Eat less saturated fat

Eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. Having high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. These practical tips can help you cut down on saturated fat.

Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter and lard, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, and cheese and cream.

Most of us eat too much saturated fat – about 20% more than the recommended maximum amount.

  • The average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.
  • The average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.

You can use these figures to guide your choices when you're shopping. When you check nutrition labels on food packaging and see how much saturated fat is contained in many common foods, you’ll see how easy it can be to exceed the recommended maximum amount.

You can learn more about fat, including the different kinds of fat, in Fat: the facts.

Cut down on saturated fat

Use these practical tips about common foods to help you cut down on saturated fat:

Read the label

Nutrition labels can help you to cut down on saturated fat. Look out for ‘saturates’ or ‘sat fat’ on the label.

High: More than 5g saturates per 100g. May be colour-coded red.

Low: 1.5g saturates or less per 100g. May be colour-coded green.

Medium: If the amount of saturated fat per 100g is in between these figures, that is a medium level, and may be colour-coded amber.

The label below is an example provided by a leading supermarket, which shows clearly that the food is high in saturated fat because the saturates section is colour-coded red.

At home

  • Spaghetti bolognese: use a leaner mince as it’s lower in saturated fat. If you aren't using leaner mince, brown the mince first, then drain off the fat before adding other ingredients.
  • Pizza: choose a lower-fat topping, such as vegetables, ham, fish or prawns, instead of pepperoni, salami or extra cheese.
  • Fish pie: use reduced-fat spread and 1% fat milk. Try this healthy fish pie recipe.
  • Chilli: use leaner mince to reduce the saturated fat content. Or try it vegetarian-style by adding beans, pulses and vegetables instead of mince. Try this healthy chilli con carne recipe
  • Ready meals: compare the nutrition labels on different ready meals. There can be a big difference in saturated fat content. Pick the one lower in saturated fat using per 100g or per serving information. Remember, serving size may vary, so read the label carefully.
  • Potatoes: make your roast potatoes healthier by cutting them into larger pieces than usual and using just a little sunflower or olive oil.
  • Chips: choose thick, straight-cut chips instead of french fries or crinkle-cut. If you’re making your own, cook them in the oven with a little sunflower oil, rather than deep-frying.
  • Mashed potato: use reduced-fat spread instead of butter, and 1% fat milk or skimmed milk instead of whole or semi-skimmed milk.
  • Chicken: before you eat it, take the skin off to reduce the saturated fat content. Try this healthy lemon chicken recipe
  • Meat: trim the visible fat off meat such as steak.
  • Sausages: compare nutrition labels on the packs and choose the ones lower in saturated fat using per serving or per 100g information. Remember, servings may vary so read the label carefully. Make sure you grill them instead of frying.
  • Bacon: choose back bacon instead of streaky bacon. If you’re cooking your own, grill the bacon instead of frying.
  • Eggs: prepare eggs without oil or butter. Poach, boil or dry-fry your eggs.
  • Pasta: try a tomato sauce on your pasta. It’s lower in saturated fat than a creamy or cheesy sauce.
  • Milk: use 1% fat milk on your cereal. It has about half the saturated fat of semi-skimmed.
  • Cheese: when using cheese to flavour a dish or sauce, try a strong-tasting cheese, such as mature cheddar, because you’ll need less. Make cheese go further by grating instead of slicing it.
  • Yoghurt: choose a lower-fat yoghurt. There can be a big difference between different products.

Out and about

The tips below can help you cut down on saturated fat when eating out.

  • Coffee on the go: swap any large whole milk coffee for regular ‘skinny’ ones.
  • Curry: go for dry or tomato-based dishes, such as tandoori or madras, instead of creamy curries such as korma, pasanda or masala. And choose plain rice and chapatti instead of pilau rice and naan.
  • Kebabs: at the kebab shop go for a shish kebab with pitta bread and salad, rather than a doner kebab.
  • Chinese takeaway: choose a lower-fat dish, such as steamed fish, chicken chop suey or Szechuan prawns.
  • Thai: try a stir-fried or steamed dish containing chicken, fish or vegetables. Watch out for curries that contain coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat. If you choose one of these, try not to eat all the sauce.
  • Snack time: have some fruit, toast, a low-fat yoghurt or a handful of unsalted nuts, instead of chocolate, doughnuts, croissants or pastries. If you must have something sweet, swap cakes and biscuits for a currant bun, scone or some malt loaf, plain or with reduced-fat spread. Try these healthier food swaps

Page last reviewed: 19/06/2013

Next review due: 19/06/2015

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Comments

The 16 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

munim786 said on 26 July 2014

An absolutely disgraceful article based on either bad science or lies. Saturated fat is our friend and carbs especially refined sort are the cause for obesity. To even think of suggesting 'spaghetti, chips, potato' is an insult to injury. This is not 1950's 'ancel keys moment', people have access to the internet and can find science based evidence finding no link between Sat Fat and heart disease or cholesterol and heart disease.

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peopledeservethetruth said on 11 July 2014

...and yes, it's TRANS-FATS (in hydrogenated vegetable olis and margarine) which are truly linked to heart disease, not sat fats. So avoid bisuits, cakes, ice cream, margarine to minimise heart disease risk. Minimising high GL (glycaemic load) foods is recommended to minimise bodyfat. GL is a measure of GI in conjunction with carbs/100g of food. This is more effective than low-GI diets (sorry, diets is a swear word) because the amount of cars is taken into account. High GL food includes bread, pasta, chocolate and bananas. But generally avoiding processed carbs is good advice. And yes, this includes pretty much all breakfast cereals on the shelves made from wheat. They are garbage.

A study by Felton in 1994 published in the Lancet looked a breakdown of types of fat in artery clogs. He found that on average, only 26% was saturated fat, with 41% being polyunsaturated fats that you find in margarine and cooking oil... So nothing very new.

The food industry is business is politics. Food made from processed carbs is far more profitable than healthy whole foods rich in nutrients and protein. So unfortunately I feel we will be bombarded with unhealthy advice for a long time yet.

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Louzu said on 21 March 2014

Good, baseline advice given in this article. Readers will have their own medical histories and metabolism to consider and it would be unwise to make generalisations from various studies. Research is still ongoing. I cannot say this article is nonsence because it is not. What works for some may not for others. ( Those cultures that consume alot of meat/salt also seem to counteract the risks with fruit/veg/wine and an active lifestyle. There is research into some African tribes who had fat deposits in their arteries but these were wider due to tribesmen walking long distances daily).

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jacquibo said on 26 November 2013

Is this information going to be updated now that research shows no link between saturated fat and heart disease?

Research now shows we should be trying to cut out trans-fatty-acids and also starchy and sugary (high GI) foods such as potatoes, rice, bread, pasta and sugar. This is what we need advice on. We need to look at the amount of carbohydrates, and specifically sugars, in foods.

Example study: http://www.dairynutrition.ca/nutrients-in-milk-products/fat/new-evidence-reveals-that-saturated-fat-does-not-increase-the-risk-of-cardiovascular-disease

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tonyhakim said on 30 August 2013

I think we need to look at more recent research when we talk about saturated fat - which has long been seen as a bad thing. All of this started when one study funded by the US grain lobby went to prove that this was the cause of obesity.

Since then the old food pyramid introduced and our waistlines have exploded!

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Camels Toe said on 21 May 2013

Come on NHS this is outdated advice cannot believe you are still pushing this. Low fat dairy? Linked with infertility. Reduced fat spread wth!? Why would you recommend people eat something made in a factory over pure natural butter?? do people still eat that nasty stuff? Two examples of fake food being promoted by an alleged health service. Lets all eat a carb heavy diet...fantastic..just make sure you eat low fat spread with your excessive carbs..the more chemicals the better people lets keep Unilever in business. EAT AS NATURE INTENDED - avoid fake food.

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Josie Turin said on 10 January 2013

I am so glad to see from all these comments that people are developing such an interest in nutrition and recognize that this war on saturated fat is pure nonsense, backed up by loads of researches and extensive scientific proof that there is no link between saturated fat and heart disease! even worse, on the UK diabetes website they say how people should eat pasta, rice, bread, chapati at every meal! are they insane or what? they might as well tell us to inject glucose into our veins! hopefully one day this type of information will be accessible to everyone

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ruski1 said on 02 December 2012

I am a 68 year old male, I have for the last 6 months been following the so called 'Paleo' diet that is- zero sugar including sweet fruit (maybe a handful of berries occasionally) zero grains and legumes, very low dairy(a few lattes a week and a small amount of butter) I avoid all veg oils except high quality virgin olive oil for drizzling on salads and along with walnut , hazelnut or hemp oil for making mayo.For sauteing and frying I use home made clarified butter(ghee) which is pure saturated fat, lard, dripping and duck or goose fat. I eat duck and chicken eggs, oily, white and shell fish, mushrooms, some nuts all meats and poultry and plenty of offal. I mostly avoid high carbohydrate vegetables but eat plenty of salad and greens. I also make my own stocks from chicken carcases, pigs trotters, bones and root vegetables. On this diet I promise, you won't overeat. I usually don't eat after 8 in the evening or before noon the next day. I'm 6 feet tall my weight is stabilized at 153 pounds, my blood pressure averages out at around 120 over 73 depending on the time of day, my resting heart rate is around 64 bpm. I walk a couple of miles a day sometimes more sometimes less. The muscle cramping in my calves and stomach have gone. I have suffered from back pain and stiffness all my adult life sometimes to a crippling degree, that to has all but vanished. I truly feel reborn and I really don't care what the so called health professionals think. Time to wake up guys. Modern eating habits are the root cause of most illness.

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BeeKoTee said on 17 October 2012

Very bad article based on bad science and straight lies. When will these lessons be Learnt?????

http://www.lewrockwell.com/miller/miller33.1.html

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Ottorino said on 05 October 2012

I'm afraid that the comments are far more accurate than the article, which is muddled and self-contradictory. If you start off with the thought that pre-WWI coronary heart disease was unknown, as were most of the processed fats and other carbohydrates advocated here, you can see immediately that there are a load of searching questions that are going unanswered by the 'experts'.

As cholesterol is not a problem per se, the need to reduce it disappears. Further, this obsession with prescribing a very dangerous drug - statins - continues unabated. If you look at the Numbers-Needed-to-Treat in http://www.thennt.com, you will see that these purveyors of independent medical statistics, find that 1 person in 83 with known heart disease on statins benefit (although 1 in 10 are harmed by it), statins for those without heart disease are deprecated, while 1 in 30 on the Mediterranean diet benefit from death prevention; 1 in 18 from a repeat MI - all with no harm whatsoever.

The advice given here is using the logic of the mad-house.

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Sonic boom said on 16 August 2012

So well done to you all ! I have been looking to eat more healthily so thought I would research a healthier diet. I get to this page for some advice and read the article. Seemed fair enough.
Then I read all your comments about how eating fat is fine, we shouldn't eat grains etc etc and now I have no clue what to believe. No wonder people don't eat correctly (whatever that is) when all the advice contradicts so much.
So I will be off now absolutely none the wiser and slightly more confused.......

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Shawshank said on 02 May 2012

This page is a disgrace. This website has tons of comments disputing the "facts" because it doesn't take much research/common sense to work out that "advice" like this is based on bad science.

Unfortunately, the majority of people don't care enough to think for themselves and instead trust the "authority" on diet and nutrition; in this country, the wonderful NHS.

Someone in a position of power needs to stand up to make a difference. All this nonsense about "we need to tackle obesity" is completely irrelevant when information like this is still the basis for being "healthy". It's a massive contradiction and is a dangerous game. No progress will be made as long as backwards thinking still takes precedent over real science.

"Eat less saturated fat" in itself is terrible advice. The NHS doesn't seem to understand the importance of context, hence why the "eatwell plate" is such a load of bologna. Do they think we're stupid? Probably, but I'm adamant it won't be like this forever. Maybe I should write a blog.

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Rik22 said on 17 March 2012

I still can't believe that some many official institutions are giving such misleading advice.

There is NO evidence that easting Saturated Fat or Cholesteral is bad for you, at all! Yet it must be the most repeated untrue statement in the media.

The French eat the most red meat in Europe, yet live the longest. The Japanese eat the most salt and live very long lives.

All the latest research has shown no link between Salt and ill health or Fat and ill health.

Look at the Masai tribe in Africa, they only eat red meat and drink milk, yet have very low cholesteral in their blood.

When will the NHS and other institutions please refer to the facts and not heresay.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=its-time-to-end-the-war-on-salt

http://www.menshealth.com/health/saturated-fat

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User363614 said on 04 November 2011

Questions to racheldawn below; if the 'fat is simply removed', how are the fat soluble vitamins able to remain?

If you knew the hypothesis that saturated fat is harmful to health was false, would it change your view on what you can eat a lot of?

We know that too much blood sugar is toxic; diabetes is an extreme example of this. All digestible carbs turn to glucose (as potentially can fat and protein); why would anyone eat large amounts of starchy carbs with this known risk, in place of foods our species evolved with?

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racheldawn said on 13 June 2011

I found this article very useful; the article fat: the facts is also very useful. Most people realise they shouldnt eat too much saturated fat but are unaware of the quantities to check for (the red light system is useful). I've saved the figures into my phone so while I'm shopping I can check and develop and understanding of what I can eat a lot of and what I need to see as an ocasional treat. I have already done this with the salt figures and am finding this very useful when shopping. I was recently recommended to a sauce, when I checked it, the salt contained was ludicrously high (15.23g per 100!) and so I made the good choice not to try it. These pages are very useful, I wanted to leave a positive comment and show appreciation!

Also, regarding the comment below; I was of the understanding that full fat dairy has the same amount of calcium and other nutrients as low fat options. The excess fat is simply removed.

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Camels Toe said on 05 May 2011

What the heck! You cannot be serious in this advice. Basically to eat virtually no fat. Its okay for people to eat a pizza but God forbid they eat fat. Fat does not make you fat. Sugar does. You'd be wiser to tell people to stop eating so many grains and so much sugar as these are what cause problems with appetite and insulin. We have not evolved to eat such a grain-heavy diet. We have evolved over a long period of time to eat animal fats - not some disgusting tasting sunflower oil which is highly refined and unsuitable for cooking with at high temperatures due to the risk of free radicals. if we were meant to eat polyunsaturated oils we would be able to make them in the kitchen - not in factories and not involving the use of chemicals and metals.

*Potatoes should be done in dripping or goose fat as polyunsaturated oils are unsuited to high temperatures and taste awful anyway.
*Full fat dairy is best as the benefits of calcium are lost when the product is stripped of fat as is the vitamin A content.
*eat the lovely fat on the meat. Fat is satisfying. The body knows when it has had enough fat. It is impossible to eat too much natural fat because you will feel sick if you do. the body has no such mechanism to cope with grains which is why we can eat and eat bread and be hungry two hours later, totally messing up blood sugar levels.

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