What is the difference between “healthy” and “unhealthy” fats?
As promised, here is the master clarification between healthy and unhealthy fats.
By healthy, I mean polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Don’t be frightened by the sounds of these chemical structures. It’s merely describing the types of bonds between carbon molecules due to how many hydrogens are attached to them.
Okay, I guess that didn’t help much. Let’s try this again.
Unsaturated fats have bends in them so they don’t pack as tightly as saturated fats. Unsaturated fats are oily at room temperature (olive oil, fish oil, canola oil) while saturated fats are solid at room temperature (butter, lard, whipped cream). That is my favorite way to tell them apart.
Foods with unsaturated fats are more likely to contain polyunsaturated fats or monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats include hot topics such as Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s. I love name-dropping these celebrities whenever I get the chance.
Both omegas have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease through increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol and therefore moving clotting fats away, creating a traffic jam in the blood stream. (Flashback to last week, anyone?)
Omega-3’s especially cool because they play a big role in brain cell maintenance, and in pregnant woman, brain cell development. Omega-6’s have been said to have a role in anti-inflammatory and immune system function.
Monounsaturated fats aren’t quite so fancy. They primarily help with lowering cholesterol levels, or the fats created from eating saturated fats.
This is not to say that foods with unsaturated fats have ONLY unsaturated fats. There is a balanced ratio between unsaturated and saturated fats and finding the balance is key. Everything in moderation (even moderation).