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    What is saturated fat and unsaturated fat? The ultimate guide to different types of fat

    It’s common to hear people talking about different types of fat as good fat versus bad fat. It’s unsurprising then that you, along with many others, might think this means there’s one type of fat you should eat and one type you should avoid altogether. But is this actually true? And what are these claims all about?

    We’ve created a simple guide to explain the difference between saturated fat and unsaturated fat and show you examples of saturated fat and unsaturated fat to present you with a few foods for each type. Read on to discover how to make sure that your diet contains the right balance of different types of fat.

    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.

    What is the difference between saturated and unsaturated fat?

    Saturated fat and unsaturated fat: Which foods contains them?


    If you’re looking for examples of unsaturated fat and saturated fat containing foods, you’ve come to the right place

    Saturated fatty acids

    These mainly occur in foods of animal origin, for example:


    • Meat
    • Cold meats
    • Butter
    • Cheese
    • Dairy products

    Fun fact: Fast food and ready meals are high in saturated fat, as are cakes, crisps, and other similar snacks.

    What you need

    Unsaturated fatty acids


    These can be either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats can be found in:


    • Some nuts, such as almond and peanuts.
    • Olive oil and rapeseed oils
    • Avocado

    Meanwhile, polyunsaturated fats – omega-3 and omega-6 – can be found in:


    • Vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, and sunflower.
    • Corn
    • Mackerel
    • Salmon
    • Herring

    Top tips to include different types of fat in your diet in the right amount

    To make sure that you reach your daily recommended fat intake – consisting mainly of unsaturated fats – you should bear these tips in mind:


    • Aim to eat less fatty meat products such as pork bacon in favour of lean meats such as turkey.
    • Increase your intake of plant-based foods such as nuts, seed and vegetable and plant oils.  
    • Ensure you eat lots of vegetables, fruit, and whole grain products.  
    • Foods that are rich in trans-fat, such as deep-fried products such as fried chicken and chips, ready meals and baked goods made with puff pastry should be avoided.*

    Not all chips are unhealthy and full of fat, however. Have you ever heard of a hot air fryer? With a modern appliance, such as the Philips Viva Collection Airfryer, you can prepare delicious chips, snacks, and other dishes the healthy way. This way you can reduce unhealthy fat, but without having to compromise on taste.


    Heart UK
    * BHF

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