Fats are nutrient. It is essential to the normal function of the body and we couldn’t live without it. Fat not only gives us energy, it also allows other nutrients to do their work.

Fats consisting of a wide variety of compounds are usually soluble in organic solvents and insoluble in water

In this article, we will describe the various forms of fat that are good and bad and in which foods they can be found.

What are fats?

Fats are called a range of different terms:

  • Oils – any fat that exists in liquid form at room temperature. Oils are also any substances that do not mix with water and have a greasy feel.
  • Animal fats – butter, lard, cream, fat in (and on) meats.
  • Vegetable fats – olive oil, peanut oil, flax seed oil, corn oil, for instance.
  • Fats or fatty acids – this refers to all types of fat. However, fats are commonly referred to as those that are solid at room temperature.
  • Lipids – all types of fats, regardless of whether they are liquid or solid.

Lipids are an integral part of both human and animal’s diet.

Types

There are several different types of fats and we’ll take a look at these below:

Saturated fat:

Saturated fats, also known as solid fat, are stable at room temperature. This is completely saturated meaning that each molecule of fat is covered in hydrogen atoms. If a person eats too much for a long time, saturated fats increase the risk to health.

A high intake of saturated fats will gradually raise the level of cholesterol, raising the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Where is saturated fat found?

Mammals, meat products, the skin of poultry , dairy products and a wide variety of packaged foods including cookies, biscuits, baked goods and chips, coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter can be contained at high saturated fat levels.

A balanced diet contains less than 10% of its saturated fat calories. However, research indicates that saturated fat consumption is rarely recommended as this worsens the health of refined carbohydrates or sugar.

Nuts, banana, beans and vegetables are examples of nutritious replacing food.

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats, which include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are liquid at room temperature. They are mostly derived from plant oils and are classed as “good” fats.

Monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fat molecules are not saturated with hydrogen atoms – each fat molecule has only the space for one hydrogen atom.

Monounsaturated fats may lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein – bad) cholesterol, and keep HDL (high-density lipoprotein – good) cholesterol at higher levels. But, unless saturated fat intake is reduced, cholesterol levels may remain unchanged.

Many health professionals, however, say that these fats might still reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease. For instance, the Mediterranean diet, a well-researched and chronic disease-risk lowering diet, is full of monounsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats

There are a variety of spaces in polyunsaturated fats around each polyunsaturated fat molecule – not hydrogen atoms. polyun-saturated fats, particularly fish, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, are good for our health.

Omega-3 fatty acids protect the blood from heart disease by reducing blood cholesterol and inflammation. Omega-3 polyinsaturated acids, health professionals note, can also lead to reducing the effects of people suffering from arthritis, joint disorders in general and other skin diseases.

Where are polyunsaturated fats found?

Polyunsaturated fats are found in oily fish including sardines.

Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, trout, salmon, and herring), safflower, grapeseed, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oil. Nuts, seeds, and pastured eggs can also contain omega-3 fatty acids.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are made in synthesis, they don’t occur naturally. In an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils, trans fats are developed to make them more stable. It is sometimes referred to as partly hydrogenated oils.

Trans fats are not necessary for human life and are certainly not beneficial for good health. The use of trans fats raises the amount of LDL cholesterol and decreases HDL cholesterol; this, in effect, increases the risk of coronary heart disease development and the stroke by around 3 times more than other fats.

Trans fats have become popular because food companies find them easy to use and cheap to produce. They also last a long time and can give food a nice taste. As trans fats can be used many times in commercial fryers, they are commonly used in fast food outlets and restaurants. Several cities and states, including New York City, Philadelphia, and California, have banned or are in the process of banning trans fats.

Where are trans fats commonly found?

Fried foods, such as French fries, doughnuts, pies, pastries, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, stick margarines, shortenings, packaged foods, fast foods, and many other baked foods.

French fries (and other fried foods) are common sources of trans fats.

If the nutritional labeling includes partially hydrogenated oils, it means that food has trans fats.

The American Heart Association says that consumption of trans fats should not exceed 5-6 percent of total calorie intake, though any amount, even if small, increases risk.

The take home message is that not all fats are equal. Staying informed and reading the labels can help individuals make good dietary choices, and replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats and fibrous plants.