Fundamentals of fat

Fundamentals of fat

In addition to carbohydrates, fats are the most important source of energy for humans. They are formed from the basic substances carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. From a purely chemical point of view, the dietary fats that are of interest to us in this article consist of a glycerol molecule that binds three fatty acids, which results in the so-called triglycerides.

The fatty acids are distinguished by their intramolecular carbon bonds.

  • saturated fatty acids
  • monounsaturated fatty acids
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids

In addition to the degree of saturation, a distinction is made between short-, medium- and long-chain fatty acids. The origin of fats also plays a big role. For example, generally, animal fats usually contain predominantly saturated fatty acids, while vegetable fat sources contain more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (it depends on the animal and the plant). The simple rule is that an oil has more unsaturated fatty acids the more liquid it is at room temperature. However, it is wrong to assume that animal fats basically only consist of saturated fatty acids, as is often claimed by some “experts”. Another exception to vegetable fats is coconut oil, which contains over 90% of saturated fatty acids. However, you should not heat polyunsaturated oils too much (for example, when frying or baking) as they will otherwise lose their beneficial structure. Here, it is better to use a more solid (at room temperature) fat like butter, coconut oil or olive oil, which occupies a special position. These are more suitable for cooking at higher temperatures.

If you do not feed your body fat over a longer period, it can also produce fatty acids on its own. However, the human body is only capable of producing saturated fatty acids, which is why they can increase the blood lipids, if too many of them are fed through the diet. In contrast, unsaturated fatty acids generally have to be provided and absorbed through the nutrition, which is why they are also referred to as essential (= absolutely necessary) fatty acids. That’s what makes them so important. The omega-3 (linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid) fatty acids play a special role in unsaturated fatty acids.


Omega-3s are found in

  • vegetable oils
    • Safflower oil (about 55-81% linoleic acid)
    • Sunflower oil (20-75%)
    • Soybean oil (49-57%)
    • Corn oil (34-62%)
    • Olive oil (3-20%
  • fatty sausage, fatty meat
  • margarine
  • nuts, almonds

Omega-6s are found in

  • soybean oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Chia
  • hemp oil
  • olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • walnut oil
  • rapeseed oil
  • linseed oil

Tasks of fat in the body