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JAMA Patient Page
May 3, 2016

Dietary Guidelines for Americans—Eat Less Saturated Fat

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2016;315(17):1919-1920. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.0972

New US dietary guidelines have been designed to help Americans choose and maintain a healthy diet.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans were created by the US Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and were updated in 2016. The guidelines are intended to help Americans make healthier food and beverage choices. This is important because 2 of every 3 Americans are either overweight or obese, and obesity is one of the most important causes of preventable diseases like heart attack and stroke. A summary of these guidelines was published in the February 2, 2016, issue of JAMA.

What Are “Saturated Fats”?

Saturated fats are found in red meat, sausage, and bacon; butter; pastries; and full-fat dairy products; they tend to be solid at room temperature. Diets high in saturated fats can raise total and low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol. When cholesterol is too high, risk of developing heart disease increases. Research suggests that by replacing sources of saturated fat such as red meat with sources of unsaturated, heart-healthy fats like fish and olive oil, you may be able to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.

The Dietary Guidelines

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting intake of saturated fats to 10% of total daily calories and, when possible, replacing foods high in saturated fats with foods high in unsaturated fats.

  • Tips for limiting intake of saturated fats include

  • Focus on heart-healthy fats. Your goal should be to replace sources of saturated fats in your diet with sources of heart-healthy fats, like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The following foods are sources of heart-healthy fats.

    • Fish (especially salmon and trout) are excellent sources of polyunsaturated fats. Replace red meat in meals with fish. Consume fish 2 to 3 time per week.

    • Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Replace an unhealthy afternoon snack with a handful of nuts or sunflower seeds.

    • Olive oil and avocado are sources of monounsaturated fats. Replace butter with olive oil for cooking or use it as part of a salad vinaigrette. Spread avocado on sandwiches instead of cheese.

  • Learn how to spot saturated fats. Look for saturated fats on the “Nutrition Facts” label of a food product. If a food has more than 5 g of saturated fat per serving, consider it high in saturated fat. Eat these types of foods sparingly or search for lower-saturated-fat alternatives. Also, look at the ingredient list. Avoid foods with the words “hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils”; these are also sources of saturated fats.

  • Be careful of “low-fat” products. Many low- or reduced-fat products replace fats with refined carbohydrates and added sugars. Be sure to read the “Nutrition Facts” label and ingredient list to identify low-fat products that are high in carbohydrates or sugar. Even though they are low in saturated fat, these products can be high in calories and should be avoided.

  • Dine in. When you eat out, you do not control the saturated fat content of your food. Regain control by preparing more of your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at home. Focus on the types of fat in your diet and incorporate more fish, nuts, seeds, and avocado and less red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and fatty desserts (items made with butter, vegetable shortening, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils). When preparing these foods, it is best to grill, bake, or broil.

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Correction: This article was corrected for an error in the title on July 28, 2016.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services

Topic: Diet and Nutrition