Fat, Saturated


Fat molecules are chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached along their sides, like legs on a centipede. Whenever a fat molecule has all the hydrogen atoms it can accept, it is said to be "saturated." Most saturated fatssuch as butter, lard, and other animal fatsare solid at room temperature.


Your Daily Allowance


As most people know, many so-called "bad" nutrientsincluding fatare actually good for you in small quantities. This isn't true of saturated fat, however. In its 2002 report on macronutrients, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) stated flatly that saturated fats "have no known role in preventing chronic diseases" and that any rise in saturated-fat intake increases the risk of heart disease.


It's virtually impossible to avoid saturated fat and still get enough total fat, however. As a fallback, many authorities suggest keeping your saturated-fat intake under 10 percent of calories. That's where Diet Power sets your Personal Daily Allowance (PDA). If your PDA of calories is 2000, for example, your PDA of saturated fat will be 200 calories, which, at 9 calories per gram, is 22.2 grams. Naturally, you should consider this a maximum, not a minimum. Half as much might be an excellent goal.


Upper Limit


The FNB has not established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for saturated fat, but remember the Board's remark (above) that any rise in intake also raises heart-disease risk.


Revising Your Allowance


You can change your PDA to whatever your doctor advises. See Personal Daily Allowances, Editing Your.


Color Coding of This Nutrient


The saturated-fat bar in your personal Nutrient History is:


   image\diet0036.gif blue for "good" if you've logged 100 percent or less than your PDA


   image\diet0037.gif red for "bad" if you've logged more than 100 percent of your PDA


   image\diet0038.gif missing if you've logged no saturated fat.


In the nutrient profile of a food or recipe, the saturated-fat bar is:


   image\diet0039.gif green for "good" if getting your entire PDA of calories from this item would give you less than 50 percent of your PDA of saturated fat


   image\diet0040.gif magenta for "bad" if getting all your calories from the item would give you more than 150 percent of your PDA of saturated fat


   image\diet0036.gif blue for "neutral" otherwise


   image\diet0038.gif missing if the amount of saturated fat is either zero or (when the word Saturated is grayed out) unknown.

How Complete Are Diet Power's Saturated-Fat Readings?


For the 8500 generic items in the Food Dictionary: very complete. Only 1 percent list their saturated-fat content as "unknown."


For the 2500 chain-restaurant items: fairly complete. About 8 percent list saturated fat as "unknown."


For all 11,000 items combined: very complete. About 2 percent list saturated fat as "unknown."


(The percentage of unknowns will be higher, of course, if most of the foods that you've added to the dictionary lack saturated-fat figures.)


To see whether a particular food has a saturated-fat reading, open the Food Dictionary and check the food's nutrient profile. If you find a question mark beside "Fat, saturated," it means the amount is unknown. (To see all foods with unknown saturated-fat readings, click the dictionary's PowerFoods tab and sort the foods by saturated-fat power; then scroll toward the bottom of the list until you see foods with question marks in the "Power Rating" column.)


Saturated Fats on Food Labels


Most food labels are required to list saturated fat, in both grams and percent of Daily Value (DV).


The Daily Value for saturated fat is 20 grams. At nine calories per gram, this works out to 9 percent of total calories for a person on a 2000-calorie dietnot far from the FNB's recommended ceiling of 10 percent.


For more on label regulations, see Labels, Food.