Can I Eat Saturated Fat While Tracking Macros?

how much fat to eat daily

Based on the most current research, saturated fat consumption can be part of a healthy diet and used as a way to hit your daily total fat macro goal.

However, balance is key. You don’t want all of your allotted fat macros to come from saturated fats and you don’t want all of them to come from unsaturated either. Moderation and balance are the keys to a healthy lipid profile.

This can be hard for some people to accept since many people grew up in the “saturated fat is bad” era.

In this article, I’ll explain the old recommendation about eating saturated fat and also discuss the most current research regarding the inclusion of some saturated fat as part of a healthy diet.

The History of Saturated Fat

Somewhere in the 60s and 70s, under the guidance of the American Heart Association, fat was seen as the enemy.

Over time a titanic shift occurred in our attitudes towards food. Fat was out, carbohydrates were in. We were given a food pyramid and told to eat bread, pasta, and avoid fat.

The food and diet industry joined hands, eliminating fat and adding sugar. These foods were given a health halo.

Then things started to get confusing. There were all kinds of different fats. It seemed that some were okay, but some were bad. We were told to avoid saturated fats, and eat processed vegetable oils (margarine instead of butter).

Entire foods fell in and out of favor: Eggs were to be avoided. No, wait, maybe they were okay. Uh, actually they might be quite good.

And how we began to worry and stress about food.

diabetesrates

What’s happening with Diabetes? (the split between Type 1 and Type 2 is about 5%/95%)

The problem with this theory was that heart disease didn’t really decrease and diseases like diabetes actually increased! 

So perhaps saturated fats weren’t the problem after all. Perhaps it was all the processed fats and oils along with the highly refined carbs that were causing the problems.

The New Research Regarding Saturated Fat

Many health professionals and researchers have now debunked the theory that saturated fats and cholesterol are the leading causes of heart disease.

An increasing body of research is showing something different.

  1. The human body and its interaction with dietary nutrition is far, far more complex than we ever imagined. Therefore, genetics is a huge component of this.
  2. Cholesterol is also far more difficult to understand than first thought and people who eat very little can still have high LDL levels.
  3. Maybe saturated fat was never the problem.
  4. Shockingly, the very advice to eat more refined carbohydrates and reduced fat intake could be a major contributor to our growing waistlines and alarming levels of obesity.

One large UK study looked at 72 different studies and found that there was no clear evidence that lowering saturated fats reduced heart disease. The lead researcher said that “refined carbohydrates, sugar, and salt are all potentially harmful for vascular health” (BBC).

(Caveat: In true nutrition fashion, there are debunkers of the debunkers, with some questioning the meta-study’s methods.)

Another study showed that it isn’t saturated fats that cause heart disease but instead chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has many causing including the improper balance of fats in the diet and high carbohydrate diets.

Tracking the Fat Macro in a Balanced Way

Here’s how to satisfy your daily fat macro in a healthy and balanced way while enjoying foods that contain some saturated fat.

  • Go after whole foods and avoid processed foods, especially fats.
  • Eat eggs, avocados, and nuts.
  • Cook with coconut oil, olive oil, and peanut oil.
  • Limit highly processed oils like canola, soy, corn, and hydrogenated oils/fats.
  • Use real butter from grass-fed cows instead of fake butter and margarine.
  • Take an omega 3 supplement. Since we don’t typically eat enough omega 3 fatty acids in our diets. Out of balance fatty acid levels leads to inflammation.
  • Choose lean meats like chicken and turkey most of the time but it is ok to have some red meat or pork on occasion.

Don’t forget that fats are a more calorie-dense food group than proteins and carbs, so don’t go overboard and stick to your personal macro recommendations.

Focusing on a single nutrient or food group as the source of all our health and obesity woes is a mistake. Balance is everything.

Fleeing from sugar is not the cure-all: we must maintain an “entire life context” if we hope to improve health outcomes. A flexible and balanced approach to dieting is better for our bodies and our sanity.

You'll Love My Macro Solution Program

Step-by-step ebooks, or fully customized personal macros coaching. Now with complete vegan edition.

Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and is our lead macro coach. If you need help reaching your weight loss/fitness goals see our personal coaching options.
Last Updated: November 21, 2019

9 Comments

  1. rich

    lets make it simple for all…..moderation is the one word you need to know….eat fatty steak at everymeal you probably will get a disease and die….drink 2 liters of cokacola a day …you will probably get a disease and die….eat half pound bacon everyday….your head will explode and you will die….moderation in all things…..you will probably do alright…..then again talk to the 95 year old who eats a big breakfast of eggs and bacon….drinks a glass of scotch everyday and has then has an after dinner cigar….maybe genetics plays a role also?….everyday i get a different story from different doctors…good luck everybody

    Reply
  2. Ryan

    Ultimately, I think topics like this are a distraction, only applicable to people who aren’t active and are eating too many calories from low-quality food, and people who are doing that are going to have problems anyways.

    I don’t think people who are exercising reasonably hard and eating a varied diet of “real”/nutritious food in an amount that will maintain their activity level at a healthy weight really need to worry about this stuff.

    Reply
    • Ted

      Thus the reason we have this site… we want to reach out to the former you mentioned which are by far the majority out there. We do appreciate those like you, who do have their healthy eating sorted that are helping us spread the word and who are supporting people new to a healthier eating lifestyle. We really want Healthy Eater to be a gateway for people to begin making positive changes. So again, thanks for reading and offering your insight!

      Reply
  3. Ted

    Didn’t the study also point out that eating saturated fats with refined carbs is where the problem lies?

    For instance eggs with sautéed veggies good but eggs with toast not so good. Steak with salad and broccoli good, steak with dinner roles and french fries not so good.

    During the news segment I watched the doctor explained it by saying that the refined carbs cause the sticky type of cholesterol to elevate where as without carbs the beneficial “pillow-like” cholesterol elevates when eating saturated fat.

    This would explain why there was no difference in heart disease rates, (which Daniel pointed out below) between pre nonfat movement to post nonfat movement. Americans have always loved bread and pre 1960 ate it with every meal thus the whole combining of saturated fat with refined carbs deal.

    I would definitely agree that this issue is far more complex than we once thought.

    My rule of thumb. I eat a lot of veggies, chicken, eggs, and fish and just a little red meat, bread, and sugar in my diet.

    Reply
    • JamesF

      So bread with slathers of lard is out?

      Reply
  4. spectra311

    Processed carbohydrates are toxic to your body and they cause the inflammation that makes cholesterol so dangerous. I’ve been eating saturated fats for years on its own with no problems

    Reply
  5. Daniel Wagle

    David Katz, who is Director of the Yale Research Prevention Center wrote a very convincing critique of the Chowdhury study here. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-katz-md/what-to-do-when-your-food_b_5620522.html

    One major point he makes is that if replacing saturated fat with refined sugar doesn’t show a health benefit, then that doesn’t prove that saturated fat is good for us.

    “The actual findings of the meta-analysis being used to fan the flames of this contention are as noted above; our heart disease rates were just as high with a higher intake of saturated fat as they are now with a higher intake of sugar. If no change in heart disease rates with less saturated fat and more sugar means saturated fat is good for us, then what’s good for the fatty goose should be good for the sugary gander. It also must mean that no change in heart disease rates with more saturated fat and less sugar means that sugar is good for us, too. Oops.’

    The best thing to replace high saturated fat animal foods with is NOT refined sugar, or possibly not vegetable oils either but rather WHOLE plant foods, which might include whole plants with healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and avocados. Katz stated,

    “Consider, for instance, the Lyon Diet Heart Study. This, unlike Keys’ observational work, was research with all the requisite bells and whistles: a randomized, blinded, controlled clinical trial. Hundreds of European adults at high risk for heart disease were randomized to either a traditional northern European diet with lots of saturated fat, or a Mediterranean diet with less meat and more plants, and rich in monounsatured fat and omega-3 among other features. The Mediterranean diet reduced major cardiovascular events by over 70 percent. Other studies have shown much the same.”

    Katz also cited this study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22412075, which demonstrated, “Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.”

    Katz is not a total Vegan and the point is NOT that a person cannot eat ANY saturated fat whatsoever. The point is to limit how much one eats. If a person eats red meat, don’t eat it everyday and only small portions of it.

    Plantpositive.com also has good refutations of this Chowdhury study.

    Reply
    • JamesF

      By no means do I think that the meta-analysis was pointing people to eat more saturated fats… let alone eat more meat or animal fats.

      The takeaway from me is that in our attempts to frame food groups as “bad” leads the food and diet industry to start messing with foods.

      Also, that it’s naive just to blame saturated fats as the reason for heart disease. The issue is just far too complex for that.

      I know people who avoid avocadoes because of all the fat, and yet turn around and eat “healthy” muesli bars.

      We don’t need to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction.

      Reply