Is saturated or unsaturated fat better for you?

Overall, saturated fat has a less healthful effect on the body compared to unsaturated fat.

This means unsaturated fat may be a wiser dietary choice, although there are some exceptions.

According to recent findings, consuming saturated fat may not be bad for health as researchers once thought.


Fat is an essential nutrient that the body needs to function properly. (Misremembering What Makes Us Fat)

Fats provide energy, absorb certain vitamins and minerals, help maintain body temperature, and insulate the body’s vital organs.

The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015–2020) recommend that adults get between 20 to 35 percent of their daily calories from fat.


In this article, we look at the differences between saturated and unsaturated fat, what they do in the body, and the types of foods that contain them.

Dietary fat and its types

Coconut provides a healthful type of saturated fat.
Fats are classified into three main groups, which are:


Saturated fat

These are fats that have single bonds between their molecules and are “saturated” with hydrogen molecules.

They tend to be solids at room temperature, such as butter.

Food sources rich in saturated fat include meat and dairy products, such as:

  • cheese
  • butter
  • ice-cream
  • high-fat cuts of meat
  • coconut oil
  • palm oil

Research has found that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are the most healthful type of saturated fat.

Coconut, for example, is rich in MCTs.

Unsaturated fat

Unsaturated fats contain one or more double or triple bonds between the molecules.

As oils, these fats are liquids at room temperature.

They are also found in solid foods.

This group is further classified into two categories called monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.

Dietary sources of unsaturated fats include:

  • avocados and avocado oil
  • olives and olive oil
  • peanut butter and peanut oil
  • vegetable oils, such as sunflower, corn, or canola
  • fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel (Why Eating Salmon Is So Damn Good For Your Skin)
  • nuts and seeds, such as almonds, peanuts, cashews, and sesame seeds

Trans fat

These fats are liquid fats that are converted into solid fats during food processing techniques.

Some meats and dairy products contain small amounts of trans fats, but they are usually found in processed foods.

Examples of food products that may contain trans fats include cookies, crackers, doughnuts, and fried foods.


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