Polyunsaturated fat is a healthy fat, and can have a good effect on your health when consumed in moderation.
Food sources that are rich in fat contain a blend of various fats—one of which is polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Healthy fats like PUFAs supply you with calories that help your body absorb nutrients it needs to function. PUFAs are required for healthy nerve function, blood clotting, muscle strength, and cognitive function.
What are polyunsaturated fatty acids?
There are two fundamental types of fats—saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fat does not have a double bond of carbon atoms in its chemical design, whereas unsaturated fat has at least one carbon double bond. On the off chance that a fat particle is made up of multiple carbon double bonds, it's known as polyunsaturated fatty acid.
However, your body can't make these unsaturated fats, and they need to be consumed as part of the diet.
What foods contain polyunsaturated fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids
- Salmon: 1.8 grams
- Herring: 1.7 grams
- Sardines: 1.2 grams
- Mackerel: 1 gram
- Trout: 0.8 grams
- Bass: 0.7 grams
- Shrimp: 0.2 grams
Omega-6 fatty acids
Plant-based oils are high in omega-6 unsaturated fats—except for coconut and palm oil which contain a high level of saturated fats and are solid at room temperature. The oils with the highest amount of PUFAs include:
- Safflower oil: 74.6%
- Grapeseed oil: 69.9%
- Flaxseed oil: 67.9 %
- Sunflower oil: 65.7%
- Poppy seed oil: 62.4%
- Soybean oil: 58.9%
Oil-based toppings such as mayonnaise and salad dressings are also high in omega-6 PUFAs.
What are the health benefits of polyunsaturated fatty acids?
Preventing coronary artery disease
According to the National Institutes of Health, eating omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can lower bad blood cholesterol levels, reduce cardiovascular mortality, and improve heart health.
Some evidence has shown that omega-3 fatty acids are significant for the healthy development of the brain and eyes of a fetus. Another study discovered that pregnant women with high levels of DHA had children with better critical thinking abilities at one year of age. The FDA suggests that pregnant women should eat 2-3 servings of fatty fish (low in mercury) regularly.
Eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids can assist with memory in adults without dementia.
What are the risks of eating polyunsaturated fatty acids?
Consuming natural PUFAs in healthy foods does not typically carry any risk unless you have specific food allergies. Omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs play an important role in preventing inflammation.
However, excessive consumption of any type of fat can cause weight gain. All fats, including PUFAs, contain 9 calories per gram—more than 2 times the calories found in carbs or protein. Therefore, calories from PUFAs can add up quickly. If you’re not careful, you may exceed your calorie needs.
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