It is important to remember that fat is essential to a healthy diet. Fat is your friend whether you follow a paleo, vegan or omnivore diet. It is believed that fats contribute to many of the healthiest foods on the planet wholesale, including oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, salmon and many others. However, fats are also crucial to several bodily functions at the molecular level. Some types of fat can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease.
We consume two types of fatty acids in our food: saturated and unsaturated. Fatty acids are made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms that are linked together by chains. Due to the complexity of dietary fats wholesale, we’ll save the discussion of saturated and trans fats for another day. Let’s look at unsaturated fats for now. All unsaturated fatty acids contain one double bond linkage between their carbon atoms, which causes them to bend, just like your arm bends at its elbow when it bends.
Due to this double bond, hydrogen atoms cannot bind as often to the carbon atoms as they could, so the molecule is not as saturated as it could be with hydrogen atoms. In this case, it’s considered “unsaturated.” Monounsaturated fatty acids contain just one double bond. I mentioned earlier that fats are complex, so we find omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs within unsaturated fats, while omega-9 PUFAs are usually MUFAs.
If the double bond appears three carbons away from the methyl end of the fatty acid chain, the fatty acid is considered an omega-3 fatty acid. The omega number refers to the distance from the methyl end of the carbon-carbon bond. It’s called an omega-6 or omega-9 fatty acid, depending on how far away it is from the omega-3 fatty acid.
It’s important to clarify one idea before you make informed decisions about the foods you eat based on your understanding of the different types of fatty acids. One of the biggest misconceptions about fats is that you only get a certain type of fat when you eat a certain food. Fats are present in all foods in a mix. Some types of fats are more prevalent, so we sometimes associate certain foods with certain types of fats.