Saturated and Unsaturated
Fats on the chemical level are carbon chains not dissimilar to sugars. Each atom of carbon can form four chemical bonds. Since these carbon atoms are the base or “backbone” of the carbon chain, they require at least two bonds to keep them in the chain. The other bonds may be to other types of atoms (single bonds) or carbon atoms (double bonds).
H — C — C — H
C = C = C
Single Bonds: — or |
Double Bonds: = or ||
Note that each carbon has a total of four bonds to it. Because carbon is so versatile in nature, there are virtually limitless combinations of these carbon chains.
The molecular structure of carbon is how its saturation is determined. Since carbon chains with only single bonds have the maximum possible number of other atoms attached to them, they are known as saturated fats. Carbon chains with double bonds are unsaturated, since they do not hold the maximum number of atoms. Monounsaturated fats have only one double bond, while polyunsaturated fats have two or more double bonds.
Essential Fatty Acids
10 to 20% of your daily caloric intake should come from essential unsaturated fatty acids. These come mainly from animal products, but can be found in some quantity in plants, or can be taken by way of supplementation.
We recommend about three servings of fish per week, because fish have one of the most often overlooked types of fatty acids. The omega fatty acids aid in cardiovascular and digestive wellness. The omega fatty acids can be found in avocados or olives, but these should be used carefully due to their high saturated fat content. Oils and nuts are also good sources for the omega and other fatty acids.