Fat is essential in the diet because it is a significant source of energy and essential fatty acids. It builds nerve sheaths and cell membranes. It’s necessary for muscle movement, blood clotting and helps reduce inflammation. However, not all fats are equal. Some of them are regarded as ‘good’ fats and others as ‘bad’ fats. Eating the ‘bad’ fats may cause problems for your heart. Many studies have linked saturated fat to cholesterol levels. If you understand the difference between types of fat, it is easy to make some beneficial changes to your diet that can help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. A good rule to remember is that any food that comes from animals has cholesterol, for example, meat and cheese.
All fats consist of a chain of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. The length of the chain and number of hydrogen atoms defines the types of fat and whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Saturated fats do not have double bonds between the individual carbon atoms. The fat is ‘saturated’ with hydrogen molecules, and these fats are solid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats only have one carbon-to-carbon double bond. This means they have fewer hydrogen atoms than saturated fats, a structure that keeps them liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats have two or more double bonds between carbon atoms.
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