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The Difference between Polyunsaturated Fat and Monounsaturated Fat


Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight or lower their cholesterol count has faced the task of trying to figure out the differences between polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat and just plain fat from each other. You must also figure out how to distinguish good fat from bad fat. So how do you do that?

Good Fat

Yes. Both polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are considered good fats because they help lower your cholesterol levels. Maintaining a lower cholesterol level helps to decrease your risk for heart disease. In fact, too little of the good fats can result in chronic fatigue, obesity and even heart problems.

Unsaturated fats are considered healthy or good for you because they contain at least one double bond in the fatty acid chain. Double bonds are a good thing because they help eliminate hydrogen atoms. This means that unsaturated or good fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats have fewer calories than saturated fats. Both types of unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) remain liquid at even low temperatures. Saturated fats, such as butter and lard, can remain mostly solid even at room temperature. Imagining lumps of lard in your body may make it easier to focus on consuming the healthier good fats.

Sources of Polyunsaturated Fat

Fats that contain more than one double bond are considered polyunsaturated. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that your diet include up to 10 percent polyunsaturated fats. These can come from the following sources:

  • Fish such as salmon, albecore tuna and sardines
  • Walnuts
  • Flax seed oil
  • Fish oil supplements

Although polyunsaturated fats are good for you there is evidence that too much polyunsaturated fat can lower your HDL or good cholesterol. levels As usual, even with good things (sometimes especially with good things) moderation is the key to success.

Sources of Monounsaturated Fat

Fats that contain at least one double bond are classified as monounsaturated. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends your daily diet contain up to 20 percent monounsaturated fats. These can come from the following sources:

  • Canola oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Seeds such as safflower, sunflower and pumpkin
  • Most nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts
  • Almond butter, peanut butter and cashew butter

How Much Fat?

Currently food labels do not have to distinguish between saturated an unsaturated fats. The manufacturers can list the amount of good fats in their foods but they are not required to do so. Logic tells us that manufacturers of foods that are high in bad fats (such as chips and candy) are not going to list their ratio of good to bad fats. To figure out how much polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat you are eating you have to do some math. Adding the amount of saturated and trans fats together and then subtracting that amount from the total fat amount will give you your answer.

For good health you should eat some fats from both the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated foods listed. Pick your favorites from the above lists, but keep in mind that even "good" fat should be limited to no more than 30 percent of the total calories you eat.


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