Saturated Fat

By: Callie Pillsbury on Sep 20, 2018

Fatty acids are divided into 3 different types: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds, monounsaturated fatty acids have one double bonds, and polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more double bonds. Saturated fats are solid and unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature. Foods are comprised of a combination of these fatty acids in varying amounts.

What is Saturated Fat

Saturated fat are hard at room temperature because the fatty acids are tightly packed together. Since they are solid at room temperature, saturated fats have a higher melting point than unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are used in the body for structural purposes; however, the body produces an ample amount of saturated fats to maintain structure. Therefore, individuals older than 2 years of age have no dietary requirement of saturated fat (1).


The Dietary Guidelines encourages Americans to limit saturated fat to less than 10% of total daily intake. About 71% of Americans are eating more than 10% of their calories from saturated fats. Saturated fat is considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption. Most saturated fat intake comes from mixed foods such as burgers, pizza, pasta dishes and tacos (2). 

Where is Saturated Fat Found?


Serving Size

Saturated Fat (grams)

Coconut Oil

1 tbsp.

11.7 g


1 tbsp.

7.2 g

Ground Beef

3 oz.

6.1 g


1 oz.

6.0 g

Whole Fat Milk

1 cup

4.6 g

Chocolate Chip Cookie

1 medium

2.3 g

Health and Disease

Lipid levels

Saturated fats raise the bad type of cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in the saturated_fat-supporting_image-400x500.jpgblood.

Cardiovascular Disease

Individuals are encouraged to replaced saturated fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources in the diet to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. Cardiovascular events occur with a high intake of saturated fats because the increase in LDL causes a buildup of lipids in the blood vessels. The buildup of lipids causes a blockage of blood vessels and lack of blood to the heart. It is suggested to replace animal sources of fat with plant source to increase unsaturated fats and decrease saturated fat intake (1).


Is your diet high in saturated fats? Let’s look at some alternatives for foods high in saturated fats! Choose low fat, frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. Low fat cheese is a good replacement for regular cheese. Even picking extra lean ground beef in place of regular meat reduces the saturated fat content. An easy replacement is the use of margarine instead of butter. Margarine is a solid fat that is comprised of mostly unsaturated fatty acids that have been hydrogenated to make a solid type of butter.


Individuals do not need any saturated fat in the diet! Saturated fat increases cholesterol levels which raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. The choice of unsaturated fats in replacement of saturated fats leads to a healthier lifestyle.


1. Stipanuk , M. H., & Caudill, M. A. (Eds.). (2013). Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition. St. Louis , MO : Elseiver Saunders Co.

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at