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What Are Saturated Fatty Acids?

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If you don't know anything about fatty acids, it's important to educate yourself, at the very least, against the dangers of saturated fatty acids (and the benefits of other types of fatty acids). There are basically four major types of fats that are consumed. These are: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans fatty acids.

What Are Saturated Fatty Acids?

Saturated fatty acids are fats that contain no double bonds between the carbon atoms, so it is saturated with hydrogen. This is the technical terminology. The important thing to remember is that saturated fatty acids are fats that cannot break down in the body and therefore, collect in places in the body and get stored. As saturated fatty acid collects within the body, it wreaks havoc and causes detrimental health issues.

Some examples of saturated fatty acids are: lauric, myristic, palmitic and stearic acids. These saturated fatty acids can be found in certain food choices that should be limited or avoided altogether.

Where Are Saturated Fatty Acids Found?

Your body already contains saturated fatty acids and essentially does not need any more from outside sources. However, unless you make a dramatic change in your diet to eliminate all saturated fats, they are hard to avoid. A dramatic change in diet is not a necessity when you are aware of your eating habits and pay attention to the ingredients of what you are eating. The key is to limit your overall intake of saturated fatty acids and opt for the healthy types of fats instead.

Some foods that you can work to avoid are:

  • whole milk
  • fatty meats
  • cocoa butter
  • palm and coconut oils
  • cream
  • butter
  • ice cream made with whole milk
  • certain cheeses

What Happens When You Consume Too Many Saturated Fatty Acids?

Eating too many foods that are high in saturated fats can cause high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, stroke and other detrimental health problems. If you become concerned about the fats you have stored in your body and want to have yourself checked for health problems, you can request a lipid test from your doctor.

A lipid test will measure the triglycerides and cholesterol levels in your blood. This will give you and your doctor a good indication of the good and bad cholesterol levels present. If your LDL cholesterol levels are high, there are ways to lower them.

How to Avoid Saturated Fatty Acids

In addition to keeping your saturated fat intake to below 7% of your daily caloric allowance, you can eat more foods with a 'good' fat content. Some examples are:

  • boost your daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • stick to low fat dairy products
  • consume lean meat products
  • eat fish a few times per week
  • ingest whole grains
  • use oils like canola instead of tropical oils

There are other ways to lower the bad cholesterol in your blood as well. Exercise regularly, and walk at a fast pace at least three times per week. You can also take a fish oil supplement to increase the essential fatty acids and raise the HDL levels, or good cholesterol, in your body.

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