How to Understand the Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats
Saturated fats are referred to as "saturated" because they contain
Hi, I'm Laureen Wallravin, Certified Nutritional Therapist and founder of RelishedFood.com. I'm here today for About.com to help you understand the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, with information from About.com's Health Site.Part of maintaining a healthy and balanced diet involves monitoring not only how much fat you take in, but also what types you consume. In the most basic sense, fats are broken down as saturated and unsaturated. Here's a closer look at each.Saturated fats are referred to as “saturated” because, at a molecular level, they contain the highest number of hydrogen atoms of all the fats. For a long time, saturated fats have been considered detrimental to one's health, especially when eaten in large amounts on a regular basis. However, recent studies have indicated that in the context of a balanced diet, saturated fats may not have as clear a link to atherosclerosis as previously thought.Characteristically, they are solid at room temperature and are often the product of animal fats, although some plant-based saturated fats can be found in foods like palm kernel oil and cocoa butter.Common sources of saturated fats include, but are not limited to: steak, butter, and whole milk.Unsaturated fats can be broken into the categories of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and are often referred to as “good fats.” These fats are liquid at room temperature and have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Specifically, monounsaturated fats found in foods such as olive oil, are known to lower LDL levels while keeping HDL levels the same.Polyunsaturated fats lower LDL levels as well, but they can also lower HDL cholesterol levels, which should be kept high. Polyunsaturated fats, which contain Omega-3 fatty acids, play an important role in one's overall health, from reducing inflammation throughout the body to helping prevent atherosclerosis. Omega-3s can be found in cold water fatty fish such as salmon, or in over-the-counter fish oil supplements. Fat is an unavoidable necessity in our diets, and is essential for long-term wellness. The important thing is to make sure you're getting the perfect balance of fats to help you lead a healthy life!Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.