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Difference Between Unsaturated and Saturated Fats

The unsaturated fats are those made of fatty acids which contain at a minimum, one double bond between two carbons. There can sometimes be more than one double bond present in some of the unsaturated fats. These fats are also liquid at room temperature and are found in plants. The seed and nut oils are all examples of unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are those that are derived from animal tissue. These fats do not contain any double bonds in the fatty acids. Saturated fats are also solid at room temperature and include fats like butter. Of the two types, unsaturated fats are considered healthier than saturated fats. 

In short, unsaturated fats are those with a double bond in the molecule and that are liquid at room temperature, while saturated fats have no double bonds and are solid at room temperature.

What are Unsaturated Fats?


Unsaturated fats have at least one double bond present in the chemical structure of the fatty acid chain. The specific type of unsaturated fatty acid is named by the number of double bonds. For instance, a fat with a single carbon double bond is known as a monounsaturated fat (e.g., olive oil). Those fats with more than one double bond are known as polyunsaturated fats (e.g., sunflower oil). All unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and believed to be a much healthier choice than saturated fats. 


There are many examples of unsaturated fats, including the vegetable oils, such as peanut oil, olive oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil. Unsaturated fats are also found in fatty fish (omega-3 fatty acids), nuts, seeds, and avocados. Many people cook with olive oil rather than butter, as this is believed to be a healthier option.

What are Saturated Fats?


A saturated fat is one that does not contain a double bond in the chemical structure. These fats are also solid at room temperature and are considered less healthy compared with unsaturated fats. There is some research that suggests that the situation is more complex and that how harmful saturated fats are also depends on if they have long- or medium-chain fatty acids. 


Animal-based fats like butter or cheese are examples of saturated fats. However, some plants do have saturated fats. For example, coconuts, which contain medium-chain saturated fatty acids. Animal fats, such as those that are found in dairy products and red meat may increase overall cholesterol levels and lead to an increased risk of heart disease. People should limit their intake of saturated fats for overall health benefit.

Difference between Unsaturated and Saturated Fats?


Unsaturated fats have a minimum of one double bond in the fatty acid, while saturated fats have no double bonds. 

Liquid or solid

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature.

Plant or animal origin

The origin of unsaturated fats is plants. The origin of saturated fats is mainly animal tissue, but coconut does also contain saturated fats.


Examples of unsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and peanut oil. Examples of saturated fats include cheese, butter, red meat, and coconut.

Effect on cholesterol

Unsaturated fats increase HDL levels; HDL is the healthy cholesterol. Saturated fats increase levels of the LDL cholesterol; this is the unhealthy type of cholesterol.

Weight control

Unsaturated fats are helpful in weight control while saturated fats are not helpful, and may increase weight instead.

Table comparing Unsaturated and Saturated Fats

Summary of Unsaturated Vs. Saturated Fats

  • Unsaturated and saturated fats differ in bonding.
  • Saturated fats do not have a double bond, but unsaturated fats do.
  • Unsaturated fats include mainly the plant fats while saturated fats are mainly the animal fats.
  • Unsaturated fats are considered a healthier diet choice compared with saturated fats.


Should you eat more saturated or unsaturated fats?

It is believed that eating more unsaturated fats is better for your health since it helps raise the good HDL cholesterol in the body. This HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol aways from the blood vessels.

What is an example of an unsaturated fat?

Sunflower oil is an example of an unsaturated fat.

Is Olive Oil saturated or unsaturated?

Olive oil is an unsaturated fat.

Which statement best explains the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats?

Unsaturated fats have at least a single double bond between two carbons, and have a lower melting point and are, thus, liquid at room temperature. A saturated fat does not have any double bonds and it is solid at room temperature.

Is avocado saturated or unsaturated fat?

Avocado is an example of an unsaturated fat.

Is peanut oil saturated or unsaturated?

Peanut oil is unsaturated.

Why is saturated fat bad for you?

It has been linked to an increase in the harmful LDL cholesterol, which can be deposited in the blood vessels.

Which food has unsaturated fat?

Peanuts and avocados have unsaturated fats.

How much saturated fat is OK for high cholesterol?

You should aim for less than 6% saturated fats per day if you have high cholesterol.

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References :

[0]Beulen, Yvette, et al. "Quality of dietary fat intake and body weight and obesity in a mediterranean population: Secondary analyses within the PREDIMED trial." Nutrients 10.12 (2018): 2011.

[1]Hewlings, Susan. "Coconuts and health: Different chain lengths of saturated fats require different consideration." Journal of cardiovascular development and disease 7.4 (2020): 59.

[2]Morton, Allyson M., et al. "Dietary unsaturated fat increases HDL metabolic pathways involving apoE favorable to reverse cholesterol transport." JCI insight 4.7 (2019).

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADOSKb0Ulk-nutrition-facts-with-saturated-fat/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADQ4dywIJM-selection-of-healthy-unsaturated-fats-and-omega-3/

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