Unsaturated Fats: Are they good for your health?

Posted by Barsha Dey

avocado is rich in unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are one of the most important classes of fat in your diet. They not only are used by our body to generate energy but are also instrumental in protecting us from cardiovascular diseases. Read on to know more about unsaturated fats and make better health choices for you and your family!

There are two types of dietary fats – saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Rather than eliminating fats from our foods, we should emphasize having a diet that provides us with a balanced intake of these fats. A fat that contains more unsaturated fatty acid chains (unsaturated fat) is liquid at room temperature and one that does not (saturated fat) is solid at room temperature.

What Are Unsaturated Fatty Acids?

Unsaturated fatty acids are the most “healthy” type of dietary fat. Unsaturated fatty acids comprise hydrogen and carbon atoms with at least one (or more) double bonds within the carbon atoms of the fatty acid chains.

A fatty acid chain is monounsaturated if it contains one double bond and polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond. Another type of unsaturated fatty acid called trans unsaturated fats have a negative impact on our health and is commonly found in many fried foods and snacks.

To read more about trans fats, click here!

What Are The Benefits Of Unsaturated Fats?

Unsaturated fatty acids provide fewer calories and less energy compared to saturated fats. Replacing saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fatty acids in your diet helps lower total cholesterol in the blood.

Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do not appear to raise LDL (low – density lipoproteins) or “bad” cholesterol as saturated and trans fats do but increases HDL (high – density lipoproteins) or “good “cholesterol.

LDL is a class of complex proteins that helps transfer fats around the body.  Excess LDL can attach to arterial walls and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. HDL, on the other hand, removes excess LDL from the body and transports it to the liver where our body removes it after breaking it down. Thus, HDL cholesterol protects your body from chronic diseases and may lower your risk of heart disease.

Omega-9 fatty acids and omega-7 fatty acids are the two main types of monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fat is of two types omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids as our body cannot produce them on their own and should present in our diets. Essential fatty acids have a significant role in protecting our heart!

Read more about monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats here!

How Can You Include Unsaturated Fats In Your Diet?

Unsaturated fatty acids are abundant in many plant-based foods and fatty fishes. Examples of polyunsaturated fat foods include vegetable oils such as flaxseed, chia, corn, soybean, sunflower, sesame and cottonseed oil. A variety of nuts and seeds are also sources of polyunsaturated fat. Examples include almonds, walnuts, and flax seeds. Fishes such as cod, herring, trout, tuna and salmon are also a good source of different unsaturated fats.

Nuts are a good source of different unsaturated fats.
Nuts are a good source of different unsaturated fats.

You can find monounsaturated fats in avocados, olive oil, canola oil, mustard oil, vanaspati, including many nuts like walnut, almond, apricot and seeds. Many of these foods are also rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

How Much Unsaturated Fats Should You Consume?

The key to eating fat, even unsaturated fats foods is to consume it in moderation because eating too much will lead to unhealthy weight gain.

The National Institute of Nutrition recommends a diet that includes 20 to 30 % of total calories from fat. The majority of those calories should come from unsaturated fats. Thus, if you consume 2000 calories daily, aim for 40 to 62 grams of unsaturated fat per day. Your fat requirements may vary based on different health factors and activity levels.

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