Polyunsaturated and Saturated Fats in Food

We need to consume a certain amount of fat in diet to keep healthy.

Fat is necessary for:

  • Producing hormones
  • Forming part of the brain and nervous system
  • Forming cell membranes in the body
  • Transporting vitamins throughout the body
  • Helping to regulate body temperature

Good and Bad Fats

Different types of dietary fat have small structural differences at a chemical level that cause the body to process them differently. Some fats contribute to our health positively, whilst others negatively.

However, all fats and oils contain the same amount of calories per gram so in order to lose weight we should make sure that any type of fat should be limited to an intake that is sufficient to maintain health.

Dietary fats can be divided into three categories:

  • Saturated fat:
    mainly found in animal and dairy products, this type of fat increases blood cholesterol levels in the body and risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Trans fat:
    mainly found in animal products but can be derived from partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fat, this also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Unsaturated fat:
    mainly found in vegetable and fish products, this type of fat helps lower blood pressure, stabilize heart rhythms, reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of coronary disease

Saturated and trans fats increase the amount of low-density lipids (LDL or bad cholesterol) in the body that line the artery walls, and unsaturated fat increases the amount of high-density lipids (HDL or good cholesterol) that carry LDL cholesterol to the liver for disposal. So, it is important to choose which foods you eat so you can actively reduce the amount of saturated and trans fat, and increase the amount of unsaturated fat.

Saturated and Trans Fats

Saturated fat come mainly from red meat, seafood, poultry with skin, and whole-milk dairy products (cheese, milk, and ice cream). A few plant foods are high in saturated fat, such as coconut and coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil.

Trans fat can be made by a process called hydrogenation, which makes oils less likely to spoil, making them ideal for frying fast foods. Trans fat is found in commercially prepared baked goods, margarines, snack foods, and processed and fried foods, that are prepared in restaurants and fast food franchises.

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are predominantly found in foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. Here’s a list of sources of foods that are high in unsaturated fats:

  • Olive, sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils
  • Vegetables such as avocados and soybean
  • Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans
  • Pumpkin, flax and sesame seeds
  • Fish, which is a good source of Omega-3 fat, a type of fat the body cannot produce.
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