MacronutrientsRed Meat

Saturated fat

Here’s a slide that I present during some presentations e.g. here 10 mins in. It makes a few points:

1) All foods that contain fat contain all three fats – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – there are no exceptions.

2) The only food group that contains more saturated than unsaturated fat is dairy. Not that saturated is better or worse than unsaturated – but just to state a fact.

3) The only food on this slide with more saturated than unsaturated fat, therefore, is the low fat milk. Red meat, eggs, even lard ho ho, all have more unsaturated than saturated fat – again – not that saturated is better or worse than unsaturated…

4) The mackerel shown has twice the total fat and 1.5 times the saturated fat of the sirloin steak shown, yet public health advisors tell us to eat oily fish and avoid red meat in the name of the dietary fat guidelines: total and saturated.

5) Olive oil has 7 times the saturated fat as the sirloin steak shown. “But we wouldn’t consume 100g of olive oil” people say. “No – but 1 tablespoon of olive oil can have more saturated fat than a 100g pork chop.” (Sources at end).

6) When you know a few facts about food, you can make a mockery of our dietary advice.




Sirloin steak; EggsMackerelLardAlmonds; : Olive oil: 1% fat milk and a Pork chop.


26 thoughts on “Saturated fat

  • I don’t see where 1tbsp of olive oil has more saturated fat than a 100g pork chop.

  • Dear Zoe – thanks once again for being the voice of intelligence, reason and sound science in a sea of nonsense. As a chef and food writer with an interest in following a nutrition career (our country has a terrible diabetes obesity problem), your work has really inspired me. We all owe you so much; if only govt policies were shifted to your position, so many people could be properly fed, healthier and happier.
    Appreciate your hard work. Andrea

  • I listened to your podcast episode “What You Need To Know About Fats” yesterday, and was completely mind blown! I’m in my mid-40s, fairly well educated, and pretty well-read. Yet almost everything you said about fat was news to me. Thanks so much for pointing me to your website and this info; I clearly have a lot of junk information to get rid of and replace with science – all in order to have a less fraught emotional response to food and eating, I hope!

    • Hi Ruby
      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I remember my enlightening moments too. I was in the car many years ago when a US nutritionist was debating on Woman’s Hour with a UK dietitian. The dietitian said something about the saturated fat in beef and the nutritionist said “But there’s more monunsaturated fat” and I thought “what?!”
      We need more people to have the rug pulled out from under them to then seek the truth!
      Enjoy your journey
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • Dr. Zoe’

    Thank you for the interesting article. I’m a complete layman when it comes to nutrition. I try to read up on this science as much as I can so that I’m aware of which foods or fats are healthy.

    With regard to Sirloin or beef in general, would the proportion of saturated and mono/polysaturated depend on whether it is grass fed or grain fed and it’s upbringing ? Also what are your thought about coconut oil and olive oil used as cooking oil and which is better (in terms of stability, nutrition etc) than the other ?


    Osamah Kiwan

    • Hi Sue
      Many thanks for your kind words.

      Anything exploring new ways of tackling cancer is to be embraced, because our record on cancer is not good.

      At a quick glance of this article, the demonisation of saturated fat doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons:
      1) Because it is in virtually every real food available – foods that we lived on long before we had cancer
      2) Because we can never eat just saturated fat – it always comes with unsaturated fat (which wasn’t demonised)
      3) Because of this passage “Fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in much of the food we eat, and they are increased in the blood of obese men compared with lean men.”
      When there are fats in the blood, they are triglycerides. The biggest dietary determinant of triglycerides is carbohydrate. Hence it could be that cells feed off glucose directly and indirectly.

      This is interesting, but by no means definitive.

      Best wishes – Zoe

      • Thank you Zoe.
        Loved your talk on fibre at Denver Low Carb which I watch on the live stream.

  • One of the key points with fat is it stops you feeling hungry for longer. I leant this from Dr Jason Fung , The Complete Guide to Fasting. I came to you late in my education, Diet Fix very well written. Thank you.
    Living the dream, 4 stone lighter, still drink Bitter – cannot watch rugby without it, and no weight gain.

    • Thanks Martin – rugby – another great love!
      Best wishes Zoe

  • But is it not the case that saturated fat in olive oil, nuts and fish for EG is better for you than the saturated fat in red meat and dairy for EG?

    In other words, why do some justify saturated fat in non animal sources as being better or safer than saturated fat in animal sources?

    Love your work!


    • Hi Simon
      Saturated fat is saturated fat, just as cholesterol is cholesterol. There are different chain length saturated fats in different foods in different amounts, just as there are different chain length unsaturated fats in different foods in different amounts.

      Those who think the same saturated fat in plant food is better than the same saturated fat in animal food are biased or ignorant or both ;-)

      Many people actually think that all saturated fat comes from animals and unsaturated fat comes from plans. There are differing degrees of ignorance!

      Many thanks for your kind comment.
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • Always enjoyed your talk with Bill Padley on TRE. Thank you very much for putting the record straight and so succinctly; Statins and now Fats. Butter and Lard is now very much on my agenda. May I ask is taking a tablespoonful of first pressed olive oil every morning beneficial? Thank you and look forward to your next talk.

  • I have embarked on a shake daily at between 11am- 12 it consists of banana strawberries apple oranges ginger grapes mixed fruits and I use for tablespoons natural yoghurt, I have a regular tea eg salmon salad and rice, or steak mushrooms and rice, or tuna pasta bake, what is your advice on my eating habits, I want to lose weight,

    • Hi Mark
      I can’t give you advice – I can give you opinions/facts.

      In my opinion you seem to be avoiding processed food and eating natural food, which is a very good start. Your shake is very high in sugar ( and fruit is not that nutritious. You’d be better off having scrambled eggs/an omelette/a tin of fish and some salad/or even just more natural yoghurt and less fruit – an option with more nutritious/less sugary stuff. Tea sounds good. The salmon/salad/steak/mushrooms/tuna etc are the nutritious bits – rice is generally better than pasta, but neither bring as much nutritionally as meat/fish/eggs/dairy/veg.

      Bottom line though – if you’re losing weight, you’re doing something right. If not – rethink.

      Good luck with your goals.
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • The only natural food that has 100% saturated fat would be coconut oil.
    Ironocently of vegetable origin!

    • Hi Pedro
      Alas – when I said there are no exceptions I meant it! I’ve seen coconut oil as high as 93% saturated, but the rest is still mono and poly. The USDA database standard details for coconut oil are here:
      87% saturated, 6% mono and 2% poly. (Things rarely add to 100 on this database – measuring foods if not an exact science).
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • So what’s the point behind this post. I mean other than making a mockery of the facts along with the standard dietary recommendations. As you know, not all unsaturated FAs are created the same. You have MUFAs, PUFAs, long-chain PUFAs, & very long-chain PUFAs, omega-3, omega-6, etc. Also, saturated FAs come in different sizes, short-chain, medium-chain, & long-chain with different metabolic & regulatory profiles (compare butyric, lauric, & stearic). Also various combinations of saturated & unsaturated may have distinct metabolic effects.

    • Hi Nasr
      As you say, I know all of this – is it not enough to make a mockery of dietary recommendations?! If they were sound, one would not be able to do so!
      Best wishes – Zoe

      • Excellent point!

        Perhaps They should be honest about their motivations, they want us to stop eating what they call “saturated fat” because animals.

        A “plant based” diet does NOT exclude industrial plants.

        (Fish are honorary plants because they have beady eyes)

      • Zoe,

        Excellent post! I have seen this material from you before in print and video. I have actually found this information most useful in my daily practice. I see patients every day who are suffering under a long history of horrific dietary advice. You, my friend, are the 800lb gorilla of the dietary debate. When I use your information conventional practitioners are immediately silent, and patients immediately perk up and listen. I use your “mockery” daily to change lives.

        Much appreciated!


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