For many years, the word “fat” was associated with unhealthy eating. It is better to avoid them as much as possible. Although, many of us have made a move to low-fat meals. This choice did not, however, make us healthier because we cut out on both good and bad fats. You might be thinking, “Isn’t fat harmful to your health?”. But, fats are a crucial source of energy for the human body. Therefore, this article outlines the difference between saturated fat vs unsaturated fats, as well as how to eat healthily.
What are dietary fats?
Dietary fats are a significant energy source. It aids vitamin and mineral absorption. Moreover, fat is essential for the building of the cell membranes, cell walls and nerve sheaths. Blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation are all dependent on it. The fats stored in tissues are also essential for thermoregulation and insulation of the body.
Some fats are superior to others in terms of long-term health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good fats to consume while synthetic or tailor-made trans fats are on the list of bad fats. Whereas saturated fats occupy a midway ground.
Also, knowing the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, their sources and possible health effects can help you make better cooking and shopping decisions.
These are usually solid at room temperature. Coconut oil and ghee are the two main examples of saturated fats that have various health benefits.
Ghee is a loaded source of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D and K. Ghee is a pure form of fat and contains no casein, making it perfect for dairy-intolerant people. It also contains gut-friendly enzymes which help in its easier digestion. While coconut oil has omega 6 fatty acids, but no omega 3 fatty acids and no trans fats. Both ghee and coconut oil help improve brain function, digestion and metabolic function.
Sources of saturated fats:
- Animal meat – cuts of meat that are rich in fat
- Poultry – Chicken and egg yolk
- Dairy products – cheese, butter, whole milk, cream
- Plant oils – Palm and Coconut oil (Benefits of coconut oil)
- Processed meats – sausages, hot dogs
- Pre-packaged snacks – chips, pastries, cookies, crackers
Saturated fat in your diet – Why limit it?
The sources of saturated fats are mostly unhealthy, but, contrary to popular belief, saturated fat is not a bad thing. It can be part of a heart-healthy diet when consumed in moderation.
- Risk of heart disease:
Healthy fats are essential for the body’s energy and other functions. Consuming excessive amounts of saturated fats might lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels (blood vessels). High saturated fat foods increase LDL (bad) cholesterol. Cholesterol that is too high in LDL increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Add extra kilos to the body:
It is abundant in many high-fat foods, such as pizza, baked products, and fried dishes. So, eating too much of these foods might lead you to gain weight by adding extra calories to your diet. Every gramme of fat provides 9 calories. Therefore, it is more than twice as much as carbs and protein combined.
These are considered a healthier form of fat and must be consumed for body and brain development. These fats are liquid (oil form) at normal temperature. They can also be found in solid foods.
Sources of monounsaturated fats include:
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil
- Most seeds and nuts
Polyunsaturated fats are necessary for the body’s proper functioning. In addition, polyunsaturated fats aid in the movement of muscles and the coagulation of blood. These fats are not produced by the body, therefore you have to consume them in the form of food.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two forms of polyunsaturated lipids. In terms of heart health, omega-3 fatty acids are advantageous. (Why should you add omega-3 foods to your kid’s diet?)
Best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids:
- Fatty fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
- Flaxseeds and their oil
- Walnuts (5 reasons why kids should consume every day)
- Seeds such as sunflower, chia and hemp
Best sources of omega-6 fatty acids:
- Canola oil
- Safflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Walnut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Corn oil
According to a recent study, there is some indication that polyunsaturated fats may lessen the risk of heart disease. Therefore, it is ideal to choose them in place of saturated fats. Also, there has to be a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for maximum benefit to health.
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that have been turned from a liquid state to a more solid state by food processing. They are mostly used is all processed foods- cheese spreads, donuts, chips, dips, cakes, cookies etc since they are solid in state and can help hold the shape of food item.
Meat and dairy from ruminant animals, such as cattle and sheep, contain natural trans fats, often known as ruminant trans fats. When bacteria in the stomachs of these animals eat grass, they produce trans fats. Several studies have shown that moderate intake of these trans fats from animal sources is not detrimental.
Health risks associated with trans fats:
Heart disease risk may increase with artificial trans fats. Also, they seem to increase the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol without increasing the HDL (good) cholesterol levels. In addition, people consuming more trans fat have a higher risk of insulin sensitivity and developing diabetes.
Sources in diet:
Most trans fats in your diet come from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Because they are inexpensive to produce and have a long shelf life. There is a range of processed foods that include trans fats. The partly hydrogenated oil should not be added to the processed goods as a result of the FDA’s 2018 ban. They are no longer GRAS. Although this restriction has been partially implemented, many processed foods still contain trans fats.
Saturated fat vs unsaturated fats
Here are few differences between saturated fat and unsaturated fats:
Recommended levels of fat intake:
According to the World health organization (WHO), total fat intake should not exceed 30% of total energy intake. Also,
- lower saturated fat consumption to less than 10% of total energy intake
- lower trans-fat intake to less than 1% of total energy intake
- Replace the saturated fat food list with unsaturated, particularly polyunsaturated fats.
Tips for a fat-friendly diet:
The following are some simple strategies for people to regulate their fat consumption in their diet:
- Choosing low-fat dairy over full-fat dairy, or lean meat over fatty pieces of meat.
- Avoiding foods that claim to be fat-free . To replace the fats, many of these items contain added sugars and refined carbs. However,it’s possible that these additives can raise caloric consumption without adding any additional dietary value.
- Know about saturated fat content by reading nutritional labels such as the reference intake (RI) on the front of packages.
- Foods high in trans fats and sodium (processed foods) should be avoided
- When cooking, use steaming or boiling rather than frying.
- Changing to fats that are good for you. Unsaturated fats are abundant in foods like sardines, avocado, and walnuts. These may help with brain development, immune system strength, and heart health. (Foods to boost immunity in kids)
How to replace saturated fat sources with healthier ones?
Fats are important for your body. Hence, eliminating them from the diet will not be a great option. You can introduce healthy fats to your diet with a few simple modifications.
You do not have to eliminate fat from your diet. However, you should be cautious about the amount and type of fat you consume. Also, keep in mind that fat contains a lot of calories. Choose unsaturated fat-rich foods instead of saturated fat-rich foods, not in addition to them.
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