Fats supply the body with energy and are needed to digest, absorb, and transport the fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E, and K and phytochemicals (like carotenoids and lycopenes). Fats play many other important roles in our body, including protecting vital organs and maintaining body heat. Fats are found in a variety of foods such as meat, fish, cream, butter, oils, and nuts. Fat molecules are made up of fatty acids, and there are four main types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans-fatty acids.
Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs)
SFAs are classified as saturated because they have no double bonds in their chemical structure, meaning they are saturated with hydrogen. Saturated fats are often solid at room temperature. These fats have been shown to increase harmful LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MFAs)
MFAs have one double bond in their chemical structure, which is why they are called ‘mono’ unsaturated. MFAs are often soft or liquid at room temperature and may help to decrease harmful LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)
PUFAs have more than one double bond hence the ‘poly’ in the name. PUFAs are also soft or liquid at room temperature and have been shown to have many health benefits such as reducing LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, as well as lowering the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids are two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids that have received a lot of attention. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA and EPA, are associated with numerous health benefits.
Trans Fatty Acids
Trans-fatty acids are formed when unsaturated fatty acids are hydrogenated, chemically altered to add more hydrogen and make a normally liquid fat into a solid fat. Trans-fatty acids are harmful to health, as they increase LDL, increase total cholesterol and increase risk for coronary heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
What is the Recommended Daily Fat Intake?
- Adults age 19 and older should limit their daily total fat intake to 25-30% of their total daily calorie intake.
- Avoid or keep trans-fat intake as low as possible.
- Saturated fat intake should be limited to 10% or less of total daily calorie intake.
- Choose mono- and polyunsaturated fats more often than saturated fats.
Common Food Sources of Fats:
|Saturated Fatty Acids|
|Whole Milk||Palm Oil|
|Monounsaturated Fatty Acids|
|Olive Oil||Canola Oil|
|Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids|
|Sesame Seeds||Flax Seeds|
|Soybean Oils||Canola Oil|
|DHA and EPA|
|Trans Fatty Acids|
|Stick margarine||Food made with hydrogenated fats|
|Commercially fried food||Shortening|
Did You Know?
Fats can help make food taste and smell good! The smooth creamy feeling in your mouth when you eat ice cream is due to the fat content from the cream. All foods can be enjoyed, but foods high in saturated fat should be eaten in moderation.