Could you be eating too much saturated fat without realising it?

Monday, May 16, 2022. Author Kelsey Cook

Cooking burgers and sausage on a barbeque

Last week’s trait update reminded me that I’m part of the 12% of FitnessGenes members that carry the APOA2 variant linked to an increased risk of weight gain when consuming more than 22g of saturated fat per day.

This had me wondering, what does 22g of saturated fat actually look like? And how close am I to this threshold each day? Here’s what I found as I went in search of answers.

 

Starting the day right

I’m never one to skip the first meal of the day, and my favourite breakfast is scrambled egg on toast with chopped cherry tomatoes and spinach. Sounds relatively fat-free, right? Well, that’s before the butter has been factored in.

As well as buttering both slices of toast, I also add a teaspoon to the pan to stop the eggs from sticking. Combined, this amounts to almost a tablespoon of butter, which is already a third of my maximum allowance of 22g! And the day has only just begun!

So, what are possible alternatives? I could replace the butter with an olive oil based alternative spread, as these contain up to 70% less saturated fat. But instead, I decided to spread half an avocado on my toast. Containing just 2.2g of saturated fat, this cuts my morning saturated fat intake by approximately two thirds, while also providing some additional calories to fuel my morning workout.

 

Choosing my toppings

My takeaway of choice after a busy week is always pizza, whether it's at a local restaurant or delivered to my door. And while I knew that cheese contains some saturated fat, I was surprised to read that some contain as much as 29g per 100g serving.

On the lower end of the scale is mozzarella with 14g per 100g serving; however, this means that most whole margaritas contain enough mozzarella to push you close to, if not over, the 22g daily limit. And that’s before you add any cooked or cured meats like I often do with prosciutto. At this point, I’m just glad that mushrooms aren’t also high in saturated fat!

If the occasional takeaway pizza is a must, then try to reduce the portion size that you have. Having a hearty salad or some oven cooked chicken drumsticks with a few slices of your favourite pizza can help satisfy your craving without adding too much to your total daily saturated fat intake. 

 

On the grill

One of my favourite parts of the summer is being able to barbeque with friends and family in the garden, at the park, or at the beach. However, choosing which meat you add to the grill is important if, like me, you’re looking to limit your saturated fat intake.

Beef and pork are amongst the meats with the highest saturated fat contents, and so burgers and sausages may be off the menu this summer. With beef patties and pork sausages containing up to 10 g and 5 g of saturated fat respectively, a burger and a couple of sausages puts you within touching distance of the 22g saturated fat limit on a single plate, even before any sides have been added.

Instead, replace the beef and pork on the grill with low saturated fat alternatives, such as chicken or turkey burgers. A personal favourite of mine is salmon, which can either be marinated and then grilled in tin foil or diced and mixed with miso, soy sauce, breadcrumbs, and ginger to form salmon burgers.

Salmon can contain as little as 1g of saturated fat in a 4-ounce sockeye filet while also providing plenty of unsaturated fat, which can help to improve cardiovascular health. So all in all a great, and particularly tasty, alternative to a beef burger.

 

 

Check and track

It's important to note that the purpose of this trait is not to encourage you to eliminate saturated fat from your diet, but to help you moderate your intake, especially if you carry the APOA2 variant associated with a greater risk of weight gain.

To help reduce my saturated fat intake, I've started to track the types of foods that I am eating. When shopping at the supermarket I make sure to check the nutrition labels. Food low in saturated fat is considered to have less than 1.5g per 100g, so I like to fill most of my basket with foods that have less than 1.5g. Or at the very least, avoid foods that are more than 5g per 100g, which are considered high in saturated fat.

Tracking apps such as myfitnesspal can also be helpful in keeping an eye on how much saturated fat you have consumed each day. By entering the nutritional value of each of your meals and snacks, they allow you to monitor your total intake and make adjustments throughout the day if needed. 

Finally, while it is advised to consume less than 22g per day, don’t panic if you occasionally exceed this threshold! Simply reduce your intake on other days of the week to average it out. Hopefully, this allows you to still eat your favourite meals while keeping your saturated fat intake low.

 

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