Today I’m going to start a little series. I don’t know how many posts it will be. As many as it takes. And I’m going to keep them short. They’ll be mini-bite lessons on fats. (Oils are fats too.) The kinds of fats you eat can make or break you. Because sorting out fat terminology drove me crazy, I’ll start there. Everybody throws these terms around: saturated, unsaturated, MUFAs, PUFAs, omega-3s, omega-6s, linolenic acid, linoleic acid, MCT, and SCFA. If my eyes glaze over reading posts and comment threads about fats, I’ll bet many of you out there have the same problem. Let’s remedy that in little bits.
First off, fats are made of fatty acids, three of them in fact, bonded to a backbone called a glycerol. Thus you get “TRIGLYCERIDES.” Fats.
Mostly what health writers are talking about when they talk about “fats,” is the kind of fatty acids that make up the package called the triglyceride. What kind of fatty acids are involved. Fatty acids can be saturated. Or unsaturated. Or MUFAs. Or PUFAs, omega-3s. And so on.
THERE ARE TWO MAIN WAYS TO CATEGORIZE FATS, BY HOW SATURATED THEIR FATTY ACIDS ARE OR HOW LONG THEIR FATTY ACIDS ARE. This is why it gets so confusing to read health articles on fats. That and the fact that foods, oils, and fats are made up of many types of those terms I listed up there. For example, olive oil is a mixture of several different types of fat. So it gets confusing.
Today we’ll outline the saturation/unsaturation terms. Later we’ll outline them (rather easily) by length.
Here is the outline for your head. Don’t think about foods for now. Foods, natural fats, and natural oils are a mix of all these terms you and I have spinning around our heads. Today, just think of terminology. Later we’ll apply it to food.
NAMES OF FATS BASED ON HOW SATURATED THEIR FATTY ACIDS ARE
I. Saturated fats: All carbons are full-up. No double bonds. Not much room for chemical reactions to take place. Stable. Solid.
II. Unsaturated fats: Some carbons are double bonded, leaving room for chemical reactions to take place. Liquid.
1. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs): Only one double bond so less reactive than PUFAs. More stable.
2. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs): More than one double bond. This makes them more reactive and less stable than saturated fats and MUFAs.
What do I want you to notice? I want you to notice that omega-3s are PUFAs. I want you to notice that saturated fats are the most chemically stable. Then monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). Then polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs).
That wasn’t too taxing, was it? Do your eyes glaze over when you read those fat articles? Do you wish somebody would figure out fats and stick to their story? Do you worry about fat? Do you try to stay low-fat or avoid certain fats? I’d love to know. And know why.
Have a good weekend. It’s Labor Day weekend here, and we have company coming for a real good time! My children are a little worried, “Mom, I don’t think they’re going to like our food…” My poor kids. Traumatized.