Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

Fats are necessary as they provide the much-needed energy for metabolic processes. Only some of the fats are beneficial. Saturated fats are fatty acids that have hydrogen molecules in them, and this gives them a solid texture, for example, animal meat, dairy products, baked foods, etc. Excessive consumption of these may lead to heart diseases, 


The unsaturated fats are fatty acids with one or more double bonds and are in liquid form. The different types of unsaturated fats are mono-unsaturated fats, for example, olive oil and canola oil; omega 3 fatty acids, for example, nuts, seeds, oily fish, etc. excessive consumption may lead to high cholesterol levels. It is important to have good health insurance in case of hospitalisation.


Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fatty Acids | Finserv MARKETS

Difference Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

No Room Rent Capping | No Medical Check-up up to 55yrs | Tax Benefit up to 75k | Buy Health Insurance starting @ ₹244 pm

22 July 2021

What is Saturated Fat?

Fats that do not comprise a double chemical bond between fatty acids are considered saturated fats. Instead, the bonds are saturated or filled with hydrogen molecules, and their unique chemical structure gives them a solid texture at room temperatures.

Saturated fats are widely available in a variety of foods as stated below:


  • Animal Meat – Red meat like lamb, goat, and poultry skin

  • Plant-based oils – Palm oil and Coconut Oil

  • Dairy products – Full cream milk and curd, cheese, ice creams, and butter

  • Baked foods – Cakes, pastries, and cookies

Why Limit Saturated Fats in Your Diet?

The American Health Association (AHA) recommends that saturated fat consumption be limited to less than 5-6 percent of the daily caloric intake. Several research studies on the consumption of foods high in saturated fats have demonstrated mixed outcomes related to cardiovascular health:


  • Some studies have shown that high consumption of saturated fats may increase the LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) levels in the body, linking it to an increased risk of heart diseases.

  • On the contrary, other studies demonstrate the kind of saturated fat-infused food that can make a difference to your heart’s health. For instance, a large study has shown that consuming dairy products may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. At the same time, the study has demonstrated that consuming red, processed meats as part of your diet puts you at a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases.

What is Unsaturated Fat?

Unsaturated fats differ from saturated fats in terms of their chemical structure, as the fatty acids are loosely packed with one or more double bonds. These fatty acids are normally in a liquid state at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are of two types – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

  • Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA)

Monounsaturated fats contain only a single double bond in their chemical structure. The most commonly used foods that consist of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, and canola oil.

  • Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA)

These unsaturated fats are packed with more than one double bond in their chemical structure. Polyunsaturated fats can further be divided into two types:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids maintain heart health and food sources rich in omega-3 fats include nuts, seeds, and fatty or oily fish.

  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

  • Omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean, walnut, and corn. Excessive consumption of foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids has been linked to inflammation, an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, and even obesity.

Incorporating Unsaturated Fats into Your Diet

As suggested by the American Health Association, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats must form a major portion of the daily intake of fats. Here is how you can incorporate them into your daily diet:

1. Rich Breakfast

  • Add a topping of nuts and seeds mixture rich in Omega-6 fats to your cereal or porridge meal, or snack them lightly with a cup of lemon tea

  • Replace your coffee or tea creamer with a natural, real milk creamer

2. Light Lunch

  • Add avocados to your sandwiches or salads, along with a few pieces of boiled or roasted chicken

  • Avoid adding any dressings to lower your saturated fat intake

3. Evening Snack

  • Discard the junk like potato chips, and eat whole olives rich in monounsaturated fats and low in calories

  • Have a toast spread with home-made, all-natural nut butter

4. Fat-friendly Dinner

  • Spruce up your favourite oily fish with nuts and seeds before sauteing it in vegetable oils like olive oil or canola oil, along with chosen veggies

  • Choose vegetable or nut butter sauces over cream-based sauces

Difference between Saturated and Unsaturated fats

Let’s take a deep dive into understanding saturated fat vs unsaturated fat:

Saturated Fats

Unsaturated Fats

Only contains single bonds

Contains at least one double bond

Packed with hydrogen molecules

Not completely packed with hydrogen molecules

Should not exceed 10% of your total calories per day

Should not exceed 30% of your total calories per day

Excessive consumption could lead to heart diseases

Excessive consumption may lead to an increased cholesterol level

High melting point

Low melting point

Saturated fats increase low-density lipoproteins a.k.a LDL, leading to bad cholesterol

Unsaturated fats increase high-density lipoproteins a.k.a HDL and reduce LDL

Food sources of saturated fats are whole milk, peanuts, coconut oil, red meat, cheese, butter, margarine, vegetable oil, etc.

Food sources of unsaturated fats are nuts, seeds, oily fish, soybean oil, avocado, etc.

Do not spoil quickly

Spoil quickly

Remains solid at room temperature

Turns liquid at room temperature

What are the Recommended Levels of Fat?

Now that we have understood saturated vs unsaturated fats, let’s explore the recommended levels of daily fat intake.

The dietary reference intake (DRI) for fat in adults is 20-35 percent of the daily fat calorie intake. So, if you consume 2000 calories per day, the fat intake would be around 44-77 grams per day. However, it is recommended to eat a certain type of fats more than others, owing to their health benefits:


  • Monounsaturated Fat (MUFA) – 15 to 20 percent

  • Polyunsaturated Fat (PUFA) – 5 to 10 percent

  • Saturated Fat – less than 10 percent

  • Trans Fat – NIL

  • Cholesterol – less than 300 mg per day

Given the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats, and the health benefits of saturated fats vs unsaturated fats, it is advisable to restrict the saturated fat’s daily intake to less than 10%.


A diet excessively high in fat can indeed lead to undue weight gain or obesity, which is linked to an aggravated risk of diabetesblood pressure, heart diseases, and certain types of cancer.

Since you know what is the difference between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, you can now better understand the importance of a balanced diet. It must comprise unsaturated fats to improve good cholesterol levels and ensure proper maintenance of the body’s BMI and BMR. To devise a suitable diet plan, make an effort to calculate your body’s BMI and BMR using any of the BMR and BMI calculators available online.

While maintaining a diet filled with unsaturated fats can be a balancing act towards weight management, it is always better to brace oneself against health complications arising out of weight gain, by opting for a health insurance policy.

Health Insurance Plans Available at Finserv MARKETS

FAQs Related to Saturated Vs Unsaturated Fats

  • ✔️What is the difference between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids?

    Saturated fatty acids are those which do not contain a double bond in their chemical structure, whereas unsaturated fatty acids include at least one double bond in their chemical structure.

  • ✔️What are the common food sources of saturated fats and unsaturated fats?

    Saturated fats are mostly present in foods such as red meat, dairy, fried and pre-packaged foods, whereas unsaturated fats are available in foods such as oily fish, tofu, nuts and seeds, avocados, and plant-based vegetable oils.

  • ✔️Which of these fats is healthier, saturated fat vs unsaturated fat?

    Saturated fats are usually unhealthy fats, owing to their high LDL content over healthy unsaturated fats that help increase HDL, i.e., the good cholesterol levels in the body.

  • ✔️What should be the intake of saturated and unsaturated fats in your daily diet?

    Less than 10 percent of your dietary intake shall constitute saturated fats, and not more than 30 percent of your diet would include unsaturated fats.

  • ✔️What are the effects of excessive consumption of saturated fats vs unsaturated fats?

    Excessive consumption of saturated fats is linked to heart diseases, and substituting saturated fats with unsaturated fats is a healthy choice that shall ensure an increase in good cholesterol levels and heart health.