Saturated fat: what is it and why is it important?

Gesättigte Fettsäuren: Was ist das und wofür sind sie wichtig?

Saturated fatty acids often have a bad reputation and are popularly considered unhealthy. However, these naturally occur in our body and fulfill certain functions. We have put together a small overview of the occurrence and the tasks of the fatty acid for you.

Saturated fatty acids are a component of fats and oils. In this article, you'll learn what the fatty acid type is all about and why it's not quite as bad as people say. In addition, we have summarized everything you need to know in this article so that you can get the best possible information.

the essentials in brief

  • Saturated fatty acids are a component of fats and oils. They are also produced by the body itself.
  • Eating too much saturated fat can increase cholesterol and cause cardiovascular disease.
  • Saturated fatty acids should only be consumed in moderation and replaced with products containing unsaturated fatty acids.

Background: What are fatty acids?

Here's everything you need to know about saturated fat. In addition to learning about the differences between different fats, you will also learn what they do to your body.

What are saturated fats and where are they found?

Fatty acids are biological compounds that are involved in the body's metabolic functions. They can be ingested from a variety of foods. The type of fat consumed can have health implications. (1)


For a healthy well-being, it is advisable not to consume too many saturated fats. Unsaturated fats are a better choice and are also found in generally healthier foods. (Image Source: Jenny Hill / unsplash)

According to the current state of research, some scientists associate saturated fat with negative health consequences. (1) The body can also produce saturated fat itself. Thus, one is not necessarily dependent on food for intake. (2.9)

The more solid the fat, the more saturated fatty acids it contains. Since these are contained in any animal and vegetable fats along with many other fatty acids. (2)

What foods contain saturated fat?

Saturated fats are found in animal fats like butter and lard. A high proportion is also found in tropical vegetable oils such as coconut and palm oil. (1)


Animal fats in particular have a high proportion of saturated fatty acids. But the fatty acid can also be found in some vegetable fats. (Image source: Thomas Park / unsplash)

But meat and milk also contain saturated fatty acids. (2) However, there are also foods that are free of saturated fat. It is important at this point that research is still divided on the health consequences of saturated fatty acids.

What is the difference to unsaturated fatty acids?

Unsaturated fatty acids are often referred to as the good fats because they are mainly found in vegetable fats. It is well known that vegetable fats are often healthier. However, the body also needs saturated fat.

Unsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, have so-called double bonds. Among other things, these are responsible for the physical state of the fat. Oils or fats with unsaturated fatty acids are therefore liquid. (3)

Unsaturated fats are considered protective and, according to research, contribute to health. It's important to understand that saturated fat is commonly found in unhealthy foods and has been shown to increase cholesterol levels. (1.10)

Since saturated fats are found in many foods, they are difficult to avoid. In addition, it is not absolutely necessary to do without them.

However, as is well known, nuts and seeds with unsaturated fatty acids are often the better alternative to biscuits or cakes.

What are the functions of saturated fatty acids in our body?

Saturated fatty acids serve as a source of energy for the body. With you, the body has the resources it needs to move and produce. They also help us to promote immune and hormone metabolism. (2)

However, the proportion of blood fats is also increased, as is the overall cholesterol level. In the case of high cholesterol and cardiovascular problems in particular, care should be taken not to consume too many saturated fatty acids. However, they can help people with fat digestion problems. (2)

blood draw

Cholesterol is produced by the body itself and fulfills certain tasks. Eating saturated fat on a regular basis can raise cholesterol levels and cause problems. (Image source: Hush Naidoo / unsplash)

It remains to be said that saturated fatty acids are a good source of energy. However, increased, long-term consumption can have negative effects on health. Therefore, it is recommended to consume mainly foods with healthier fats. (3)

How much saturated fat does our body need?

Basically, it can be said that the daily consumption of saturated fatty acids should be avoided. (2) While this gives you an increased fuel intake, which is generally a good thing, there are far healthier fuel alternatives.

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends producing a maximum of 10 percent of the daily energy intake from saturated fatty acids. (4)

Below you will find a small list of products with a high proportion of saturated fatty acids:

  • Meat and animal fat: Fatty meat, fatty sausage, lard
  • Dairy Products: Fatty cheese, cream, butter chocolate, pastries and baked goods
  • Vegetable products: palm oil, coconut oil

There is an easy way to reduce your consumption of saturated fat. Try to switch to vegetable fats as much as possible. That means, especially when cooking, you should not use animal fats such as butter or lard if possible. (2)

What should be considered when training or dieting?

The body not only needs protein, but also fat. Fats are not necessarily unhealthy. They are also essential for the body. The body can produce saturated fatty acids itself. Unsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, have to be absorbed by the body from food.

Below we have listed the two types of fatty acids for you, as well as a description of how they work (5):

fatty acid Effect
saturated fats Increase cholesterol levels. Functions of cholesterol: structure of cell membranes, anti-oxidative effect, aid in digestion of fats, production of testosterone
unsaturated fats Aiding in fat burning, lowering inflammation, improving nervous system health and performance

In addition, we have listed the different types of unsaturated fatty acids and their effects (5.10">:

Unsaturated fatty acids Effect
Omega 3 fats Building muscle, reducing body fat, reducing the risk of illness
Omega 6 fats Anti-inflammatory, Potential reduction in cancer risk (6,7)
Omega 1 fats testosterone production

So it can be said that losing weight or building muscle is not about eating less fat. It is much more about absorbing the "right" fats. Unsaturated fatty acids in particular must be ingested through food.

What alternatives are there to saturated fat?

Basically, saturated fat isn't necessarily a bad thing and occurs naturally in your body. The best alternative, however, remains the switch to unsaturated fatty acids.

We have put together a small overview of the advantages and disadvantages of unsaturated fatty acids for you:

Nevertheless, there is now a new alternative to solid fats, which according to the current state of research is still under development. We will present these to you in the next section.


Oleogels are made from canola, sunflower or flaxseed oil. The preparation with certain substances ensures that the oils get a semi-solid, i.e. gelled state. This variant is said to be a good alternative, especially for dough mixtures, since a solid mass cannot be produced with simple oil.

This alternative could combine the benefits of saturated and unsaturated fats while reducing the health disadvantages.

The oleogels should be more sustainable and healthier. However, the alternative to solid fats is still under development and its effects have not yet been researched. (8.11)

What are good/bad fats?

As explained above, most animal fats can have a negative effect on health if consumed in excess. Foods such as avocados, virgin olive oil or nuts are ideal sources of fat . (12)

olive tree

Virgin olive oil contains unsaturated fatty acids and many antioxidants. Regular consumption of unsaturated fatty acids can prevent diseases and must be ingested through food. (Image source: Nazar Hrabovyi / unsplash)

Unsaturated fatty acids in particular are increasingly found in such foods and can only be ingested from an external food source. These are essential for a healthy diet. (10)


Saturated fatty acids are found in fats and oils. Animal fats in particular contain more of them. The body produces saturated fatty acids by itself and can thus increase the cholesterol value. Cholesterol helps regulate important bodily functions.

However, too much cholesterol can be harmful and lead to cardiovascular diseases, among other things. A better alternative are foods with unsaturated fatty acids. The body cannot produce these itself. They are mainly contained in vegetable fats and oils.

Individual proofs(12)

  1. Tvrzicka E, Kremmyda LS, Stankova B, Zak A. Fatty acids as biocompounds: their role in human metabolism, health and disease--a review. Part 1: classification, dietary sources and biological functions. Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Republic. 2011 Jun;155(2):117-30. doi: 10.5507/bp.2011.038. PMID: 21804620.
  2. Sarah Schocke. Saturated Fatty Acids. July 2016.
  3. de Carvalho CCCR, Caramujo MJ. The Various Roles of Fatty Acids. Molecules. 2018 Oct 9;23(10):2583. doi: 10.3390/molecules23102583. PMID: 30304860; PMCID: PMC6222795.
  4. German Society for Nutrition e. V.. Selected questions and answers on the 2nd version of the DGE guideline "Fat intake and prevention of selected nutrition-related diseases". January 2015.
  5. Mark Maslow. The truth about fat: How it doesn't make you fat, but makes you lean & muscular. 2013
  6. Kapoor R, Huang YS. Gamma linolenic acid: an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2006 Dec;7(6):531-4. doi: 10.2174/138920106779116874. PMID: 17168669.
  7. Whitehouse PA, Cooper AJ, Johnson CD. Synergistic activity of gamma-linolenic acid and cytotoxic drugs against pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell lines. Pancreatology. 2003;3(5):367-73; Discussion 373-4. doi: 10.1159/000073651. Epub 2003 Sep 24. PMID: 14526145.
  8. EIT-Food EU, EU Framework Program for Research and Innoavtion Horizon. Oleogels as a healthy and sustainable substitute for saturated fats and palm oil in spreads. 2020
  9. Tvrzicka E, Kremmyda LS, Stankova B, Zak A. Fatty acids as biocompounds: their role in human metabolism, health and disease--a review. Part 1: classification, dietary sources and biological functions. Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Republic. 2011 Jun;155(2):117-30. doi: 10.5507/bp.2011.038. PMID: 21804620.
  10. Fidalgo Rodríguez JL, Dynarowicz-Latka P, Miñones Conde J. Structure of unsaturated fatty acids in 2D system. Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces. 2017 Oct 1;158:634-642. doi: 10.1016/j.colsurfb.2017.07.016. Epub 2017 Jul 13. PMID: 28756366.
  11. Martins AJ, Vicente AA, Cunha RL, Cerqueira MA. Edible oleogels: an opportunity for fat replacement in foods. food function 2018 Feb 21;9(2):758-773. doi: 10.1039/c7fo01641g. PMID: 29417124.
  12. Sommerfeld M. Trans unsaturated fatty acids in natural products and processed foods. Prog Lipid Res. 1983;22(3):221-33. doi: 10.1016/0163-7827(83)90010-3. PMID: 6356151.
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1 comment


wissen sie vielleicht in welchen pflanzlichen Lebensmitteln die Omega 1 Fettsäuren vorkommen?
Hat diese Fettsäure noch einen anderen Namen?



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