What to Know About Saturated Fat and Heart Health

February is American Heart Month and when it comes to heart health, dietitians and doctors often recommend limiting your saturated fat intake.  This is because excess saturated fat may cause a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries, which may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Interestingly, recent studies have blurred the line between saturated fat intake and heart disease.  One study reported that there is not enough evidence to support the long-standing theory that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. However, the same report suggests that replacing saturated fats with “good fats” may reduce the risk of heart disease.  For that reason most nutrition experts still recommend limiting saturated fats to less than 10% of your total daily intake and to replace these fats with “good fats”.   

What Exactly is Saturated Fat?

But first, what is saturated fat anyway?  Maybe you already know that bacon, butter and sausages contain saturated fat, but what else? The National Institutes of Health defines saturated fat as, “ … One of the unhealthy fats, along with trans fat. These fats are most often solid at room temperature. Foods like butter, palm and coconut oil, cheese, and red meat have high amounts of saturated fat”. 

So, if you were told to limit saturated fat to less than 10% (let’s say 7%) of your intake, a 2000 calorie/day diet, would mean ~16g of saturated fat/day.  Here are some of the top food sources containing saturated fats: 


Food SourceGrams of Saturated Fat/Serving
Bacon (1 slice)9 g
Potato Chips (1- 8 oz bag)9 g
Ground Pork (3 oz)9 g
Cheesecake (1 piece)8 g
Mozzarella Cheese (1/2 cup)7.5 g
Butter (1tbsp)7 g
Pork and beef sausage  (1- 2.7 oz)7 g
Chocolate Donut (1)6 g
Cheeseburger (1) 5 g
Parmesan Cheese (1oz)4.9 g
Whole Milk (1 cup)4.6 g

Are there Healthy Saturated Fats?

Now that we know what foods contain saturated fats, what are the “good” fats that we’re supposed to replace saturated fats with?  Think avocados, olive oil, sesame oil and nuts.  These food sources contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which according to the National Institutes of Health are healthy fats, found in plant foods, and can actually benefit your health.  Another healthy fat is omega-3 polyunsaturated fat.  Omega 3 fatty acids found in herring, mackerel, salmon or high quality nutritional supplements may help support cardiovascular health.  

Stay tuned for future blog posts by our Nutrition Experts.


(1) Facts about monounsaturated fats (2016, Aril 24). Retrieved from


(2) Facts about saturated fats. (2016, April 24). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000838.htm

(3) The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between (2017, August 22). Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

(4) USDA Food Composition Databases. Retrieved from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list?qlookup=01032

(5) Wartian Smith, P. (2008). What you must know about vitamins, minerals, herbs & more. Garden City Park, NY:Square One Publishers,

(6) Whitney, E., Rolfes, SR. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont CA: Thomas Wadsworth.