How much saturated fat do we need in our diets?

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While experts have loosened the guidelines on eating some saturated fat, such as butter, it's still not a green light to overindulge. (WPVI)

Food recommendations are not "one size fits all."

And while experts have loosened the guidelines on eating some saturated fat, such as butter, it's still not a green light to overindulge.

Headlines such as "Butter is Back" were welcome news to many consumers.

But headlines don't always tell the whole story, and when it comes to choosing, things can get confusing in the butter aisle.

We asked Courtney Schoepe, registered dietitian with Giant Food stores, which are the healthiest options.

She agrees we now know butter isn't so bad after all.

But Schope warns, "It doesn't mean eat a half a stick of butter today."

She and Dr. Daniel Rader of Penn Medicine say despite loosening the restrictions on saturated fat, eating too much is still harmful to your health.

"I think it's fair to say saturated fat raises the bad cholesterol, LDL cholesterol. And LDL cholesterol is absolutely a risk factor for heart disease," Dr. Rader says.

So when it comes to butter, it depends on how much you use and your heart risks.

Schoepe says if you only use a little butter, and not very often, that's fine, enjoy!

But if you're someone who eats a lot butter and other foods with saturated fat then you should look at some of the lighter versions of butter or vegetables spreads.

"Fats that are solid at room temperature tend to have more saturated fats in them," Schoepe says.

When it comes to stick butter, which has seven grams of fat, versus spread butter, which only has one-and-a-half grams of fat, tub butter is better.

As for margarine, most have now gotten rid of trans fats but, just in case, read the ingredients.

Anything with "hydrogenated oils" is trans fat. You want to avoid that.

As for vegetable spreads, including those with olive oil or yogurt, Schoepe says most will have the same overall fat content as butter, but many have more heart-healthy fats instead of saturated fats.

"I think what we're trying to do is re-balance things," Dr. Rader says.

In the past, he says, when people were told to avoid fat, many reached for other foods like bread and pasta or processed low-fat foods with more sugar and calories that led to a boom in obesity and diabetes.

The goal, he says, is to eat fat in moderation without substituting in more carbohydrates.

"If I had to simplify things, I would say try to eat natural and avoid processed foods whenever possible," Dr. Rader says. "If you are going to eat things like saturated fats like butter, try to do so in moderation."

As for whole milk, Schope and Dr. Rader agree one or two percent is better unless milk is the only food you're eating with saturated fat.

As always, it's best to get advice from your healthcare provider based on your risk factors.

Related Topics:
healthhealthcheckhealth careobesitydiabetes
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