Tag Archives: saturated fat

Getting To 10%

saturated fat

foods high in saturated fat

Telling the average Joe to limit their saturated fat to 10% of their total calories is like being blindfolded and sent to the grocery store to pick up dinner.  Some of the purchases might actually be worthy of dinner, but those boxes, cans and bottles are all going to feel the same.  Wouldn’t a little more insight be helpful?  How can the average person make any sense of such vague recommendations without having a good grasp of nutrition?

Dietary Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines is mandated under the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act which states that every 5 years the US Department of Agriculture and the Health and Human Services get together to set nutritional guidelines and recommendations for the general public.  We’ve got to live with this ambiguity for another 5 years so let me make some sense of it.

Saturated Fats

The 2015-2020 guidelines recommend that no more than 10% of those daily calories come from saturated fat.  Keep in mind that almost all foods are a combination of unhealthy saturated fat and the healthier unsaturated fat.  And many foods have the double-whammy transfat that not only clogs arteries, but undermines the heart protective HDL that part of the lipid profile.

The total fat grams on a nutritional label are a compilation of saturated fat, transfat and unsaturated fat.  Some labels might only have saturated fat and transfat (which they are required to put on) listed.  Other labels might have both of those and also have the unsaturated fat broken down into mono- and polyunsaturated fat, which are both the good heart-healthy fats.  We need fat in our diet for many body functions and absorption of some vitamins, but fat comes with a caveat.  Fat has more than twice as many calories per gram – 9 cal- compared to carbohydrates and proteins which both only have 4 calories per gram.  And we want to put the emphasis on the good fat so we don’t clog up our arteries.

Determining Your Saturated Fat Calories

First you need to have an idea how many calories you need to maintain your weight.  There are a lot of factors that determine someone’s caloric needs but the Mayoclinic has a nice and easy calorie calculator that takes activity level into consideration.  A 50 year-old woman 5′ 6″ tal.l weighing 170 pounds and who is inactive needs to 1750 calories to maintain her weight.  If she is getting about 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily that goes up to 2100 calories.  If you take 10% of those calories if she is sedentary, it’s recommended that she consume no more than 175 calories a day of saturated fat.

Making 10% User Friendly

As mentioned earlier there are 9 calories per gram of fat.  If you divide 175 by 9 you get about 20 gm of saturated fat per day.  So what does that look like?  Well, taking a look around my kitchen I found a 4 square Godiva chocolate bar (I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day) with 7 gms of saturated fat.  I found an 85% lean ground beef patty with 7 gms of fat.  A 10 oz ribeye has 28 gms of saturated fat.  whole milk vs 1%A half cup serving of Eddies slow churned ice cream contains 2 gms of saturated fat.  An ounce of Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese has 6 gms in one ounce.  An egg has 2 gms.  A tablespoon of butter has 7 gms, but that same amount of whipped butter has 3.5 gms.  One quarter cup of walnuts has 2 gms.  A slice of cooked bacon has 1.5 gms.  A cup of whole milk has 5 gms, but a cup of 1% milk has 1/5 gm.  So my Sunday breakfast splurge  ( I’m not perfect but I do bank and plan for my splurges) of 2 pieces of whole grain toast with 2 tsp of whipped butter, 3 slices of bacon and 2 eggs had 11 gms of saturated fat.   I’m guessing a steak with baked potato and butter, and a few squares of Godiva chocolate would put that over that 20 gms.

Make Informed Choices

You can either calculate your saturated fats to really know what you are choosing or you can make wiser substitutions.  Shifting away from cheese and towards humus, shifting to low-fat dairy, eating more poultry and fish and less red meat and being mindful of portions of things like chocolate and baked goodies will keep your heart pumping and your arteries unclogged, now that’s a nice payback.


Bo Derek

Ten, A Very Important Number

Aside from Bo Derek’s movie, Ten, with her gorgeous body running on the beach knowing how good she must feel, the number 10 is important in health coaching.  The number 10 is where we want our clients to reach in terms of their energy level.  When someone rates themselves a 10, they are able to accomplish more, overcome obstacles, achieve hopes, improve health, and feel life is full of possibilities.  The number 10 is also important in some areas of health.  When these guidelines below are achieved, any individual can feel like a Bo Derek and reach a 10 in energy level.


Fiber – Ten Grams Per Meal

You laugh, but face it, without having a daily poop our comfort is compromised and we feel bloated.  The average American eats only 15 grams of fiber a day – mainly from processed foods.  The U.S. government guidelines recommend 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day.

But fiber does more than just make us happy in the morning.  Soluble fiber helps lower the artery clogging LDL cholesterol.  Insoluble fiber feeds gut flora that helps to boost our immune system and gives bulk to our morning constitution.  Fiber has been linked to body weight regulation and helps to keep people fuller longer.  Aim for about ten grams a meal by eating fruits and veggies, nuts, beans and whole grain breads, cereal, and crackers.  And watch out for isolated fibers like maltodextrin, inulin and polydextrose that are processed fibers and do not give the same health benefits and can cause gas and bloating.

Exercise – Ten Minutes At A Time

The American College of Cardiology looked at the association between jogging at a leisurely pace and it’s impact on mortality and presence of heart disease in over 55,000 patients between the ages of 18 and 100.   They concluded that even jogging at a leisurely pace for 5-10 minutes each day was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death from all causes and heart disease.  Imagine that as few as five to ten minutes will give you a healthier, extended life.  If you have bad knees or joints then try an elliptical or the Arc, these are just as effective,  and you can watch TV or be in your skivvies and no one will know.

Saturated Fat – Less Than Ten Percent Of Your Daily Calories

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 which are updated every 5 years, recommend no more than 10% of total daily calories come from saturated fat.  For a 2000 calorie diet that would mean about 22 grams a day.  For an 1800 calorie diet it tops out at 20 grams.  For a 1500 calorie diet that would mean no more than 17 grams.  Saturated fat comes mainly from animal fats, but also palm and coconut oils.  Saturated fat is only part of the total fat on the nutritional label, but along with transfats, can lead to heart disease.

Saturated fats can add up.  A Big Mac has 10 grams, a double quarter-pounder with cheese has 19 grams – adding an ounce of cheese to any sandwich will add about 6 more grams of saturated fat.  A half cup of ice cream has 4 grams of heart-clogging fat.  A venti Vanilla Latte from Starbucks has 4.5 grams of saturated fat.  An apple crumb donut from Dunkin Donuts has 9 grams of saturated fat.  You can quickly see how all these numbers add up.  Awareness is empowerment so you can make an informed decision.

It’s All About Getting to Ten

Feeling like a 10 is possible.   Eating using these guidelines along with getting even 5-10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily is going to improve your circulation, digestion, immune system and satiety.  You will have more energy to do what makes you happy.

It doesn’t have to happen overnight.  It starts with getting familiar with food labels and eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes and nuts.  Increase you activity by parking further away during errands, taking the stairs more and gradually work towards that 5-10 minutes of exercise.  You don’t have to look like Bo to feel like a 10!

Let’s Chew The Saturated Fat

I went to visit some relatives last week and for the first time in 30 years the margarine was gone and in its place was glorious, creamy butter!  butterFor years they had followed the nutritional advice and made the switch from savory butter to tasteless margarine.  And now, with the recent study published in March in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluding that saturated fats do not lead to heart disease, they returned to their former love and enjoy that rich, creamy, buttery taste once again.  But the accuracy in this study is being questioned.

Saturated Versus Unsaturated Fats

OilInTheFamilyAll fats are a mix of unsaturated and saturated fats and are categorized by what type of fat they contain the most. Saturated fats are fats that come from animals like butter, cheese, chocolate, ice cream, cold cuts, and red meat.  There are some plant-based fats like palm and coconut oil that are also high in saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats are made up of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and they come mainly from plant-based foods like fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.  Most research supports the heart health benefits of reducing saturated fats and replacing them with polyunsaturated fats.

The Real Melt Down On Saturated Fat

The recently published research in the Annals of Internal Medicine challenge the well supported data in the link between saturated fats and heart disease.  There is a lot of controversy over the validity of this recent study.  Their data was gathered through observational studies, which according to Martijn Katan, a professor of nutrition at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and an expert on diet and cardiovascular disease, can be limiting and inaccurate.  In an interview in the May Nutrition Action Healthletter, Katan states that some of the limits of observational studies are that some only ask for food recall which can be impeded by subjective memory.  Other weaknesses of observational studies are that they may not include a complete food list.  Additionally, he states that diet assessments may not consider how an individual ate ten years ago and may only look at the recent past.  He states that how research is conducted can lead the authors to results they desired.  Furthermore, he emphasizes that there have been hundreds of trials that have proven that saturated fat can raise the bad LDL cholesterol and that if you doubt it then you can do your own experiment.  He recommends check you own cholesterol using a do-it-yourself measuring kit after eating a lot of saturated fat for a few weeks, checking and then eating a diet higher in polyunsaturated fats for a couple of weeks and checking once more.  Other scientists also challenge the results.

Rajiv Chowdbury, an epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, states that there were several errors in the data interpretation.  For example, the author of the study had first concluded that the people who ate a diet high in omega 3’s, a type of unsaturated fat, had a negative effect on their cardiovascular health, when in actuality the data indicated that they had significantly less heart disease.

Another weakness of the study is that the authors did not state what the saturated fats were replaced with in the group that ate fewer saturated fats.  If the participants had replaced those calories with carbohydrates that can raise insulin levels, increase vascular inflammation and cause weight gain instead of polyunsaturated fats which are heart healthier, the results could be skewed.

Everything in Moderation

As much as I love butter and many other forms of saturated fats, I believe these foods should be consumed judiciously and in moderation.  If you are uncertain of how your food choices affect your cholesterol then why not do your won self test.  Check your cholesterol now.  If you LDL is greater than 100 and you have a family history of heart disease, then why not cut out the fast food, reduce the chocolate and cheese and eat more fish, nuts and canola oil and then recheck your cholesterol?

Life is a balance between competing priorities; desires of the heart and awareness of our bodies.  Making healthy lifestyle choices can be made easier when we plan ahead to avoid impulsive choices and we learn little tricks and tips to make healthier choices.  We should also make our food choices based on our cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and family health history. If you are eating fast food, hot dogs, red meat, cheese, chips, ice cream and candy on a regular basis shouldn’t you ask yourself how this is benefiting you?  Can you postpone some short-term pleasures for some long-term quality of life?  Go ahead and enjoy that butter, but make it whipped, eat those foods that are best with butter less often, and enjoy grilled fish, nuts and canola oil more often.


Transcending Trans Fats

The FDA has moved forward with stating that trans fats are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food.  Many food manufacturers and restaurants have been using them less and less but now the curtain is coming down on them.  Based on expert panels including the Institute for Medicine (IOM) the FDA finds that there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat. The FDA has not set an official date for banning them but is in the process of meeting with food manufacturers to negotiate a time line.

Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid.  Trans fats are used to enhance flavor, texture and extend the shelf life of food.  They are the worst kind of fat because unlike saturated fat that just raises the bad fat in our blood, trans fat also lowers the good heart protective fat in our blood.  Food labels have been allowed to claim a food item had zero trans fat on the label and actually contain up to 0.5 mg of the partially hydrogenated oil.  By eliminating trans fats from foods, Commissioner Margaret Hamburg from the FDA states many thousands of lives can be saved.  It is estimated that trans fats have been linked to over 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths.

In 2007, New York City and Philadelphia had passed laws forbidding the use of trans fats in restaurants.  Health care providers have been struggling to get trans fats out of the American diet for decades because of its link to heart disease.  A high LDL and low HDL increases the risk for heart disease.  By reducing the use of this artificially created fat, the prevalence and severity of heart disease can be reduced – as long as consumers become wise to substitutions for this fat that enhances flavor and texture.

Doughnuts get their light texture due to trans fats.  Coffee creamers have that smooth appearance due to trans fats.  Many peanut butters get their smooth “spread-ability” due to trans fats.  So it makes you wonder what food manufacturers will come up with to replace these food enhancing qualities.  How will this impact us as consumers?

What Will Replace Trans Fats?

Be a savvy consumer.  Although saturated fats do not lower the good cholesterol (HDL) in our blood they are still linked to coronary heart disease.  Saturated fats come from animals and certain plants.  They are found in:

  • High fat cheeses
  • Certain cuts of meat – the more marbling in the meat, the higher the saturated fat.  The cheaper cuts tend to have less embedded saturated fat.
  • Whole fat milk and cream
  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Palm and coconut oils.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend consuming less than 10% of your total daily calories from saturated fat.  That means in a 2000 calorie daily diet, no more than 200 calories or 22 grams should come from saturated fat.  To give you an idea of what that looks like, 1 ounce of cheddar cheese has 6 grams of saturated fat.  A Dunkin Donuts Apple Crumb donut has 9 grams and a Big Mac has 10 grams of saturated fat.  So you can see how it quickly adds up in a day.

Although it’s a big step to have the FDA push to reduce trans fats in the American diet, being aware of all the fats that cause heart disease is what puts control in the individual consumers hands.