Trans Fat vs. Saturated Fat: Links to Bad Cholesterol

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Difference between Trans Fat and Saturated Fat

Contrary to what most people think, fat is actually an important part of the diet. A certain amount of fat is good for you, but you do have to make the distinction between the "good" fats and the "bad" fats. In this comparison article, we cover the two types of bad fat that are the most harmful: saturated fats and trans fats.

Definition

Trans fats are actually classified as unsaturated fats, and they have the effect of increasing LDL or bad cholesterol levels–and in fact raise your entire cholesterol level– while lowering the levels of HDL or good cholesterol in your body. Trans fats are commonly used as a means to increase the shelf life of foods such as cookies, cakes, fries and donuts. If you see a food label that mentions “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil” content, that content is most likely trans fat. As of January 2006, all food manufacturers have been required by law to provide information regarding trans fat content on the labels of their products.

Saturated fats come from animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy foods, and even certain plant-based food products such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils. These fats can be distinguished by the solid forms that they retain at room temperature. These types of fats have the effect of clogging the arteries and increasing both LDL and total levels of cholesterol in the body. These types of fats should be avoided as much as possible.

Where They Are Found

Trans fat were developed from the process of "hydrogenating" liquid oils so that they are better able to hold up to the food production process and have a longer shelf life. These types of fats are commonly found in packaged foods such as microwaveable popcorn, vegetable shortening, and margarine, as well as fried foods commonly sold in chain restaurants.

Saturated fats are most commonly found in animal-based food products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood, although they may also be found in plant-based foods such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil, all of which are particularly high in saturated fat content.

How To Avoid Them

The best way to reduce or eliminate trans fats and saturated fats in your diet is by avoiding cooking oils and commercially packaged foods that have high contents of these products. Among the foods to avoid are coconut oil, palm oil and vegetable shortening. A healthier alternative would be to use oils that have relatively low saturated fat content, and instead use those that have high concentrations of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The "healthier" alternatives are canola oil, olive oil and flax seed oil. As for commercially packaged foods, you should read the label and avoid those in which trans fast are present in large amounts. You should instead go for products that are free from trans-fats.

Similarities and Differences

Trans fat

  • Among the foods to avoid are coconut oil, palm oil and vegetable shortening
  • Increases LDL or bad cholesterol levels while lowering the levels of HDL or good cholesterol

Saturated fat

  • Most commonly found in animal-based food products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood
  • May also be found in plant-based foods such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil

Which bad fat is worse?
  • Trans Fat
  • Saturated Fat
 
 

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