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Fat Saturation, Types of Fat & The Cholesterol Myth

The structure of fat and oil in general comprises of chains of carbon atoms. These carbon atoms are usually bonded with one or more pairs of hydrogen. If all the carbons in the fat have corresponding hydrogen pairs, then the fat is considered to be saturated.

While much cause for concern stemmed from animal fats for being saturated in hydrogen, unsaturated fats also contain hydrogen pairs and can be divided into two categories:

Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs) are missing one pair of hydrogen atoms and can be found in large quantities in olive oil, almond, pecan or hazelnut oils, sesame seed oil and canola. Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs) are missing more than one pair of hydrogen atoms. Flax seed oil, walnut oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and fish oil are all rich in PUFAs.

All cooking oils are usually a mixture of both saturated and unsaturated fats in varying proportions.

Vegetable oils tend to be high in polyunsaturated fats, while animal fat (including our own fat) consists of saturated and monounsaturated fats. For the same reason, saturated and monounsaturated fats are the easiest for our bodies to absorb and should be eaten in larger amounts than polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated fats are not bad for our health as was previously believed. However, eating too much saturated fat without the unsaturated fats to balance it out is. In the same way, cooking with too many unsaturated fats is also unhealthy and can lead to chronic inflammation.

Many saturated fats raise total cholesterol, which gave them bad health publicity in the past – and yet, not all cholesterol is bad for you!

In later years, it was shown that some saturated fats (like coconut oil) only raise the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, while in fact lowering ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and regulating fat production in the body.

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