Think you’ve figured out how to reduce your saturated fat intake and dodge the serious health risks that come from eating this cancer- and inflammation-promoting lipid? Take another look at your plate!
Even if you’re avoiding red meat, whole dairy, gooey cheese, crunchy bacon, tropical oils and creamy butter, you’re likely munching more health-threatening, brain-fogging sat fat than you think. There are lots of sat-fat traps out there that you may not be aware of. Here are our top five.
1. Cakes, cookies, muffins and biscuits: After cheese and pizza, flour-based desserts are the third-largest source of saturated fat in the American diet. Instead, enjoy your favorite fruit; try juicy peaches, sweet berries, flavorful mangoes and pineapples.
2. Chicken: North Americans eat lots of fried chicken with skin (think Buffalo wings), and this sheer quantity, plus fatty cooking styles, bumps chicken ahead of hot dogs or burgers as your No. 1 sat-fat source! Keep chicken lean by keeping it out of the fryer; skipping the skin saves a couple of fat grams, too.
3. Pasta dishes: We get more sat fat from creamy, cheesy or meaty sauces than from butter. One-fourth cup of Alfredo sauce can pack more than 15 grams of sat fat. Swap such sauces for veggie-filled ones, seasoned with garlic, fresh basil and oregano.
4. Condiments: Just a scoop, shake or dip seems so harmless. But 1 tablespoon of mayo has 1.5 g sat fat, and there’s probably at least 2 tablespoons of mayo in your chicken salad sandwich. Then you shake that bottle of salad dressing, and out comes 3 tablespoons of creamy blue cheese with 16.5 g sat fat. And dipping that chip into tasty tzatziki sauce? Two tablespoons delivers 2.5 g sat fat.
5. Processed foods and restaurant meals: From frozen breakfast entrees with a day’s worth of sat fat to sandwiches, appetizers and oversized entrees packed with enough fat for two or three people, prepared foods are major fat traps – and major agers. Go for grilled fish or chicken, fresh veggies, whole grains and fruit at home and when you eat out.
Why are we so adamant that eating saturated fat is one of the most serious health-damaging, nutritional mistakes you can make? Because despite all the recent hoopla about how it isn’t that bad for you, new studies keep coming out that demonstrate just how much damage it can do.
• Saturated fat fuels bodywide inflammation: By flipping molecular switches, saturated fat increases inflammation. And inflammation boosts cancer risk and heart disease, and interferes with the body’s ability to respond to insulin, boosting your risk for diabetes.
• Saturated fat encourages weight gain and obesity: People with a genetic risk for packing on extra pounds are more likely to become overweight if they eat saturated fat, according to a new Tufts University study of about 2,800 people. Saturated fat may do its dirty work by interfering with the brain’s ability to pick up “I’m full” signals, so you keep eating, even though you’ve had plenty.
• Saturated fat adds body fat to all the wrong places: There’s new evidence that saturated-fat-fueled weight gain builds up deposits of body fat in and around your abdomen and liver. By adding to these so-called visceral fat stores, saturated fat increases risk for heart disease, diabetes and other health problems.
• Saturated fat may weaken immunity: There are battalions of immune-system cells that patrol the body using special sensors to ID invading bacteria so other parts of the immune system can mount an attack. But an overload of saturated fat seems to confuse this early warning system.
• Saturated fat may increase risk for common types of breast cancer: High-fat diets, particularly those full of saturated fat, boost odds for estrogen receptor-positive and progesterone receptor-positive breast cancer, according to a recent Italian study of more than 300,000 women.
So get that sat fat off your plate; you’ll feel better, dodge those health hazards and have a younger RealAge.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit sharecare.com.