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Fat Facts

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saturated and unsaturated fats are terms that are thrown around a lot when it comes to healthy living. However, not many people know the real difference between the two. Shirley Mistry tells you what each type is and which foods contain them

Before we start discussing which type of fat is better, let’s set one thing straight — you may want to lose weight and keep yourself in good shape, but your body needs fat. A certain amount of fat is essential to promote growth, ensure healthy metabolism and give you energy. In fact, certain vitamins such as vitamin E, A and D are only fat-soluble, meaning that they require fat in order to be effectively absorbed by your body. However, saturated fats and unsaturated fats are two major categories — one of them leads to poor health while the other is full of health benefits. Take a look at the differences so that you can make informed food choices.

The basic differences
Saturated fats are packed with hydrogen atoms and are devoid of any double bonds between the carbon atoms. On the other hand, unsaturated fats contain at least one double bond between carbon atoms. Since to most people, the difference in their chemical structure is of little or no significance, let’s skip ahead to how they actually impact your health. At the most basic level, saturated fats, when consumed in excess quantities, can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, clog your arteries and increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and/ or strokes. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are better for your health, as they promote HDL (good) cholesterol and aid in moving LDL cholesterol to your liver where it can be processed. They also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have extensive health benefits.

Texture & shelf life
At room temperature, saturated fats are solid, whereas unsaturated fats are liquid and tend to solidify only once the temperature drops. Also, saturated fats have a long shelf life, when compared to unsaturated fats that are known to spoil quickly.

Recommended consumption
It is advisable that you restrict your intake of fat to a minimal percentage of your daily calorie requirement. With saturated fats, you shouldn’t have more than 10% of your daily calorie intake, while with unsaturated fats you shouldn’t consume a quantity that is greater than 30% of your daily calorie requirements.

Know your foods
Take a look at which foods contain saturated and unsaturated fats to plan your meals accordingly.

Saturated fats: Butter, milk, cheese, coconut oil, meats, fried food, processed food, packaged sauces, peanuts, margarine.

Unsaturated fat: Avocados, olive oil, sunflower oil, flax seeds, walnuts, nuts, olives.

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