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The Difference between Fat and Polyunsaturated Fat

Not all fats are the same; polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat and trans fat all impact the body differently. Some are beneficial and essential for your body to function, while others can clog your arteries and cause a host of health problems. Read below to learn a few facts about fats and learn which foods are healthier options.

What Are Fats?

There are several different types of fats, including monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega-3 fatty acids, saturated and trans fats. Each one has a different chemical composition.

Healthy fats, including polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids can decrease your risk of heart disease, reduce your total cholesterol and lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Omega-3s, which are a type of polyunsaturated fat have been shown to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease and lower blood pressure levels.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are an unsaturated fat that contains a tranisomer fatty acid. Trans fats can be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but they are never saturated fats.  According to the National Academy of Science, trans fats are not essential to the human body and provide no health benefit to the body.

Trans fats, along with saturated fats, are considered less healthy forms of fats. This is because these fats increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol and overall cholesterol levels. In addition to increasing bad cholesterol, trans fats have shown to reduce your HDL or good cholesterol.

The National Academy of Science states that there is no safe level of trans fat consumption; therefore these foods should be eliminated from your diet.

Foods that contain trans fat should be avoided or eaten in moderation. Types of these foods include partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, many commercially baked goods, fried foods, shortening and margarine. Trans fats are found in crackers, cakes, cookies and doughnuts.

 Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are simple fats that have more than one double-bonded carbon. This double bond is what makes the fat unsaturated.  Most polyunsaturated fats are found in plant sources. They are usually liquid when chilled and at room temperature.

 It is recommended that you should eat no more than 25 to 35 grams of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats per day.

Foods that naturally contain polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils, such as safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil, soybeans, raw nuts and raw seeds, specifically sunflower seeds, hazelnuts and walnuts. Another natural source of polyunsaturated fats is fatty fish. Good sources include mackerel, trout, salmon and herring.

Food Labels

As of 2006, food companies were required to list how many trans fats are in the product. Since this date, many manufacturers have focused on eliminating trans fat from certain foods. Furthermore, some cities have banned the use of trans fat by restaurants. All of these changes are beneficial to your health. To make sure that you are avoiding trans fats, check the back label and make sure that it does not have any trans fats.


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