What is the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat?
To understand the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat, we have to go right down to a chemical level.
- Saturated fatty acids don’t have double bonds between the carbon atoms.
- Unsaturated fatty acids contain at least one (monounsaturated) or several (polyunsaturated) double bonds in the fatty acid chain.
What is saturated fat? Definition and function
Your body needs healthy fats for energy and to function well. As you now know, saturated fats predominately have single bonds, and are mostly considered to be the unhealthier form of fat. So, is saturated fat bad? In high quantities, yes. But that’s not to say you can’t treat yourself to a fry-up or delicious dessert every now and again. It’s all about balance.
When it comes to saturated fats, the daily recommended intake should amount to around 30g for men, 20g for women and less for children, according to the NHS.† Ultimately, however, it's best to aim to reduce your overall fat intake and swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats. Where possible, saturated fatty acids should be replaced with polyunsaturated fatty acids as this will help decrease your risk for certain diseases, as well as help to prevent a build-up bad cholesterol.
What is unsaturated fat? Definition and function
Unsaturated fatty acids are made up of double bonds and can have a healthy impact on the condition of the heart. Fat is an important part of a balanced, healthy diet as your body uses it as an energy source. Plus, it helps your body absorb fat soluble vitamins. So, is unsaturated fat bad? In general, no! For example:
- Polyunsaturated fats – such as omega 3 – improve blood flow and prevent vascular deposits and inflammation.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids keep arteries elastic and HDL cholesterol at constant levels plus improve and stabilise blood lipid levels.