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The Complete Guide To Healthy Fats – Unsaturated vs Saturated

Eating fat doesn’t make you unhealthy. In fact, healthy fats are a necessity in our daily diet. Without them, our bodies will not be able to function, and we will be missing out on those fat-soluble vital nutrients.

Food full of healthy oils, fats
Healthy oils make us healthy – source

With new research and information coming to light daily, it’s important to learn the difference between different types of fats.

All claims are sourced and backed by peer-reviewed published research.

Why Should We Eat Health Fats

Fat, otherwise known as lipid in the body, is a necessity for your body to function. 

The very cells of your body are held together by a lipid member, primarily composed of fat. Your brain cells are protected in lipids, and fat helps your body absorb and process various nutrients like antioxidants and vitamins A, D, E, and K. 

Fat can give us a lot of energy, as it has more calories than glucose, and will help fuel your body. Plus, some types of fats help nerve, brain, and heart function.

Different Types of Fat

There are three main types of fat. Biologically speaking, types of fat are defined by their atomic structure. They are saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats.

Saturated fats have complete hydrogen bonds, while unsaturated fats have missing hydrogen bonds and a double bond. Trans fats are unsaturated fats in a z shape.

None of this really matters, though, no chemistry quiz at the end!

There are nutritional differences, however, illustrated below!

Unsaturated Fat

Unsaturated fats are those that are liquid at room temperature. There are two types:

Monounsaturated fats 

Oleic acid is the most common type of monounsaturated fats. Plus it may reduce heart disease risk, reduce cancer risk, promote optimal weight, help to reduce inflammation, and balance insulin.

Good sources of monounsaturated fats include avocados, nuts (such as peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds), olives, and seeds (such as pumpkin, and sesame).

Polyunsaturated fats 

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fats. They are essential nutrients, as your body cannot make them, therefore you need to get them from your diet. Additionally, they support cell growth and optimal brain function. They may even support heart health!

Walnuts, oils (such as sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed), whole flax seeds, and fish.

Some hydrogenated oils, such as canola, soybean, and corn, maybe ones to avoid, as when they are partially hydrogenated, they contain trans fat. Basically, hydrogenated vegetable oils undergo a process where hydrogen atoms are added to preserve the product and make it more stable. Plus, hydrogenated oils are usually too high in omega 6 and low in omega 3. This imbalance actually causes inflammation. 

A full explanation of the process of oil hydrogenation is here.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature because of their molecular structure. This kind is found in dairy products (such as milk, cheese butter), animal products (such as pork, beef, lamb, and poultry), and oils (such as coconut, and palm).

Saturated seems to have earned a bad name in recent years. Faulty science linked saturated fat to higher heart disease, obesity, and type two diabetes. Well, the population cut out fat, increased vegetables, and heart disease and obesity remain on the rise. There is no conclusive evidence that links saturated fat and heart disease. Plus, research analysis has found no link between inflammation and saturated fat.

This doesn’t mean you should go eat a stick of butter or chug coconut oil! It means we shouldn’t be afraid of saturated fat, we can include it in a healthy diet.

There are many types of saturated fat, short, medium, and long-chained, and they all have different effects on health. If you’re getting your saturated fat from fried fast food, it’s going to be bad for you. If you’re getting your saturated fat from full-fat dairy, grass-fed meat, and coconut, it’s going to be healthy.

Trans Fat

Trans fats are made by heating vegetable oils in the production process while adding hydrogen atoms to the oil. Combined with a catalyst, this process is a process called hydrogenation. This converts the oil into a solid, like margarine, and makes it more stable.

Beacuse it is so cheap, this type of partially hydrogenated oil is commonly used in restaurants, fast food places, and frying. This is also why some hydrogenated oils, even canola oil, may have some traces of trans fat.

This kind can contribute to inflammation, cause insulin resistance, and even a tiny amount, 2% of daily calories, can increase the risk of heart disease.

Trans fats are the actual culprit, linked heavily with increased triglycerides in the blood. High triglycerides, actual fat in the blood, are what actually cause heart disease. 

Surprisingly enough, too much processed food or added sugar in the diet may also lead to high triglycerides.

The Takeaway 

Fat is a necessary macronutrient that we should not fear, as long as we are eating the healthy type!

In reality, fat is used as energy, supports cell growth, maintains cell shape, increases brain function, and much more! Some can even help reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of heart disease.

The Saturated kind, too, is not something that should be feared as long as you get it from healthy sources, like coconuts or full dairy products

Some people want to start a keto diet, some want more energy, and some just want a well-balanced diet. Whatever the reason for needing this information, make sure you add healthy fats to your life today!

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