Unsaturated Fat: What You Need To Know

Unsaturated fat at room temperature is in oil form as they have one or more double bonds or triple bonds in between molecules. It’s a type of dietary fat, which is one of three macronutrients.

Further, unsaturated fat can be broken down into two main categories, which we’ll be exploring further—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. 

Monounsaturated fats are great for energy and can help keep LDL cholesterol levels low. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, tend to be more inflammatory.

Let’s explore these both in more detail.

Monounsaturated Fat Vs. Polyunsaturated fat

Monounsaturated Fats

In the molecular structure of monounsaturated fat, there’s only a single double-bond.

This particular kind of unsaturated fat has been shown to help maintain the health of the cells in our bodies.

They’ve also been shown to help lower our bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, which can reduce heart disease risks and stroke. 

There are many different foods where you can find monounsaturated fats.

A few of them include:

  • Olive, sesame, and canola cooking oils
  • Nut butters like peanut butter and almond
  • All different kinds of nuts such as cashews, almonds, and peanuts
  • Different kinds of olives
  • Avocados
  • Seeds like sesame and pumpkin

Monounsaturated Fat Benefits

The health effects of monounsaturated fats have been studied for quite some time now.

They have been shown to do the following:

  • Lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. 
  • Help aid weight loss
  • Reduce risks associated with heart disease
  • Improve sensitivity to insulin (1)
  • Reduce risks of certain cancers (2)
  • They also help your body maintain and even develop healthy cells

Monounsaturated Fat Foods

Monounsaturated fat sources mainly come from foods that are plant-based which include, nuts, seeds, and oils used for cooking. 

They’ve also been shown to have a presence in some animal-based foods too. 

In no particular order, here are more foods shown to not only contain but have higher monounsaturated fat levels:

  • Olives and olive oil
  • Nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashews, and pistachios
  • Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Mean such as pork
  • Dairy products like eggs
  • Certain fruits like avocados

Polyunsaturated Fats

In the structure of polyunsaturated fats they have multiple double-bonds. 

Similar to monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats have also been shown to reduce bad cholesterol in patients. (3

The reason why polyunsaturated fats are so healthy for us is because they also contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These are necessary for healthy brain function and cellular growth. 

Since our bodies can only get essential fatty acids from food, it’s important to consume food that has Omega-3s and Omega-6’s.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for human health through many biological functions, including the synthesis of cell membranes, the formation of hormones, and the regulation of inflammation. 

Omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats found in plants, while Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats found mostly in fish and marine life.

Much like monounsaturated food, there’s overlap in foods higher in polyunsaturated fat levels.

These include:

  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Many cooking oils like corn, safflower, and soybean oil
  • Nuts such as pine and walnuts

Polyunsaturated Fat Benefits

The benefit of consuming polyunsaturated fat is to get Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids into our diet. 

Since these essential fatty acids cannot be produced by our bodies, we need to get them from the food sources we eat. 

Let’s take a look at their benefits:

Omega-3s are very good for heart health. They’ve been shown to:

  • Reduce triglyceride levels which is a type of fat in our blood
  • Reduce risks of arrhythmia, which is an irregular beating of the heart
  • Slow buildup that can clog our arteries
  • Lower levels of blood pressure

Omega-6s have been shown to:

  • Help get blood sugar under control
  • Reduce diabetes risks
  • Reduce blood pressure levels

Polyunsaturated Fat Foods

Foods high in fat will have a combination of unsaturated and saturated fats.

Some, of course, will have higher levels of saturated or unsaturated fat than others. 

A few foods you can find a higher amount of polyunsaturated fat include:

  • Oils like flax, soybean, corn, and safflower oil
  • Seeds like flax and sunflower
  • Nuts like walnuts
  • Fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout

Which fat is good? Saturated Or Unsaturated

The jury is still out, but many experts believe that saturated fat is not as healthy as unsaturated fat. 

The impact of both saturated and unsaturated fat needs more study, but if you’re going to be on a ketogenic or low-carb diet, then it’s inevitable you’ll consume higher than normal levels of saturated fat.

If you stick to the proper ketogenic guidelines and speak with your doctor to know if you have any health conditions, your goals surrounding weight loss will be positively impacted.

If your concerned about consuming higher levels of saturated fat, you can always increase foods higher in unsaturated fat until you get to a level you’re comfortable with.

We need dietary fat for our bodies to function properly. Fat helps absorb vitamins and minerals and has a major role in our overall health. 

A few benefits of incorporating a high-fat diet include:

  • Higher metabolism and energy levels
  • Regulation of body temperature
  • It helps insulate our organs

Unsaturated Fat Foods List

Following a ketogenic diet, you want to make sure you have a plethora of options to choose from that are high in unsaturated fat.

Here are a few options you can choose from:

Eggs

Eggs taste great and are a nice blend of saturated and unsaturated fat. Cook these in oil for added flavor and healthy fat!

Avocados

This fruit is a staple among keto dieters. Full of unsaturated fat, avocados can be added to pretty much anything, and they taste great.

Green Or Black Olives

Green and black olives are packed with flavor and have high amounts of monounsaturated fat. You can add these to salads or egg omelets in the mornings. 

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts are a great addition to the keto diet, and you can consume almost all of them. Just be careful of their carb content, as you should be tracking that very carefully.

However, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, and pecans are favorites for a reason and are packed with monounsaturated fats. 

Similar to nuts, seeds can also be a quick snack you can turn to that have higher fat content. High in fiber and unsaturated fat, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, and flax seeds are great choices to incorporate into any diet.

You can add these seeds to salads, yogurt, and more for additional healthy fat intake. As these tend to be higher in sodium content, they’re a great way to help you keep away symptoms of the keto flu.

Fish

Fatty fish are great food high in unsaturated fat. They can be cooked in many different ways and taste great with their high level of Omega-3’s and 6’s. 

A few great options for you to have frequently are tuna, salmon, herring, and mackerel.

Oils

Oils are a great way to get in unsaturated fat by cooking with them or adding them to salad dressings or dips. 

Olive, corn, soybean, coconut, and canola oil can be added in for added flavor to your meals.

Chocolate

Dark chocolate specifically has unsaturated fat and is considered a healthy snack option, but don’t go crazy. 

Make sure to read the nutrition labels for any chocolate you’re consuming and make sure they fit within the guidelines of your diet. 

If they do, however, they’re a great way to satisfy a sweet craving and keep you in line with your progress. 

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