Skip to main content

Did you know these popular foods are high in saturated fat?

The foods high in saturated fat you may want to cut out of your diet

charcuterie board with meats and cheeses.
Saturated fat is a fat that is solid when at room temperature. This happens because all of the carbon molecules are connected by double bonds. Butter is an example of a food high in saturated fat. On the other hand, olive oil contains unsaturated fats, and that is why it is liquid at room temperature rather than solid.

Foods high in saturated fat have long been associated with raising “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increasing the risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and certain inflammatory conditions. However, there is also newer evidence potentially debunking this thinking, as some studies show that certain saturated fats, such as those found in coconut, can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Most nutritionists and dietitians suggest limiting your intake of processed saturated fats—such as those in hot dogs, doughnuts, or mayonnaise—to no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake or a daily value of 20 grams. Instead, focus on foods high in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, such as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Not sure what kind of fat is in your favorite foods? Keep reading for a list of high saturated fats foods, and see if you can replace some of them with healthier options.

fatty red meat on a cutting board.
Unsplash

Foods high in saturated fat

Red meat

Red meat, such as beef, lamb, and veal, can be quite high in saturated fat, depending on the cut. For example, three ounces of beef short ribs have about 15.1 grams of saturated fat or 76% of the daily value, and a pork chop with fat provides about 46% of the daily value.

While these meats may be juicy and rich, you’re typically better off going with a leaner cut to save on calories and reduce the saturated fat content. This isn’t to say red meat needs to be avoided altogether, as it still offers plenty of essential nutrients, including protein, iron, and biotin, which are vital for your hair, nerves, and skin.

loaded hot dogs in buns on a tray.
Caleb Oquendo / Pexels

Hot dogs and sausages

Hot dogs, sausages, and pork products such as bacon are quite high in saturated fat. They also tend to contain excessive amounts of sodium, which can increase your blood pressure. Consider turkey bacon, turkey hot dogs, or vegan options made with soy, as these options will be lower in fat and may provide additional nutrients.

Stack of oreos.
Pexels

Cookies

Depending on the specific ingredients used, processed and packaged cookies can be high in trans fats and saturated fats. Cookies made with a lot of butter or shortening or that contain cream-based fillings will be higher in fat.

cream in a glass jar next to cream in a glass next to a stack of cookies.
Pexels

Whole milk, cream, and full-fat dairy

Full-fat dairy products contain some of the highest amounts of saturated fat. Whipped cream, for example, tops the charts with a whopping 23.2 grams of saturated fat per cup, which is more than a day’s worth in terms of the recommended daily value. Cream, ice cream, and half-and-half are also high in saturated fat, as they contain more fat than milk. Whole milk contains 9.1 grams (46% of the daily value) per cup, while 2% milk drops to 31% DV.

That said, dairy products are a good source of calcium and vitamin D for strong bones and teeth. Full-fat yogurt also contains a fair amount of saturated fat (about 25% DV per cup), but it contains gut-healthy probiotics as well.

Cheese plate.
Pixabay

Cheese

Cheese can be quite high in saturated fat, depending on the variety. For example, a 1/2 cup serving of ricotta has eight grams, which is 40% of the daily value. Goat cheese, Colby, and cheddar are also high in saturated fat. Cheese can provide healthy nutrients, though. For example, Parmesan cheese is quite high in calcium, and dairy products generally can support restful sleep as they are high in melatonin and tryptophan.

butter next to a knife.
Unsplash

Butter

Butter is packed with saturated fat, which is why it is solid at room temperature. Each tablespoon has 7.2 grams (36% DV). Consider alternative fats like olive oil or avocado oil, both of which are notably present in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Lard is especially high in saturated fat and should be avoided if possible. Dressings and condiments can also contain high levels of saturated fat. For example, mayonnaise, creamy dips, and salad dressings tend to be higher in saturated fat than oil-based dressings.

Coconut halves, oil, and shredded coconut.
Unsplash

Coconut and coconut oil

Coconut, coconut oil, and other coconut food products are the rare exceptions on this list of foods high in saturated fat because they are generally considered to be somewhat healthy. A single ounce of dried coconut contains 16.2 grams of saturated fat (81% of the daily value), while one cup of coconut milk packs 214% of the daily value. While coconut is high in saturated fat (in fact, coconut oil is 92% saturated fat), these fats may be uniquely beneficial to the body.

For example, coconut is quite high in lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride that can increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and may help increase fat metabolism in your body. Coconut oil also exhibits anti-microbial and antibacterial properties, can help nourish your hair and skin, and contains essential minerals. Therefore, don’t let the saturated fat content of coconut keep you from incorporating it into your diet.

processed meats.
Unsplash

Processed meats

Processed meats like pepperoni, salami, and cured sausage and ham are often packed with saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Pepperoni usually has over 15 grams of saturated fat in just three inches, and salami isn’t too far behind. Again, with these meats, it’s ideal to consider the leanest options available or switch to a turkey version or vegan, soy version.

donuts on a tray.
Pexels

Pastries, doughnuts, and pies

Baked goods like pies, croissants, pastries, cakes, and doughnuts tend to be high in saturated fat because they are usually made with butter, shortening, and/or lard. Packaged baked goods, like muffins and snack cakes, can also contain significant amounts of trans fat, which is even more conclusively linked to adverse health and disease states than saturated fat.

The good news is that you don’t need to deny your sweet tooth entirely to meet your health and wellness goals. You can enjoy fruits like berries, pomegranates, kiwi, and citrus for a powerful dose of immune-supportive vitamin C and antioxidants. Dark chocolate is rich in minerals like iron and is packed with antioxidants known to decrease inflammation and the risk of several chronic diseases. You can also try healthier spins on favorite desserts, but harness the nutritive power of superfoods and make healthy substitutions.

olive oil poured into a bowl
Pixabay / Pexels

Try these substitutions to cut down on saturated fat

If you’re looking to cut down on saturated fats in your diet, some simple steps can go a very long way. Looking at food labels is the first step; by law, every food product has a nutrition facts label that lists the total fat broken into saturated fat and trans fat. Look for foods that are low in saturated fat to make a healthier choice.

Also, making some substitutions in your cooking will help to reduce your saturated fat intake.

  1. Instead of cooking with butter, use olive oil as a healthier option.
  2. Choose skinless chicken, as that is where most of the fat is.
  3. Eat smaller portions.
  4. If you’re making tacos, substitute some of the red meat for low-fat ground turkey.

Editors' Recommendations

Amber Sayer
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Amber Sayer is a fitness, nutrition, and wellness writer and editor, and was previously a Fitness Editor at Byrdie. She…
The pros and cons of counting calories for weight loss: What you need to know
Weighing up the pros and cons of calorie counting
measuring tape wrapped around a silver fork on orange background

Nicholas Clement first introduced calories in Paris between 1819 and 1824. By 1918, books on calorie counting for weight loss were published. Some people lose weight by counting every calorie, while others successfully use other methods, like ditching sugar, following a ketogenic diet, or starting a new workout routine. We’ve listed the pros and cons of calorie counting — one of the oldest and most widely-discussed approaches to weight loss. 

What are calories?
Your food and drinks provide you with units of energy called calories. You can read the calorie counts on nutrition labels to determine how many calories are in a particular food item. You take in calories from your food and drink and burn calories for energy.

Read more
Here are the benefits of taking vitamin D supplements – what you should know
Find out if you're getting enough Vitamin D or if you need help getting more
A close-up of a vitamin D capsule

It’s not always easy or feasible to consume a well-balanced and varied diet. Between juggling a busy schedule with minimal time for healthy food preparation, food allergies and intolerances, dietary preferences, and cultural eating habits, many of us fall short of meeting the nutritional recommendations for several key vitamins and minerals. Even if you cook at home and try to eat a healthy diet, you may be deficient in certain micronutrients because some essential vitamins and minerals are only found in a few food sources or are only present in low concentrations.
Vitamin D is a prime example of a vital nutrient that is not found in many common foods in the standard American diet, nor is it necessarily well absorbed when consumed in food sources. Rather, exposure of the skin to sunlight is the primary means by which the body’s vitamin D levels are increased, as exposure to UVB rays stimulates the production of vitamin D.
However, as the hours of daylight dwindle in the winter and the sun becomes less intense, it becomes increasingly difficult to meet your vitamin D needs. Because vitamin D plays several key physiological roles, it may be advisable to take vitamin D supplements. Keep reading for our helpful primer on the functions and benefits of vitamin D, foods high in vitamin D, and whether vitamin D supplementation may be useful.

What is vitamin D?
Along with vitamins A, E, and K, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it's stored in the body rather than excreted like vitamins C and B vitamins. However, unlike any other vitamin, vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone produced from cholesterol when skin cells are exposed to UVB rays. In addition to the endogenous production of vitamin D, there are two different dietary forms of the nutrient:

Read more
14 of the best prebiotic foods you should be eating – from apples to oats and lentils
Prebiotic foods to add to your grocery list
Foods with prebiotics like chicory, beets, and leeks.

There are constantly new wellness trends to try on a seemingly weekly basis. Some are better for you than others. One of the more popular recent trends starts with your gut. Your gut houses a broad range of bacteria and fungi that help digest and absorb nutrients in the food you eat.
These bacteria and fungi are also responsible for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier, producing vitamins, reducing inflammation in the body, fending off pathogenic microorganisms, and signaling the immune system to produce more white blood cells. These resident microorganisms together form what is known as the gut microbiome -- a complex ecosystem that is susceptible to disruption and imbalance by things like antibiotics, a chronically poor diet, stress, and medications.
While certain habits can negatively affect the gut microbiome, they can also be improved and made to flourish with supportive behaviors and foods. Though probiotics get most of the attention and credit for being the go-to salve for the gut, prebiotics are arguably just as important. Prebiotics are compounds comprised of oligosaccharides, inulin, lactulose, and glycan, which are dietary fibers (carbohydrates) that are indigestible for humans but are the preferred source of fuel and nutrients for our good bacteria in the gut. In fact, prebiotics selectively feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut rather than any harmful pathogens.
A good visual is to picture the gut microbiome as a garden. Probiotics can be equated to seeds or seedlings, and the healthy bacteria are the plants. Prebiotics, on the other hand, can be pictured as fertilizer, offering helpful bacterial plants nutrients to support their growth. In this way, the prebiotics feed or fuel probiotics and the other beneficial microorganisms already inhabiting our gut.
Prebiotics are found as fermented fiber in many fruits and vegetables, as well as some seeds and grains. Adding them to your diet can help fortify the good bacteria in your gut, improve bowel regularity, and support healthy digestion. Here are some of the best prebiotic foods to stock up on next time you go grocery shopping.

Asparagus
Asparagus contains between 2 and 3 grams of inulin per 100 grams or a 20-calorie serving. This makes one of the least calorically dense sources of inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber known to aid digestive health, regulate the optimal levels of glucose and insulin, and fuel Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species and other good bacteria in your gut. The inulin is more effective when asparagus is raw, so try incorporating thin slices into fresh salads or shaving spears on sandwiches or atop avocado toast.

Read more