Despite all the bad press, fat is important for a healthy diet, and the kind of fat you eat is key for a healthy heart and desirable cholesterol levels. The thing to keep in mind when planning out your day’s meals is how you’ll take in the right quantity and balance of saturated and unsaturated fat. Sometimes it is hard to know how much saturated fat per day to eat, however, especially as many of the nation’s favourite foods have rather a lot of these “bad fats”.
We’ve put together some straightforward information to make it simple for you to keep your daily saturated fat intake on track.
Guidelines on your saturated fat per day intake
NHS guidelines on how much saturated fat per day (known as the “recommended intake”, or “RI”) to have state that the average man should eat no more than 30 grams.
In contrast, the average woman should have less than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.
This includes everything you consume throughout the day, so remember to include all your snacks when calculating your intake. It’s also easy to forget things like butter and milk: we often add these to bread or hot drinks without even thinking about it.
These figures are just guidelines – your saturated fat intake should be around 1/3 of your total fat (both saturated an unsaturated) intake allowance. This may vary slightly depending on your individual circumstances. For example, if you do a great deal of physical activity your energy allowance may be slightly higher; if you’re trying to lose weight, you may well need to restrict your intake to than less than the standard guidelines.
The average person’s daily saturated fat intake in the UK is higher than recommended
At a population level, most people are eating more saturated fat than they should be. The British Dietetic Association, for example, has found that on average we are consuming about 20% more than the recommended maximum.
Why is too much saturated fat an issue? The key reason is that too much of this “bad” fat can lead to raised levels of cholesterol in the blood. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat in the diet has been shown to lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, the kind that has been linked to heart disease*.
You can find out more about this in our article “Is Saturated Fat Bad For You?”.
How to keep your daily saturated fat intake within the recommended limits
So now you know the saturated fat ‘RDA’ or ‘RI’ (recommended intake), how do you monitor your intake properly? As an overall guideline, saturated fat is found in high amounts in meat and dairy products, as well as many baked and processed foods.
When looking for specific amounts, nutritional labels can help. These are usually found on food packaging – all foods must be labelled with how much saturated fat they include per 100 grams. Sometimes this information is also included per portion, so be sure to check which one you are reading before calculating your intake.
Now you’re equipped with the guidelines around how much saturated fat per day to eat, it should be easier to make informed choices about your diet. Remember that lowering your saturated fat levels does not mean getting rid of all fats, though, as there are also unsaturated or ‘good’ fats that should account for 2/3 of your total daily fat intake. Replacing the saturated fat in your diet with unsaturated fats like those found in vegetable oils and vegetable oil-based spreads, oily fish, avocado, nuts, and seeds can actually help lower your cholesterol!*
* Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor of heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease, and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce the overall risk of it.