Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Exactly is Saturated Fat???

Saturated fat" is a chemical term that many people have mistakenly come to equate with meats and animal products. However, the relationship between saturated fat and food is not nearly this simple, nor is the relationship between saturated fat and health.

Virtually all fat-containing foods contain some saturated fat. There's about 1.25 grams of saturated fat in every tablespoon of flaxseed oil (about 9% of it's total fat), and in every tablespoon of olive oil, you'll find about 2 grams of saturated fat (or about 14% of its total fat). While the relatively small amount of saturated fat content of these foods is seldom placed in the spotlight, it is a natural part of their composition and their health-supportive properties. Very lean meats, like trimmed eye of round steak, will also contain about 2 grams of saturated fat per 4-ounce serving, and skinned baked chicken breast will contain just over 1 gram in this same amount. These very small amounts of saturated fat are amounts that most of us could easily include in our Healthiest Way of Eating and are amounts I consider to be both healthy and necessary.

The health risks associated with saturated fat all involve excessive consumption. Saturated fats are considered "bad" for us because in the U.S. we tend to consume them to excess, and this excess intake is associated with health problems. Excessive intake of saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol in both men and women, and it may also increase the risk of both prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease in men. The National Academy of Sciences has not set a daily limit for saturated fat intake and simply recommends eating as little saturated fat as possible while still consuming an adequate amount of other nutrients.

Organizations like the American Heart Association recommend that you keep your saturated fat intake under 7% of total calories. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, that recommendation means 140 or fewer calories from saturated fat, or about 15.5 grams.

To reach an excessive level of saturated fat, what kinds of food would you need to consume? An egg, cheese and bacon croissant would typically provide you with more than 15 grams of saturated fat and put you at or above the recommended limit. So would a 6-ounce serving of broiled filet mignon steak. You would also be over the limit with four 8-ounce glasses of whole milk, and you would be pretty close with two tablespoons of butter.

Julia Kissina

(above) Ukrainian photographer Julia Kissina has made meat gadgets famous for more than ten years. Her series, Feen, describes assorted wigs that are made of meat. How appropriate :)

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