Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, what they are and how to navigate

Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, what they are and how to navigate

On websites and on TV you have certainly read or heard about saturated and unsaturated fats, with the warning to prefer the latter, because they are healthier.

Let’s try to clarify once and for all, trying to understand how useful this distinction is, which foods to prefer and what consequences the abuse of saturated fats has.

Fatty acids have been studied for a long time. The first researches carried out as early as 1950 showed that saturated fats would do badly, among which:

  • The fat present in meats, especially in red meats such as beef. Also present in pork, turkey and chicken.
  • The fats of the processed meats that is the cured meats such as sausages, wurstel, bresaola, salami. And again coppa, cotechino, culatello, bacon, lard and loin, mortadella, soppressata, pancetta, porchetta and ham.
  • Vegetable oils such as palm and coconut oil.
  • Dairy products like cheeses, butter, ice cream and milk (which also has unsaturated fats).
  • Most industrial snacks like crackers, packaged bread, cookies, pastries, chips. Margarine, which has practically disappeared from our table.

In the summary list, as you can see, there are foods that are certainly part of your diet . Studies over the decades have undergone reviews and revisions.

unsaturated fatty acids are usually liquid, but are also found in solid foods. They should be part of proper nutrition.

  • Avocado and the oil extracted from it contain monounsaturated fatty acids
  • Olives and olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil
  • Rapeseed oil and other vegetable oil
  • Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, tuna
  • Seeds and nuts (dried fruit), almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, peanuts
  • Peanut butter and peanut oil

Why saturated fatty acids are bad

Too many saturated fats in the diet are responsible, according to studies that have been going on for decades, for the increase in bad LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Consequently, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases, one of the leading causes of death. More recent studies question this assumption by suggesting that, for example, the consumption of dairy products protects the heart.

But there are fairly consistent studies that, for example, reiterate that the excess of industrially processed meats, especially cured meats, have negative effects on heart health.

Reason why a moderate consumption is recommended, not exceeding 100 grams per week. If less is even better, since they are meats that in addition to containing saturated fat, contain a disproportionate dose of salt.

Industrial foods, such as snacks, snacks, chips and fried foods in general contain TRANS fats with a high boiling point, which the WHO would like to eliminate entirely. These are definitely the ones you should avoid and which, as far as I’m concerned, are enough to categorize a food as junk food.

If you want to make a ranking from the worst to the best of fats (a macronutrient that should never be missing in your diet, despite the dietary trends that would like to convince you otherwise) I would say: trans fats, saturated fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids (mono and poly).

A study has shown that replacing saturated fatty acids with unsaturated ones is good for you, but the same cannot be said of switching saturated fat / highly processed carbohydrates.

Why prefer unsaturated fatty acids

The king of good fats falls into the category of monounsaturated fatty acids: extra virgin olive oil widely used in the Mediterranean diet, whose fame is probably due to the use of EVO oil.

Among the polyunsaturated fats that stimulate the production of good cholesterol , while lowering triglycerides, there are omega-3 and omega-6 that should be consumed while maintaining an optimal ratio to avoid the onset of inflammatory processes and instead enjoy the benefits.

The benefits do not extend only to cholesterol since, in cascade, the incidence of contracting cardiovascular diseases and stroke and in general those pathologies related to a high blood pressure . There are studies that show cognitive benefits in the intake of omega-3s but they are not conclusive.

Ultimately, in your meal plan you must prioritize unsaturated fats and absolutely avoid trans fats , moderating the consumption of saturated fatty acids.

By balancing meat, fish and vegetables, cereals, eggs, fruit and legumes, you will find the right balance between macronutrients, so that nutrition becomes a weapon at your disposal to improve your health and allow you to make the leap quality you are looking for.

To get started you can watch my free video lesson dedicated to ” timing of nutrition “. How, what and when to eat to reap the maximum benefits and not have bad consequences. You’ll see you’ll like it.

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