Fatty acids are divided into saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Fats and oils consist of a combination of fatty acids of all three categories, although it is often believed that one or the other oil or fat is a manifestation of only one of them. For example, corn oil, which contains about 62% polyunsaturated acids, 25% monounsaturated, and 13% saturated, is considered a polyunsaturated oil.
Fatty acid molecules consist of a chain of carbon atoms with hydrogen and oxygen atoms attached to them. When a fatty acid molecule is completely covered (“saturated”) by hydrogen atoms along the entire carbon chain, it is called saturated fat. Foods rich in saturated fats usually remain solid at room temperature. Here are the main sources of saturated fat:
• Animal fat (beef, pork, lamb, other types of meat and poultry);
• Milk fat (milk, butter, cheese, cream and other dairy products);
• Tropical “oils” (solid oils such as coconut and palm);
• Hydrogenated fats (such as margarine).
These foods rich in saturated fats also contain some monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Saturated fats are generally considered “bad” because they are the main cause of high blood cholesterol. The effect of saturated fats on health, in some way, depends on the length of their carbon chain; some of them increase cholesterol significantly more than others.
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