Saturated vs Polyunsaturated Fats
Fats sometimes get a bad reputation! With all of these ‘fat-free’ or ‘low-fat’ labels, we can easily get confused and overwhelmed with what information we should follow or listen to.
Firstly, we should realize that not all fats are equal. By learning which fats are beneficial to your health and which are harmful, you can then make proper decisions around which foods to include or exclude in your diet.
Before we begin to explore which fats to prioritize, let’s break down the different types of fats out there.
There are three main types of dietary fats:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
There are short chain, medium chain and long chain fatty acids, and furthermore, some are cis fats and some are trans fats.
This article is going to speak more about saturated and polyunsaturated fats, the difference between them, what foods contain which, and what you should prioritize.
Saturated fats are held together by single bonds, making them stable and strong. They will not go rancid or break down when exposed to heat or oxygen like polyunsaturated fats will. Because of this, these are great fats to cook with. These fats are essential in the body, since they make up 60% of our brain and 50% of our cell membranes. Saturated fats help boost your metabolism, are resilient to oxidation, help regulate blood sugar, contain fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), help to protect your heart, and detox your liver, kidneys and pancreas.
Coconut oil consists of medium chain triglycerides, which do not need to be digested by bile salts like all other fats. These triglycerides will move right from your intestines to your liver and can be metabolized for energy. Furthermore, coconut oil is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. I recommend using organic expeller-pressed coconut oil. Aim for 1 tsp to 2 tbsp a day. Start slow and work your way up!
Grass-fed butter contains both short and medium chain triglycerides. Butter contains the short chain fatty acid butyric acid as well as fat-soluble vitamins and minerals like copper, selenium, zinc, manganese and chromium. I would recommend purchasing any organic grass-fed butter.
Polyunsaturated fats contain many double bonds and therefore are unstable and very susceptible to oxidative stress. Over time, oxidative stress will create a cascade of events in the body from inflammation to accelerated aging, hormonal imbalances, immune disorders and cancers. Moreover, polyunsaturated fats affect our body’s ability to digest protein, produce thyroid hormones and can also affect the health of our cells.
Processed vegetable oils (canola oil, cottonseed oil, margarine, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, flaxseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil).
Nuts and seeds (sunflower, chia, pumpkin, flax, sesame, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, peanuts).
Fish and fish oils (salmon, anchovies, fish oil)
Other (crackers, chips, cookies, popcorn, frozen dinners, soups, alternative dairy products, protein bars, salad dressings, packaged foods)
We want to consume more coconut oil and grass-fed butter versus processed vegetable oils or nuts and seeds. We won’t be able to avoid polyunsaturated fats entirely, but the key takeaway is to reduce how much we are consuming.
Foods like egg yolks, grass-fed beef, and wild-caught seafood will contain healthy saturated fats in addition to many essential vitamins and minerals.