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Difference Between Fats and Oils

Its imperative for me to insist about the importance of fats and how they differ from oils time and again through various articles. It’s true that unhealthy oils, or consuming too much oil (or fat) can cause you to gain weight, clog your arteries, and contribute to a host of other ailments.

It’s common for people trying to lose weight to shun fats and oils. Although its true that oils are among the most calorie-dense foods, when properly chosen, they can also offer some of the greatest health benefits.  With those things in mind, its worth taking a moment to explore the different between fats and oils, and how the two contribute to nutrition.

The Difference Between Fat And Oils

Generally speaking, fats are derived from animal sources, and oils are derived from plant sources.From a chemical perspective, fats and oils are the same things. Both are complex esters of glycerin.  Also generally speaking, fats are solid, or semi-solid at room temperature, whereas oils are liquids at room temperature.  There are exceptions, such as palm oil, which is a semi-solid at room temperature.  Both fats and oils contain 9 calories per gram. On a daily basis, the two terms are used interchangeably.

What makes fat bad?

Most fat contains little unsaturation, meaning no no more hydrogen atoms can be added.  These are what we call saturated fats.  Saturated fats are (again) typically solids at room temperature.  They contribute to clogged arteries and typically goes hand-in-hand with higher cholesterol. The general recommendations with regard to fat consumption:

  • consume less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day
  • no more than 7-10% of the fat in your diet should come from saturated fat
What makes a good oil?

All oils are blends of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats (or oils).  Of these types, there are two types of “good” food oil.  Those are the monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.  These oils act to scavenge artery-clogging cholesterol from the bloodstream, carrying it to the liver for processing. Healthy oils generally contain high levels of unsaturation, meaning carbon-carbon double bonds.

Sources of monounsaturated oil include:  olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil.  Of these, peanut is a cooking oil favored for its good thermal stability, which makes it ideal for frying and other high temperature applications.

Sources of polyunsaturated fats include:  cold water fish (i.e. salmon, tuna), whole wheat, and sunflower oil.  These are good sources of omega-3 fats, which reduced inflammation, but are more suitable for low temperature uses like salad dressing and dipping sauces.

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Vivek

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