What is the difference between saturated, unsaturated and trans fat?

The difference between the types of fat is directly linked to its origin, its molecular structure and the way of action in the human body.

Saturated fat is, in general, of animal origin and its consumption should be limited to small amounts, its excess can cause an increase in cholesterol and diseases.

Unsaturated fat, in general, is of vegetable origin, but can also be found in fish. Since consumed in a controlled manner, avoiding overeating, it benefits the body.

In turn, trans fat is produced synthetically from hydrogenation. It is very present in processed foods and its consumption should be avoided. The consumption of trans fats can bring health risks.

Saturated fat Unsaturated fats Trans fats
What is? ·         Animal fat (with some exceptions).

·         Solid

·         Simple carbon bonds.

·         Vegetable fats (with some exceptions)

·         Net

·         double bonds between one (monounsaturated) or more (polyunsaturated) carbon pairs.

·         Artificially produced fats through hydrogenation

·         Solid

·         Double bond between carbons (trans model)

Foods ·         Red meat

·         Milk and dairy products

·         Coconuts

·         Cocoa

·         Palm oil

·         Olive oil

·         Oilseeds (chestnuts, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, etc.)

·         Avocado

·         Fish (omega-3 and omega-6)

·         Industrialized products in general.

·         Chips

·         Stuffed cookies

·         Ice creams

·         Nuggets

·         Margarine

Benefits ·         Production of energy for the body.

·         Storage of vitamins A, D, E and K.

·         Raises the level of HDL (good cholesterol).

·         It decreases the level of HDL (bad cholesterol).

·         Helps in the production of hormones.

·         . It improves the consistency and flavor of food, but there are no benefits for the body .
Harm ·         Increased index of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood.

·         Obstruction of vessels, veins and arteries.

·         Risk of overweight and obesity.

·         In large quantities, it oxidizes and releases toxins.

·         Increases bad cholesterol (LDL).

·         Removes good cholesterol (HDL).

Nutritionists recommend a moderate consumption, never exceeding the limit of 30% of the total calories ingested or 20 grams daily.

Saturated fat

Saturated fats are found mainly in foods of animal origin such as:

  • meat;
  • milks and their derivatives (butter, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc.);

Some products of plant origin:

  • coconut;
  • heart of palm;
  • palm oil, etc.

Some foods high in saturated fats

They are called saturated fats because they have simple carbon bonds and a number of complete (saturated) bonds with hydrogen molecules.

In general, they present a certain degree of health risk as they are easily absorbed by the body. In this way, they bring a considerable increase in the levels of low density lipoproteins ( low density lipoprotein – LDL, the “bad cholesterol”).

Often, these fats are deposited obstructing vessels, veins, arteries, bringing risks of cardiovascular diseases.

However, its balanced consumption favors the functioning of the body through the storage of vitamins (A, D, E and K) and its importance for the development of cell walls.

Doctors and nutritionists generally recommend a consumption of up to 10% of the total calories of this type of fat.

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are found mainly in products of plant origin:

  • olive oil;
  • oil fruits (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, walnuts, etc.);
  • avocado;
  • seeds like sunflower and flaxseed.

This type of fat is also found in some animal foods such as eggs and “fatty fish” (salmon, tuna and trout).

Foods high in unsaturated fats

Unlike saturated fats, unsaturated fats do not have all possible bonds with hydrogen. As a result, they may contain one (monounsaturated) or more (polyunsaturated) carbon double bonds.

The moderate consumption of unsaturated fats provides an increase in high density lipoproteins ( high density lipoprotein – HDL, “good cholesterol”).

This type of cholesterol helps to remove other fat particles and has an antioxidant action in the blood.

Unsaturated fats from the omega-3 and omega-6 family play an important role in nutrition as they are not produced by the body and must be ingested from food.

However, the consumption of unsaturated fat above 25% of the total energy can be harmful, facilitating weight gain.

Trans fats

Trans fats are one of the great villains of healthy eating. They are found in several industrialized foods. They make food tastier and more enjoyable.

Some foods high in trans fats:

  • Chips
  • Stuffed cookies
  • Ice creams
  • Nuggets
  • Margarine

Processed foods are high in trans fats

In general, this type of fat is produced through an industrial hydrogenation process. In this process, the unsaturated chains (double carbon bond) start to bond with hydrogen molecules, become saturated.

Unlike natural saturated fats, this type of fatty acid has a more linear bond (trans molecules).

This type of fat has no benefits for the body. On the contrary, trans fats are very easily lodged in vessels, veins and arteries, causing a series of problems for the cardiovascular system. In addition, they are responsible for removing HDL from the blood.

There is no safe limit for the consumption of this type of fat. In some countries, such as Denmark and Switzerland, trans fat is banned in the manufacture of food.

In Brazil, since 2008, Anvisa regulates the levels of trans fat in foods and forces manufacturers to declare their quantity on the product label.


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