Knowing Your Fats: The Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle involves knowing what to eat and what not to eat.  The old adage is that low-fat diets are best for proper cardiovascular health, but nowadays doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and exercise physiologists are recommending consuming fatty foods.  While to some it may appear contradicting, research on cholesterol and fatty acid types have shed a positive light on why some foods may be better than others, when it comes to comparing fat.  This article will compare the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats and list a few sources of the good and the bad.

Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are another term for lipids and fats are an essential part of a human diet.  The dietary consumption of fat provides roughly nine calories per gram, which is higher than any other food type around.  In addition, fat is necessary for the absorption of certain vitamins crucial for repair and growth.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K all require fat in order to be absorbed into the body, demonstrating some ways fat can help the body grow and flourish [1].  Fatty acids are stored as triglycerides in the body, which can be measured fairly easily in the lipid panel test at the doctor’s office. However, there are times that doctors want to have some rest because of stressful days. Good timing because we have that will help you. Triglycerides consist of one glycerol molecule attached to three fatty acid molecules.  The basic structure of a triglyceride is a horizontal-resembling compound and depending on your diet, the number of triglycerides in your body can vary from person-to-person.  Some triglycerides are considered “good” or “bad” and each have a crucial element in heart health.

Saturated vs. Unsaturated Fats – The Differences

Not all fats are created equally.  For one, some fats are found only within animal sources while others are primarily from non-animal sources.  Some fats are found within fruits whereas some are found in nuts.  But which are best for health?

Saturated Fats

A saturated fat is a type of fatty acid which is known to be the worst for health.  A typical saturated fat contains the basic glycerol and three fatty acid structure, but this type of fat is as flat as possible.  When saturated fats are stored, they are capable of being stacked in endless amounts within a small space.  Consider saturated fats resembling a ream of 500 papers neatly stacked, as if you just bought computer paper.  These sheets are jammed in an outer pouch in order to occupy as much space as possible in order to provide the purchaser as much paper as possible.  When this happens inside the body’s arterial lining, a stroke or heart attack is likely to occur.  Saturated fats are known to raise your “bad” cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, or death [2].  Listed below are five common sources known to be loaded with high amounts of saturated fat:

  1. Lard
  2. Full-fat cheese
  3. Marbled beef (visual white blotches on cuts of red meat)
  4. Deep fried food such as donuts and French fries
  5. Regular ice cream (non-whipped, full fat)

 

Unsaturated Fats

In contrast to “bad” fats, a “good” fat is referred to as unsaturated and can come in a few forms.  The two common forms are known as mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids.  An unsaturated fatty acid is composed of the basic fatty acid structure, but an unsaturated fat is not horizontal or flat.  In fact, an unsaturated fatty acid has a bent structure, which means fewer fat molecules can be stored in a particular space.  This is where the nomenclature of “omega” was derived; the area on the fat which resembles a chink or bend is an omega fatty acid (either 3, 6, and to a lesser extent 9 and 18).  Using the computer paper analogy, an unsaturated fatty acid resembles crumpled papers.  When crumpled computer papers are attempted to be placed together as a ream of paper, far fewer fit in the same area as the flat papers.  In the human body, the same happens.  Fewer fat molecules fit within the arterial walls, which means the arteries are much less likely to be blocked and a far less risk of heart disease or stroke.  In addition to this, unsaturated fatty acids are known to bind to smaller particles in the body and be eliminated in the waste.  Due to this process, “good” fats (your HDL cholesterol) serve a “cardiac cleansing” throughout the arterial lining.  Listed below are five food sources known to be high in omega/unsaturated fats (the good fats) and listed here is more information on obtaining “good” fats in the body:

  1. Vegetable oils (grape seed oil or olive oil)
  2. Almonds
  3. Grass-fed beef
  4. Salmon or halibut
  5. Flaxseeds

References

[1] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000104.htm

[2] http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Saturated-Fats_UCM_301110_Article.jsp

[3] http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/fat/unsaturatedfat.html

 

 

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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