You may have seen a nasty stressor surrounding dietary fat, but how much is the right amount? Fats are an essential part of our diet, especially when it comes to absorbing other vital nutrients and helping our bodies function properly. The difficulty is that not all fats are the same, and when it comes to unsaturated fats versus saturated fats in particular, there are a few things to keep in mind.
In general, unsaturated fats such as avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds are the “good” fats that we want to include in our diet. These help support heart and brain health, among other functions. On the other hand, saturated fats should be eaten in moderation, with excess levels associated with negative health outcomes.
Here, we will further explain the differences between unsaturated versus saturated fats and the functions they serve in the body. Plus, if you’re looking for a nutritionally dense diet with plenty of healthy fats, our guide to Mediterranean diet A great place to start.
What are dietary fats?
dietary fat They are characterized as the fats that we consume from our food, which makes them different from body fats or triglycerides in the blood. It is one of three macronutrients (proteinAnd the carbohydrates and fats) that are essential for the functioning and function of our bodies.
All fats contain nine calories per gram, but not all fats are as nutritious as others. Polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are essential for the proper function of our brains and bodies, while monounsaturated fats help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. Some fats, such as saturated fats and trans fats. It has been linked to negative health outcomes, including metabolic syndrome (a combination of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure) and cancer.
What are saturated fats?
Saturated fats are a single carbon chain linked saturated with hydrogen atoms, which means they are usually solid at room temperature. While the hydrogenation process turns unsaturated fats into saturated fats (trans fats) by forcing hydrogen into empty spaces on the carbon chain, saturated fats are naturally this way. While excessive intake of saturated fat can have negative health outcomes, consuming small amounts of saturated fat in moderation is fine, so there is no need to stop eating your favorite foods to avoid it.
Dr. Kevin Barrett, General Practitioner at New Methods Surgery (Opens in a new tab) In Hertfordshire, UK, he explains: “We need to eat some fat because it is important for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and is a source of essential fatty acids. Saturated fats in highly processed foods are associated with negative health outcomes, but those in Less processed foods don’t have such strong bonds.”
Some sources of saturated fat include:
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Processed meats, such as sausage or bacon
- Butter, lard and ghee
- Hard cheeses, such as cheddar cheese
- Cream and ice cream
- Biscuits, cakes and pastries
- Delicious snacks, such as chips and crackers
- fried foods
- Coconut Oil
A study reported in International Journal of Molecular Sciences (Opens in a new tab). With this in mind, it is important to be aware of how much saturated fat you are consuming, as it is estimated that 70% of Americans consume amounts in excess of the recommended daily amount, according to the US Department of Agriculture (Opens in a new tab). On a 2,000-calorie diet, this equates to about 22 grams of saturated fat per day.
Dr. Deborah Lee from Dr. Fox Online Pharmacy (Opens in a new tab)He says that excessive consumption of saturated fats can lead to heart problems. “In general, saturated fats are ‘bad fats,'” she says. “These are the fats we should all be eating less. It tends to be associated with high bad cholesterol and this increases the risk of developing atherosclerosis (deposition of fatty plaques in the arteries), which causes heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes. In general, saturated fats should make up no more than 5-6% of your total daily calories.
What are unsaturated fats?
There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Unsaturated fats can boost levels of good HDL cholesterol in your body and reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol, which can build up in your veins and arteries and cause high blood pressure.
These fats come from plant sources and include:
- Olive and canola oil
- Nuts, nut butters, and nut oils
- Seeds, such as pumpkin or sesame seeds
Study 2021 in Nutrients (Opens in a new tab) The journal notes that consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids can lead to positive outcomes in cardiac metabolism. Another study in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Opens in a new tab) It’s also found that boosting HDL (“good”) cholesterol may also reduce inflammation in the body, giving it heart-protective properties. Since monounsaturated fats boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol, it’s important to make sure you’re consuming enough to support your heart health.
These fats come from plant sources and include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
Sources of omega-3 include:
- Oily fish such as mackerel and salmon
- Seeds such as flaxseeds or chia seeds
- Nuts like walnuts
- Legumes, such as soybeans
“The omega-3 acids found in oily fish are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid),” Dr. Lee explains. “Although the human body can make EPA and DHA, it is not efficient at doing so, which means that levels tend to be low. So, it is important to make sure you get enough omega-3s, either through the diet Or by taking an omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help prevent the onset of heart disease by helping to lower levels of triglycerides (blood fats), lower blood pressure, and improve circulation.”
Sources of omega-6 include:
- Meat, fish and poultry
- Legumes, such as soybeans
- Sun flower oil
“Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids obtained from the diet, which are primarily used to provide you with energy,” Dr. Lee explains. “The health benefits of omega-6 are less clear. We recommend eating more omega-3 than omega-6. Omega-6 is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, soybean oil, corn oil, walnuts, almonds and cashews, for example.
Magazine review Biomedicine and pharmacotherapy (Opens in a new tab) It tells us that omega-3 and omega-6 should be eaten in balance with each other. Omega-3s are used to build our cellular structure, and are also important for keeping the immune system working properly. High levels of omega-6 can contribute to the development or exacerbation of cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammatory diseases, but when taken in balance with omega-3, it lowers levels of bad LDL cholesterol, promotes protective HDL and helps improve insulin sensitivity.
Unsaturated Fats vs. Saturated Fats: Getting the Right Balance
The USDA Guidelines (Opens in a new tab) It recommends 20-35% of your total calories should come from fat. This works out to about 44g – 77g per day on a daily 2,000-calorie diet. Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat, 15-20% from monounsaturated fat and 5-10% from polyunsaturated fat.
Dr. Lee is an advocate of Mediterranean dietIt is low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat. “It may be that eating less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat will help extend life,” she says. “People who lived in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, and who always had a high intake of trans fats, were observed to have a lower risk of heart disease than those in other Western countries.”
For the best fat quality, choose minimally processed liquid fats. For example, you should choose olive oil, which has been shown to have heart-protective properties, over cooking with butter. Additionally, looking for healthy alternatives to unhealthy foods that are high in saturated fat can help you stay within recommended daily limits.
Some healthy swaps you can make include:
|Unhealthy fatty foods||Healthy alternatives|
|Fatty cuts of meat||Lean meat, such as chicken or fish|
|Processed meats such as sausage and bacon||Lean meats, such as chicken or fish (you can also get chicken sausage and turkey bacon, although they can be heavily processed)|
|Cream or ice cream||Greek yogurt or sorbet|
|Hard cheese like Parmesan||feta or cottage cheese|
|Butter, lard or lard||Olive oil, you can also use mashed banana or apple juice to replace the fat in bread|
|Biscuits, cakes and pastries||Fruits, granola, honey yogurt|
|Potato chips and crackers||Nuts and seeds, cabbage chips, homemade vegetables or tofu chips|
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice.