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101 Fat types (Saturated-trans-unsaturated)

101 Fat types (Saturated-trans-unsaturated)

Our body needs FAT. Why and what kind? We answer you this question which can take the myths away with what fat to eat and what not to.

Difference of saturated, Trans or unsaturated fat

The information stream about the fat types and about their health benefits or risks may make us confused sometimes. Now, we try to help clear the facts with some points. There are four major types of fats that are to know. These are monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and Trans fatty acids.

The biggest enemy, the Trans-fat:

Trans fatty acid is an unsaturated type of fat which behaves as a saturated type because of its chemical structure. That means it increases the bad cholesterol (LDL) in blood and at the same time, it lowers the good cholesterol (HDL). LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart problems and stroke. It may also be a cause for developing type 2 diabetes and for inflammation in the body.

There are two types of Trans fat: natural trans fats found in very small amounts in dairy products, beef, veal, lamb or mutton. The other is the industrial type, which is a side product of manufacturing goods or processing cooking oils. It has very bad side effects on health, but that’s not clear at this point if whether or not the natural one has the same effects. It’s found in food that contains hydrogenated or partly hydrogenated vegetable oils, even if they’re just baked or deep-fried in it.

The suggested safe amount of Trans fat in diet should be no more than 1 percent of the total daily calorie intake. Unfortunately, this can be hardly achieved if we eat a lot of processed food. The best thing to do (as always suggested) is to eat food that is freshly prepared (especially sweets like pies or cakes), and use healthy cooking oils. Avoid half-prepared, take-away or store-bought meals or goods, and always check the labels. As in some countries, the Trans fat contain under 0.5 g can be labelled as 0 g, it’s necessary to check the ingredients for hydrogenated oils or partly hydrogenated oils. If the product have these, it might be containing Trans fatty acid too, of up to a half gram.

Common popular foods usually contain more than the suggested daily amount, which is 2 g if counted with a 2000 calorie diet plan. Margarines and spreads (which are suggested to avoid in the 101 Oils post) can contain 0-3 g trans fats, cookies - 3.5 g, frozen pies - 4.5 g, frozen pizza - 5 g, and savoury snacks can contain a very high 7 g amount of trans fats. In these products, Trans fat is used to enhance the flavour, texture and increase shelf life. When eating outside, it’s good to know that a large serving of French fries may contain 5 grams of Trans fat or more.

The almost as big of an enemy as Trans fat: the Saturated fats

The main information to know about saturated fat is that it has a chemical structure that makes it indigestible for the human body. The solution is to collect and store it in the body. Due to this, consuming a large amount has very bad side effects to the health system. Besides that, it increases the bad cholesterol level in blood. It’s high in cholesterol itself too, increasing the LDL cholesterol level more and more. Due to its chemical structure and because it has hydrogen in it, these types are solid at room temperature.

For some help to checking labels, these are examples for saturated fatty acids: lauric, myristic, palmitix and stearic acid.

The foods that contain saturated fats are primarily animal sources such as fatty meat or dairy products, including ghee, butter, whole milk, cream, ice cream with whole milk, cheeses and baked products such as pies, cakes and cookies. Some vegetable products contains saturated fats too such as palm and coconut oil. For making a difference, there are evidences that the saturated fats from vegetable sources is not the same as animal sources and don’t have the same bad effects.

For avoiding health complications like heart problems or stroke, consume products containing the least amount of saturated fats as possible and try to plan a well-balanced diet with many fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, and healthy cooking oils.

The maximum intake limit for saturated fats should only be 30 g for an adult man and 20 g for a woman.

The healthiest choice: Unsaturated fat

There are two unsaturated fat types commonly consumed from food: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid. Since they don't contain hydrogen in the chemical structure, oils that include unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.

Both two types help to lower LDL cholesterol level in blood, therefore help the immune system prevent heart problems. Polyunsaturated type is found mostly in plant sources, monounsaturated is found in vegetable oils and in animal sources. Within polyunsaturated type, there’s two essential fatty acids which is needed for a healthy immune system, and human body cannot produce them: Omega 3 Fatty Acid and Omega 6 Fatty Acid. Omega 3 Fatty Acid is healthier, but researchers found that Omega 6 is not as dangerous as it was known before. A well balanced diet contains more Omega 3 Fatty Acid sources than Omega 6 Fatty Acid. However, it’s harder to find than Omega 6 type.

Monounsaturated fat sources are nuts, canola oil, olive oil, high oleic safflower oil, sunflower oil and avocado.

Sources for polyunsaturated fatty acid that's high in Omega 3: soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, trout, herring, and salmon.

Try to eat these healthy food sources in small amounts but daily or every other day, to help your body maintain cholesterol levels.


Copyright: Zsófia Michelin-Corporatum Oy, Content pictures copyrigh: Shutterstock, Development: e-Com