Despite all the bad press, fat is important for a healthy diet, and the kind of fat you eat within a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle is key for a healthy heart and desirable cholesterol levels. The thing to keep in mind when planning out your day’s meals is how you’ll take in the right quantity and balance of saturated and unsaturated fat. Sometimes it is hard to know how much saturated fat per day to eat, however, especially as many of the nation’s favourite foods such as cakes and biscuits can be high in saturated fat.
We’ve put together some straightforward information to make it simple for you to keep your daily saturated fat intake on track. Remember, it is important to reduce saturated fat in your diet and replace some of it with unsaturated fats.
Guidelines on your saturated fat per day intake
Guidelines on how much saturated fat per day (known as the “reference intake”, or “RI”) to have state that:
- The average man should eat no more than 30 grams of saturated fat per day.
- The average woman should have less than 20 grams of saturated fat per day.
This includes everything you consume throughout the day, so remember to include all your snacks when calculating your intake. It’s also easy to forget things like butter and milk: we often add these to bread or hot drinks without even thinking about it.
These figures are just guidelines as they are based on your total daily energy intake and this may depend on your individual circumstances. For example, if you do a great deal of physical activity your energy allowance may be higher; if you’re trying to lose weight, you may well need to restrict your intake to less than the standard guidelines. However, your saturated fat intake should be around 1/3 of your total fat (both saturated and unsaturated) intake.
The average person’s daily saturated fat intake in the UK is higher than recommended
At a population level, on average people are eating more saturated fat than they should be.
Why is too much saturated fat an issue? The key reason is that too much saturated fat can lead to raised levels of cholesterol in the blood. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat in the diet has been shown to lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, the kind that has been linked to heart disease*.
You can find out more about this in our article “Is Saturated Fat Bad For You?”.
How to keep your daily saturated fat intake within the recommended limits
So now you know the saturated fat ‘RI’ (reference intake), how do you monitor your intake properly? As an overall guideline, saturated fat is found in high amounts in fatty meat and full fat dairy products such as butter, cream and cheese, as well as many foods high in fat, sugars and salt such as cakes and pastries.
When looking for specific amounts, nutrition labels can help. These are found on food packaging – all foods must be labelled with how much saturated fat they include per 100 grams which you can use as a guide to help make healthier choices. Sometimes this information is also included per portion, so be sure to check which one you are reading.
Remember that lowering your saturated fat levels does not mean getting rid of all fats – it is important to reduce your saturated fat intake and replace with some unsaturated fats like those found in vegetable oils, for example olive oil and rapeseed oils, and vegetable oil-based spreads, for example Flora spreads, oily fish, avocado, nuts, and seeds to help lower your cholesterol!* But don’t forget – this has to be within a healthy, balanced diet including for example plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Want to start lowering your cholesterol today? Download our free Cholesterol Lowering Starter Kit, including recipes and helpful advice, right here!
* Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease, and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce the overall risk of it.
- Roberts, C., Steer, T., Maplethorpe, N. et al.(2018). National Diet and Nutrition Survey Results from years 7 and 8 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2014/2015–2015/2016). London: Department of Health and Food Standards Agency.
- Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (2018). Saturated Fats and Health. (accessed 16 May 2019).
- Hooper L et al. (2015) Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews(6)
- European Commission (2011). Regulation (EU) no 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, amending regulations (EC) no 1924/2006 and (EC) no 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Commission directive 87/250/EEC, Council directive 90/496/EEC, Commission directive 1999/10/EC, directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Commission directives 2002/67/EC and 2008/5/EC and Commission regulation (EC) no 608/2004. (accessed 16 May 2019)
- European Commission (2016) EU register on nutrition and health claims. (accessed 16 May 2019).
- Stanner S & Coe S (2019) Cardiovascular Disease: Diet, Nutrition and Emerging Risk Factors, 2nd Edition, Keith N Frayn, Chair.Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford, UK.
The British Nutrition Foundation has reviewed the accuracy of the scientific content of this page in May 2019 (please note this does not include linked pages). The Foundation does not endorse any brands or products. For more information about the Foundation, please visit www.nutrition.org.uk
This information has been included in good faith, but is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a guarantee. The nutritional facts and statements on this site are designed for educational and resource purpose sonly, not being substitutes for professional advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always check with your GP or healthcare professional.