You have heard very often: saturated, unsaturated, Omega-3, trans fat. But what do they mean exactly? Nutritional science can be already complicated as it is, so let´s put some clarity into these words.
WHAT IS A SATURATED FAT? *considered unhealthy
A simple chain of fatty acids that usually looks like this:
There are many debates in the scientific community as some scientists considered this fat not as bad as it was portraited till now. While others think that saturated fats and sugar are the main causes of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.
The main sources of saturated fats are:
- fatty meat
- high-fat dairy foods (butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream)
- tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil)
WHAT IS AN UNSATURATED FAT? *considered healthy
Also a chain of fatty acids, that sometimes gets interrupted by a double bond. Looks like this:
Unsaturated fats are considered healthier because of the double-bonding. This allows the molecule to be more "flexible" but it also makes it more fragile. That´s why we should make sure we get enough healthy fats in our diet. Here is how:
- fatty fish (salmon and mackerel)
- nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, chia seeds and sesame seeds)
- vegetable oils (olive oil, sunflower oil and corn oil)
WHAT ARE MUFA or PUFA?
MUFA is an unsaturated fat (like seen before) that has only one double binding. For this reason, it is called MUFA (mono-unsaturated-fat-acids) where “mono” means one!
PUFA is an unsaturated fat that has two or more double bindings. In fact, it contains the name POLY which means “more, multiple” (poly-unsaturated-fat-acids).
(BONUS): FAMOUS PUFAs are OMEGA-3 and OMEGA-6
They are called this way because starting from the end, the Omega-3 has its first double-bonds starting from the 3rd carbon atom.
While the Omega-6 starts it´s double-bonds from the 6th carbon atom.
WHY ARE DOUBLE-BONDS IMPORTANT?
They bring huge advantages by allowing the molecule to be flexible and fight anti-radicals “they help the molecule bend”. But they come at the cost of making the molecule be more unstable.
WHAT ABOUT TRANS FATS? WHY ARE THEY BAD FOR YOU?
The fats above have all a configuration called “cis”. The trans fats have a different type of bonding that looks something like this.
This type of fat is bad for you because the enzymes in the human body don´t recognize this type of configuration and they have a difficult time trying to digest them.
Now whenever you read articles about fats, you know the difference between the fats like: saturated, unsaturated (MUFA, PUFA) and the specific ones called Omega 3 or Omega 6.