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What’s In Saturated Fats?

Having trouble distinguishing the good fats from the bad? Learn about saturated fats on this Moment of Science.

A cheesy bowl of macarroni.

Photo: Snazzo (Flickr)

The body uses fat to absorb cholesterol from the food you devour; saturated fats absorb cholesterol very efficiently.

These days, we hear so much about saturated vs. unsaturated fat. You can’t even turn on the TV anymore without seeing commercials for foods that are low in saturated fats. I can’t remember the last time I ate real butter. So what is it exactly that saturates fat and makes it so evil?

Fat=Hydrogen Saturation

Well, saturated fat is actually saturated with hydrogen. You see, fats are mostly made up of molecules called fatty acids, and saturated fats are made up of saturated fatty acids.

Fatty acids consist of chains of carbon atoms, which have four spaces for connecting to other atoms. Two spaces are connected to neighboring carbons, and if the other two are filled with hydrogen, the fat is considered saturated –that is, saturated with hydrogen.

Goods Fats Vs. Sat Fats

Your body uses fat to absorb cholesterol from the food you eat, and saturated fats absorb cholesterol super efficiently. But too much cholesterol in the blood can be dangerous.

It builds up on artery walls and increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes. So a diet low in fat, and low in saturated fats, helps reduce the amount of cholesterol your body absorbs. To stay healthy, the key is to eat everything in moderation.

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