There are different types of fats in food, and many people still think all fats are created equally.
Fats contribute to certain health conditions related to cholesterol like diabetes, heart diseases, and cancers, but that does mean all fats are bad for you.
Some fats are actually good for your health and perform various functions in the body. Here we will take a look at different types of fats in food.
What are dietary fats?
Like carbs and proteins, fats are another important nutrient in your diet. They provide energy to the body and help in the absorption of vitamins.
Fats were once associated with poor health. However, further research indicated that not all fats are hazardous to someone’s health.
They lower the bad cholesterol level of the body and keep a person healthy. Though fats are high in calories, you must avoid overconsumption.
Dietary fats provide the following health benefits:
- Fats are an excellent source of energy due to their high-calorie content.
- They maintain the body temperature by keeping us warm.
- Several vitamins in our body require fats for their absorption.
- Fats are also involved in the production of several hormones.
- They are involved in the protection of several body organs.
The best way to get maximum benefits out of fats is marinating a good balance of fats and other nutrients in the diet.
Eating healthy and unsaturated fats are good for health. While saturated or Trans fats are usually linked with bad health consequences.
What are the 4 different types of fats in food?
There are four main types of fats in food:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Trans fats
All these types are different in their physical properties due to their different chemical bonding. Saturated and Trans fats are solid at room temperature and are commonly called bad fats. While unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are often referred to as good fats.
Fats play a significant role in your body. A diet rich in bad fats may lead you to several diseases while adding more good fats can lower the risk of several cardiovascular diseases. It also drops the bad cholesterol level of your blood.
Difference between saturated vs. unsaturated fats
The major difference between saturated and unsaturated fats lies in their chemical structure. Both types are made up of chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms.
Saturated fats are composed of carbon chains surrounded by hydrogen atoms and lack a double bond. They are solid at room temperature.
People eating saturated fats are more prone to certain heart diseases and other health problems. Red meat, whole milk dairy products, butter, eggs, chicken with skin, sausages, bacon, coconut oil, and lard are the main sources of saturated fats.
These fats deposit into the arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
There are still several arguments over the use and impacts of saturated fats – some studies suggest that these foods have no direct connection with heart and other diseases. Though some research indicates that milk fats are beneficial to health.
American Heart Association limits intake of calories only to 13 grams from saturated fats. It doesn’t mean you can completely avoid heart diseases by eliminating saturated fats from your diet.
The quality of your diet matters. If you replace saturated fats in your diet with carbs, that might increase the risk of heart and other diseases. It is always advised to make a proper combination of healthy nutrients in the diet.
Unsaturated fats, unlike saturated fats, are liquid at room temperature. Here only a few hydrogen atoms make the bonds with carbon and contain one or more double bonds.
These fats are obtained from plant sources, nuts, and fish. They do not deposit into the arteries, so they are good for health. Instead of taking saturated fats, health experts recommend taking unsaturated fats in your diet.
Unsaturated fats have two forms:
Mono refers to one, and unsaturated fats that contain only one chemical bond are called monounsaturated fats.
Avocados, olives, peanuts, almonds, and other nuts contain monounsaturated fats. These fats are liquid at room temperature -but solidify when placed in the refrigerator.
Poly refers to many, and unsaturated fats that have many chemical bonds in their structure are called polyunsaturated fats.
Flaxseeds, walnuts, fatty fish, soybean, and sunflower oil are rich sources of these fats. These fats are liquid both at room temperature and in the refrigerator.
Polyunsaturated fats come into two types:
Omega-3 fatty acids
This is the most beneficial form of polyunsaturated fatty acids. As our body cannot produce it, we need to take it from an outside source to fulfill the need of the body.
Researchers claim eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of heart diseases. Some people opt for omega-3 fatty acids supplements, but studies claim these supplements will not have the same impact and benefits as original sources.
Omega-3 fatty acids have the following health benefits:
- Lower the risk of heart diseases by reducing the fat levels in the blood
- Increase the elasticity of the vessels
- Improves eye health
- Helps in blood-thinning that lessens its stickiness and avoid the blood clotting
- Helps in improving the immune system
- Reduces inflammation
- Regulates the normal development of the fetus brain
- Fights off depression and anxiety
- Decrease the risk of ADHD and autism
- Reduce the risk of metabolic syndromes
- Helps in fighting with several disorders like psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis
Omega-3 fatty acids have three main forms – EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid), and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid).
Fish and nuts are the best sources of these omega-3 fatty acids. It is suggested, that you must consume fish like salmon 2-3 times each week to reap the most advantages from omega-3 fatty acids.
Add a variety of nuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, and fish oil to your daily to get these essential fats.
Omega-6 fatty acids
Previously, omega-6 fatty acids were linked with heart diseases, and doctors used to recommend people to avoid them. But now, recent studies have suggested that taking omega-3 fatty acids is actually good for your health.
The daily recommended amount for omega-6 fatty acids is 5-10% of your daily calorie intake.
If you want to add omega-6 fatty acids to your diet, eat more leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oil like safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean.
Trans fats come from animal sources. Naturally, these fats are found in milk and meat. Besides natural sources, Trans fats are mainly synthesized on an industrial level.
Hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid at room temperature. This method enhances the flavor, taste, and lifespan of numerous foods.
Following food items contain Trans fats:
- Fried foods
- Bakery items like cakes, pies, cookies, and doughnuts
- Frozen foods
- Nondairy coffee creamers
- Microwave popcorns
- Refrigerated doughs
Trans fats are not good for health. Sugars and salt are added during manufacturing, making them unhealthier.
They may add flavor to your diet, but regular consumption can make you more prone to several diseases like diabetes, heart problems, and strokes. It also lowers the good cholesterol level of the body. It is good to avoid Trans fats completely.
Different types of fats in food
|Saturated||Full-fat dairy Fast food Fatty cuts of red meat Chicken with skin Coconut oil Palm oil Bakery items||Raise the bad cholesterol level of the body and increase the risk of heart diseases|
|Trans||Margarine Fried foods Bakery items like cakes, pies, cookies, and doughnuts Frozen foods Nondairy coffee creamers Shortening Creamy soups||Raise the bad cholesterol level of the body and increase the risk of heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, and inflammation.|
|Monounsaturated||Avocado Nuts Olive oil Peanut oil Canola oil||Moderate consumption reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improves good cholesterol level of the blood|
|Polyunsaturated||Soybean oil Sunflower oil Safflower oil Seafood Nuts like walnuts and brazil nuts Seeds Fatty fish||Moderate consumption decreases the risk of certain diseases including, heart problems, by lowering the blood cholesterol level|
If you want to keep your heart healthy, you must avoid saturated and Trans fats. Although saturated fats are not as hazardous as trans fats – they are ranked after unsaturated fats, which are a healthier alternative.
Add unsaturated fats to your diet in form of nuts, fish, vegetables, avocado, and skinless poultry. These healthier fats are an important part of the diet, but moderate consumption is recommended because fats are high in calories.
As a good rule, add more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to your diet to improve the quality of your life.