There are so many names associated with fat: fatty acids, lipids, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat, trans fat, omega-3, omega-6, omega-9, good fats, bad fats and others. It can be hard to keep them all straight.
Fats are named according to their chemical structure or the way they are “built.” All fats start as a chain of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached. There can be single bonds holding the carbons together or there can be double bonds. This determines whether a fat is saturated or unsaturated. When all of the carbon atoms in a fatty acid chain are connected by single bonds, it is called a saturated fat because the chain is “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. If there are one or more double bonds between the carbons, there will be fewer hydrogen atoms connected to the chain, and therefore the fat is called ‘unsaturated.’ The term “omega” plus a number is used to describe where the first double bond is found on an unsaturated fat.
Additionally, an unsaturated fat can be transformed to saturated or trans fats through a process called hydrogenation. This means hydrogen atoms are added to the chain where there is currently a double bond, or a double bond is rotated from the natural cis formation to the unhealthy trans formation.
These fats don’t have the same name, and they are not created equally. Good Fats 101™ will help you understand the differences between types of fats and what that means for you and your health.
Ready to cut through the fat? Let’s read about the importance of fat.