Saturated Fat vs Unsaturated Fat

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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There is a constant discussion of saturated fat vs unsaturated fat, and your health depends on knowing the difference between the two!

Many people immediately associate the word “fat” as a bad thing, but fats are actually an essential part of our body’s normal function. Fats are present in the membrane of every cell in the body and are critical for the activity of certain fat-soluble vitamins. However, the types of fat you consume make a very big difference.

Saturated Fat vs Unsaturated Fat

When you consider saturated fat vs unsaturated fat, there are some very important differences that anyone looking to improve their lipid profile should understand.

Definition

  • Saturated fat: It is a type of fat in which all its molecules have no double bonds between carbon molecules because all of its potential binding sites are “saturated” with hydrogen.
  • Unsaturated fat: This type of fat, however, is broken up into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and has at least one double bond in its chemical structure.

    A small glass jar of flaxseed oil kept next to a jar of flaxseeds

    Flaxseed oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sources

  • Saturated fat: Most saturated fats are normally solid at room temperature, which is why you’ll find these fats in butter, red meat, cheese and whole milk. It is typically found in animal products. Plant sources include coconut oil and palm oil.
  • Unsaturated fat: It is typically found in liquid form at room temperature, and is found in large quantities within flaxseed, corn, sunflower, canola and soybean oils. They are found primarily in plant and seafood sources.

Which Is Healthier?

  • Saturated fat: Saturated fat is often considered bad for health. It helps contribute to LDL cholesterol levels, which is considered “bad” cholesterol and can lead to atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Unsaturated fat: Unsaturated fats are considered better for health. Unsaturated fat is known to help lower LDL cholesterol levels and elevate HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). This can help to boost heart health and lower your risk for high blood pressure. Monounsaturated fat is considered a more effective way of lowering cholesterol levels than polyunsaturated fat.

Calorie Content

  • Saturated fat: Experts recommend consuming no more than 16 grams of saturated fat per day, representing about 140 calories of your total intake.
  • Unsaturated fat: Experts recommend consuming between 40 and 60 grams of unsaturated fat per day, so it should represent about 360-540 calories of your daily intake
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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