). Plus, it might even help with weight loss.

The Bad

On the other hand, eating processed foods that are high in saturated fats, like fast food and fried foods, can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health problems.

And if you switch out saturated fats for a high carb diet, you might be putting yourself at risk for heart disease.


Saturated Fat Vs Unsaturated

When it comes to fat, there are two main types: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat is the type of fat found in animal products such as red meat, butter, and cheese. It’s also found in coconut and palm oil. Unsaturated fat is found in plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, and avocados. It’s also found in fish and certain vegetable oils.

Saturated Fat Vs Trans Fat

Trans fat is a type of fat that’s created when liquid oils are processed into solid fats. It’s found in processed foods such as cookies, crackers, and chips. Trans fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, so it’s best to avoid it. In contrast, unsaturated fats are considered to be beneficial for your health, as they can help reduce cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. So if you’re looking to make healthier food choices, opt for unsaturated fats over saturated and trans fats.


What are examples of saturated fats?

Saturated fats are the fats that are solid at room temperature. They’re usually found in animal products like butter, cheese, red meat, and poultry. They can also be found in some plant-based foods like coconut oil and palm oil. 

How do you avoid saturated fats?

Unfortunately, saturated fats aren’t good for you. Eating too much of them can raise your LDL cholesterol levels, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. To avoid them, choose lower-fat and lean options of dairy, meat, and poultry — like skim milk, lean beef, and grilled chicken breast without the skin. You can also opt for plant-based sources of fat like olive oil and avocados.

Important Relations

Room Temperature

Saturated fat is the bad guy when it comes to cholesterol levels and heart health. It’s found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products and eggs, and tropical oils like coconut and palm. Because it’s usually solid at room temperature, it’s sometimes called “solid fat.” 

High Cholesterol

When you eat too much saturated fat, it can raise your level of LDL cholesterol in your blood. LDL stands for “low-density lipoprotein,” and it’s the type of cholesterol that can cause problems. It can build up in your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

So, what can you do to avoid eating too much saturated fat? The first step is to become aware of which foods contain it. Animal-based products like red meat, poultry, full-fat dairy, and eggs are all high in saturated fat. Tropical oils like coconut and palm are also high in saturated fat. 

You can also reduce your intake of saturated fat by making healthier food choices. Choose leaner cuts of meat, opt for low-fat or non-fat dairy products, and use healthier cooking methods like baking, broiling, or grilling. You can also replace some of the saturated fat in your diet with healthier unsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. 

Heart Disease

Finally, it’s important to remember that moderation is key. Even healthy fats should be eaten in moderation. Eating too much of any type of fat can lead to weight gain and other health problems. So, make sure to keep an eye on your saturated fat intake and make sure it’s within the recommended limits.


In conclusion, saturated fat is an important macronutrient that plays a role in human health. While it’s important to keep your intake of saturated fat to a minimum, it’s also important to remember that it’s not the only factor that contributes to heart disease risk. So, don’t be afraid to enjoy foods that contain saturated fat in moderation, but also be sure to include plenty of nutrient-dense foods in your diet.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.