Saturated Fats: Sneaky and Insidious

Saturated fats are the most wide spread type of fat. They are solid hydrophobic  (do not dissolve in water) macromolecules, yellow or white in color. As the name indicates, saturated fats are composed of triglycerides with fatty acids having single saturated bonds between carbon atoms. Due to high degree of saturation, they are resistant to oxidation, very stable and have a high melting temperature which is why they are solid at room temperature.

Depending on complexity, saturated fats can have anywhere from 3 to 36 carbon atoms. The higher the number of carbon atoms the more stable the saturated fat is.  Due to high melting point of saturated fatty acids,  our body has a hard time digesting them and breaking them down to smaller units. This makes saturated fats very prone to sticking to blood vessel walls and clogging veins and arteries.

In total there are 34 saturated fatty acids that make up majority of saturated fats in foods. Based on their individual structure and the number of carbon atoms, each has a different property and function. Listed by increasing number of carbon atoms, saturated fatty acids are:

  • Propionic acid
  • Butyric acid
  • Valeric acid
  • Pentanoic acid
  • Caproic acid
  • Enanthic acid
  • Caprylic acid
  • Pelargonic acid
  • Capric acid
  • Undecylic acid
  • Lauric acid
  • Tridecylic acid
  • Myristic acid
  • Pentadecylic acid
  • Palmitic acid
  • Margaric acid
  • Stearic acid
  • Nonadecylic acid
  • Arachidic acid
  • Heneicosylic acid
  • Behenic acid
  • Tricosylic acid
  • Lignoceric acid
  • Pentacosylic acid
  • Cerotic acid
  • Heptacosylic acid
  • Montanic acid
  • Nonacosylic acid
  • Melissic acid
  • Henatriacontylic acid
  • Lacceroic acid
  • Psyllic acid
  • Geddic acid
  • Ceroplastic acid
  • Hexatriacontylic acid

The most commonly found saturated fatty acids is Butyric acid (found in butter), Lauric acid (found in coconut oil, palm oil and breast milk), Myristic acid (found in cow’s milk and dairy products), Palmitic acid (found in palm oil and meat), Stearic acid (found in meat and cocoa butter). The most important fatty acids for our body are Arachidic acid, Lauric acid,  Myristic acid and Stearic acid.

Saturated fats usually come from animal and plant sources. Some examples are bacon fat, chicken fat, butter, lard, palm and concoct oil, as well as high-fat cheeses, whole fat milk and cream. Not all food comes with the same saturated fatty acids. What this means is that most foods have a mix of saturated fatty acids and are classified accordingly.  This is why it is often said that different foods have different saturated fat profiles.  Let’s look at some examples.

Food Lauric acid Myristic acid Palmitic acid Stearic acid
Coconut oil 47% 18% 9% 3%
Butter 3% 11% 29% 13%
Ground beef 0% 4% 26% 15%
Dark chocolate 0% 0% 34% 43%
Salmon 0% 1% 29% 3%
Eggs 0% 0.3% 27% 10%
Cashews 2% 1% 10% 7%
Soybean oil 0% 0% 11% 4%

Saturated fats have variety of functions in our body. They facilitate cell signaling, stabilize and provide support for variety of body systems including immune system proteins that fight tumors, hormone and cellular membranes production and stabilization, as well as tissue and organ padding and protection.

Since we do need them, our body can deal with an occasional intake of saturated fats in limited amounts. However, problems arise when they are ingested in excessive amounts on a daily basis. As body cannot effectively eliminate high amounts of saturated fats their excessive intake causes increase in bad cholesterol, fatty deposits formation leading to clogging of arteries and veins, hypertension, and chronic cardiovascular diseases such as stoke and heat attack.

This is why it is necessary to keep saturated fat intake limited and under tight control. To maintain healthy weight and a healthy and strong cardiovascular system, saturated fats should make up a minimum potion of our daily fat intake. Majority should come from unsaturated, liquid fats sourced from natural food and not processed prior to reaching the consumer. Mind over matter, and ourselves on the beach without feeling self-conscious.

Consult Herbal Diet for a variety of great products aiming to deliver all necessary nutrients at a fraction of fat and calories.

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