What are Polyunsaturated Fats?


Polyunsaturated Fat Sources in Salmon and Olive Oil

Although it sounds like a word someone created for Scrabble, polyunsaturated is a legitimate adjective used to describe an organic compound, especially a fat or oil molecule. Most dietary discussions of fats focus on the so-called "bad fats". But, how much do you really know about "good fats" like monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat? If you're like most people, not that much. And, much of what you do know may or may not be true. Yet, good fats provide the balance your body needs to maintain health and wellness, so your menu plan should include foods that contain healthy fats.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds because they are saturated with hydrogen between carbon molecules. Although your body naturally produces LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff), consuming saturated can raise your blood cholesterol even more. Most of the saturated fats you eat come from animal products and you should limit consumption to less than 7% of your total daily calories.

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are fats in which one or more double bonds exist in the fatty acid chain. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated (one bond) and polyunsaturated (more than one bond). Popular foods that contain unsaturated fats include avocado, walnuts and vegetable oils such as canola or olive oils. For healthy eating, consume about 25% to 35% of your total daily calories as unsaturated* fats from foods like fish, nuts and vegetable oils.

*NOTE: Trans fat is an unsaturated fat that is a by-product of hydrogenation of healthy vegetable oils. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health indicates trans fats are harmful to your health even in small amounts.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Polyunsaturated fats are what the name implies. They are fats that possess two or more carbon-carbon double bonds. Polyunsaturated fat is found in some fish, nuts, seeds, algae, leafy greens and krill. Cooking oils that contain polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature. Consuming polyunsaturated fats can help lower bad cholesterol and are a good source of essential fats such as Omega-3 and Omega-6.

Meat products contain both saturated and unsaturated fats. For good health, the American Heart Association recommends that the majority of fats you eat should primarily come from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated sources. To learn more about eating healthy and losing weight, contact the Metabolic Research Center. Our weight loss approach offers real choices for the real you.

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