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Difference between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats


Lipids are the macromolecules that contain hydrocarbon is the waxy, greasy, or oily compounds that make up the building blocks of the structure and function of living cells. Examples of lipids are oils, waxes, fats, etc.

Fats are macronutrients used in the metabolism of a living organism. Fat is a type of nutrient which is a major source of energy and helps your body absorb vitamins, Keep the body warm and protect your heart and brain health. It has more calories compared to any other nutrient. Fat is an essential nutrient that the body needs to function fully, helps the body absorb vitamins and minerals, and serves other vital roles. Fat stored in body tissues helps in:

  • Energy storage and metabolism
  • body temperature regulation
  • insulation of the vital organs

Two major types of fats are:

  1. Saturated fats
  2. Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are called beneficial fats because they reduce high cholesterol levels and help to prevent conditions like heart disease and stroke. Unsaturated fats contain one or more double bonds and fewer hydrogen atoms on their carbon chains which make them different from saturated fats.

Sources of Saturated fats

  • Olives
  • Olive oils
  • Vegetable oils, canola oils, and plant oils
  • Fish like salmon, anchovies, tuna, and others containing omega-3 fatty acids
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocados

They play a number of beneficial roles and improve

  • blood cholesterol levels
  • ease of inflammation
  • stabilize heart rhythms
  • play a number of other beneficial roles

Types of unsaturated fat

Types of saturated fats are

  1. Monounsaturated fat
  2. Polyunsaturated fat

Monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats have one unsaturated carbon bond (carbon to carbon bond) in the molecule, are liquid at room temperature, but become solid when chilled. When you eat foods that are high in monounsaturated fats may help to

  • Develop and maintain your cells
  • Lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol level
  • Keep “good” HDL cholesterol levels high
  • Control of blood sugar and insulin levels

Sources of Monounsaturated fats are

  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Canola oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans
  • Seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds
  • Sesame oil
  • Safflower oil

Polyunsaturated fat

Polyunsaturated Fats containing two or more double bonds in their chemical structures are essential fatty acids that the body needs for brain function and regulate body functions. They help in

  • Covering nerves
  • Building cell membranes,
  • Blood clotting
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle movement
  • Lower harmful triglycerides
  • Reduce blood pressure

Polyunsaturated fats are present mainly in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, sesame, soybean, and corn oils and in seafood.

Types of Polyunsaturated fats

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids
  2. Omega-6 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids:

Omega-3 fatty acids are important polyunsaturated fats especially heart-healthy fat.Omega-3 fatty acids are obtained from plant food such as soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts, and flaxseed and also found in fatty fish and shellfish as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They help to

  • Lowering high triglycerides
  • Slow the buildup of plaque
  • Lower the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat
  • Slightly lower your blood pressure
Omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fats found mostly in liquid vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil and are good for the heart. Omega-6 fatty acids help to

  • Control your blood sugar
  • Reduce your risk for diabetes
  • Lower your blood pressure

Saturated fatty acid

Saturated fats contain only single bonds between carbon molecules that’s why they are solid at room temperature. They are mostly called bad fats because of their effects on health are commonly grouped with trans fats. Saturated fats are mostly preset in animal foods such as meat, butter, and other dairy products, and foods that are made with them, such as cakes and biscuits but a few plant foods contain high saturated fats.

Healthy foods such as beef, cheese, and ice cream contain saturated fats while chicken and nuts have small amounts of saturated fat.

The sources of saturated fats are:

  • Pizza and cheese
  • Milk and white chocolate, toffee, cakes, puddings, and biscuits
  • Coconut and palm oils and coconut cream
  • Chocolate and chocolate spreads
  • Cured meats like salami, chorizo, and pancetta
  • Pastries, such as pies, quiches, sausage rolls, and croissants

Benefits of saturated fats

  • Saturated fats help to make up at least 50% of the cell membranes. 
  • Saturated fats have antimicrobial properties, which protect us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.
  • Saturated fats play a vital role in the health of our bones for calcium to be effectively incorporated into the skeletal structure
  • They also guard the liver against alcohol and other toxins

Bad effects of saturated fats

  • Saturated fats consumption increase the bad cholesterol (LDL) and apolipoprotein B (apo B) level thus increase the risk of heart diseases.
  • Saturated fats increased inflammation and mental decline.

Types of saturated fats

There are many types of saturated fats depending carbon chain

Common long chain saturated fats

  • Stearic acid: 18 carbon atoms long, the main source is animal fat
  • Palmitic acid: 16 carbon atoms long most common in plants and animals
  • Myristic acid: 14 carbon atoms long and rare fatty acid.
  • Lauric acid: 12 carbon atoms long more common in palm kernel oil and coconut oil
  • Capric acid: 10 carbon atoms long abundant in goat’s milk
  • Caprylic acid: 8 carbon atoms long abundant in goat’s milk
  • Caproic acid: 6 carbon atoms long abundant in goat’s milk

Short chain saturated fats are following

  • Butyric acid: 4 carbon atoms long
  • Propionic acid: 3 carbon atoms long
  • Acetic acid: 2 carbon atoms long

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