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Unsaturated Fatty Acids: They Are So Healthy!

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 431 views

Unsaturated fatty acids are often referred to as healthy fats or good fats and should be included in the diet. But is that actually true? Here you can find out exactly what unsaturated fatty acids are, which foods contain them and what significance they have for the organism and health.

What are unsaturated fatty acids?

From a chemical point of view, unsaturated fatty acids are organic acids made up of hydrocarbon chains of different lengths. Unsaturated fatty acids have at least one double bond. They are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

While monounsaturated fatty acids only have one double bond, polyunsaturated fatty acids have two or more double bonds. The position of the double bond determines whether it is an omega-3 or an omega-6 fatty acid.

The body produces most of the unsaturated fatty acids itself. For example, the most important monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid, is formed from the conversion of saturated fatty acids. But the organism also forms unsaturated fatty acids from other food components, such as glucose and amino acids.

However, there are also essential unsaturated fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid ( omega-3 ) and linoleic acid ( omega-6 ). The body is not able to produce them itself, but they are essential for life and must therefore be supplied through food.

In general, the more often you put plant-based instead of animal-based foods on your plate, the better your supply of unsaturated fatty acids. For starters, it is also sufficient to increase the portion of vegetables and reduce the portion of meat. This not only fills up on unsaturated fatty acids, but also promotes your health in general.

Are unsaturated fatty acids healthy?

Unsaturated fatty acids have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. This effect is all the stronger when saturated fatty acids are exchanged for unsaturated fatty acids. Then the “bad” LDL cholesterol decreases, while the concentration of the “good” HDL cholesterol increases. In addition, the total cholesterol concentration in the blood decreases.

In addition to a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases such as a heart attack, the effect of the unsaturated fatty acids also reduces the risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Inflammatory diseases such as asthma, Crohn’s disease or arthritis are also alleviated. However, there is a need for further research on the latter findings.

Unsaturated Fatty Acids: Why Your Body Needs Them!

Among other things, unsaturated fatty acids serve the body as a component of cell membranes and ensure that they remain permeable and flexible. The brain also consists largely of fat .

The polyunsaturated docosahexaenoic acid is the most important fatty acid in the brain. In addition, some polyunsaturated fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect, are precursors of hormones or support cell division.

Unsaturated fatty acids: recommended daily amount

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends covering seven to ten percent of the total daily energy intake with unsaturated fatty acids.

However, the average citizen in this country consumes more saturated fatty acids than unsaturated. The average consumption of unsaturated fatty acids is only five percent of the total energy intake.

These foods contain unsaturated fatty acids

Good sources of alpha-linolenic acid include walnut, canola, soy, and flaxseed oils . Omega-3 fatty acids are formed in the body from alpha-linolenic acid.

High-fat sea fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Safflower, soybean and sunflower oil provide omega-6 fatty acids in larger amounts.

Include unsaturated fatty acids in your diet

Many people eat mainly saturated and not enough unsaturated fatty acids. Incorporating more unsaturated fatty acids into the daily diet while reducing the intake of saturated fatty acids is not difficult. How to do it:

  • Swap animal fat for vegetable fat.
  • Fry with oil instead of clarified butter. Rapeseed or soybean oil, for example, are well suited.
  • Replace a meat meal with fish.
  • Snack on nuts instead of chocolate and cookies.
  • Treat yourself to an avocado every now and then, for example on bread or in a salad.
  • Use cold-pressed vegetable oils for your salad instead of yoghurt or French dressing.
  • Replace cheese or sausage with plant-based spreads from time to time.

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