1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Unsaturated Versus Saturated Fat

Knowing the Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats


Updated May 15, 2014

Saturated fat, unsaturated fat, trans fat -- no matter which type of fat it was, you were probably told to stay away from anything that had fat in it if you wanted to lower your cholesterol. What you may not know, however, is that not all fats are bad for you if you are following a cholesterol-lowering diet. While you do need a little bit of fat in your diet, you should make sure that these foods contain the fats that are healthy for your heart. Knowing the difference between “good” fats and “bad” fats can help keep your cholesterol levels within normal range and prevent heart disease.

Good Fats Versus Bad Fats

There is more than one type of fat found in your favorite foods. If you have checked on the back of the box at the food label, you may have seen the words “saturated fat,” “polyunsaturated fat,” or “trans fat.” All of these fats take on a special meaning when it comes to your heart health. While some of these fats are heart friendly, other fats can sabotage your cholesterol -- and your heart health. Find out what these fats mean and what they can do to your cholesterol levels.

Different Types of Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats, otherwise known as the “good” fats, come in two major forms: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Both of these fats are found in a variety of healthy foods, including nuts, seeds, some vegetables, and oils. While polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats differ from each other structurally, both play an important role in lowering your cholesterol and keeping your heart healthy.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are sometimes known as your “bad” fats. While consuming a very small amount of saturated fat in your diet will not hurt, high amounts of this fat will not only increase your waistline but your cholesterol levels, too. Many types of foods contain saturated fat, including meats and junk foods, such as potato chips and cookies. Understanding how to lower the amount of saturated fat in your diet can help you to lower your cholesterol and improve your heart health.

Watching Your Trans Fat Intake

Trans fats are a dangerous type of fat. Man-made, these fats were designed to increase the shelf life of packaged foods and are often used to add texture. Unfortunately, these fats have a tendency to not only raise your cholesterol levels but deposit on inflamed arteries, leading to the development of atherosclerosis. Checking your food labels for trans fats is extremely important, especially since trans fats are usually present in many of our ready-to-eat foods, such as chips, cakes, and cookies.

Eating Low Fat In Your Every Day Life

In the beginning, watching your fat intake can be a bit of a daunting task. The good news is that it does get easier once you know which fats to stay away from -- as well as which ones to avoid. Understanding the role that fats play in your heart health is extremely important. There are many foods in your supermarket that may appear to be healthy but, in reality, are filled with high amounts of trans and saturated fat. Therefore, it is very important to read your food labels to ensure that the food you are consuming is heart-healthy and low in "bad" fats. Here are some helpful tips to keep you on the right track:
Related Video
Low Fat Black Bean Soup

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.