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What Are Saturated Fats? - Definition, Types, Function & Examples

What Are Saturated Fats? - Definition, Types, Function & Examples
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  • 0:00 What Are Saturated Fats?
  • 0:18 Types of Fats
  • 1:53 Function
  • 4:03 Examples
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin McLaughlin

Erin has taught Exercise Science and has a master's degree in Exercise Physiology.

Saturated fat in food is fat that is saturated with hydrogen atoms and is typically found in animal products. In this lesson, you will learn what saturated fat is and its effect on the body.

What Are Saturated Fats?

The dietary term, saturated fats, refers to a fat with a chemical nature in which the carbon atoms are saturated with hydrogen atoms and do not contain double bonds between carbon atoms. Saturated fat is typically solid at room temperature.

Types of Fats

There is a lot of hype regarding fad diets and trends, but how can you know what you are or aren't supposed to eat, when one person tells you to have a low fat diet, but then others say to aim for a low carbohydrate diet? What are fats anyway, and are they all bad?

Along with carbohydrates and protein, fat is a macronutrient, essential for dietary consumption in order to supply energy in the form of calories to the body. Fats are composed of fatty acids and glycerol, which is a sugar alcohol compound. Fatty acids are beneficial to the body for growth, healthy skin, regulating bodily functions, and for absorbing vitamins. Also, they can help you feel fuller for longer than low fat foods. Fats are necessary for brain functioning and are actually good for you! The key is to eat the fats that will be beneficial and provide positive health benefits, rather than detrimental effects.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats that are found in plant sources. They are typically liquid at room temperature, such as vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil or peanut oil, but can also be found in other food sources, such as nuts or avocados. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products, except for palm oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil, and are typically solid at room temperature. Trans fat and hydrogenated fat occur during food manufacturing in order to prolong shelf life, and are very unhealthy fats since they can increase bad cholesterol levels and decrease good cholesterol levels.

Function

Foods with saturated fat often have cholesterol as well, so if you have high blood cholesterol levels, your doctor will probably advise a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. When you consume saturated fat, the level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDLs, increases. These LDLs are referred to as the bad cholesterol because they collect in the blood vessels and can cause atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a hardening of an artery due to fatty buildup.

Additionally, elasticity of the artery walls decreases, less blood is able to travel with ease through the arteries, and consequently, blood pressure will increase. When this occurs, less blood and oxygen are able to reach the heart, brain, and organs, and over time, can result in stroke, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, or a heart attack.

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