Fats are energy-dense sources of nutrition in the human diet. They’re made from triglycerides, a glycerol molecule with three fatty acids attached. Depending on the bonding structure, fats can play different roles in human health. Saturated fats, such as lard and butter, tend to be solid at room temperature and have no double bonds between the glycerol and the fatty acids. Unsaturated fats, such as soybean or canola oils, do have double bonds — monounsaturated fats have one double bond, while polyunsaturated fats have multiple double bonds.
Saturated fat, which is common in red meat, dairy products and baked goods, drives up cholesterol and are associated with the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association suggests that only 5 percent of daily calorie intake should come from saturated fats. Unsaturated fat is considered the healthier fat and comes from foods such as vegetables, oils, nuts and fish. It is an essential part of the human diet.
High oleic soybean oil is a fairly new and important type of monounsaturated fat. Oleic is another word for monounsaturated fatty acid. Since soybean oil is commonly used in salad dressings, baked goods, fried foods and snack foods, consumers and the food industry can increase the amount of good, monounsaturated fat found in those foods by switching to high oleic soybean oils. As the health benefits of high oleic soybean oil become more well-known, consumers are likely to see it touted on product labels. Until then, it is usually listed on a product’s ingredient list.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Jon Story received all his BA, MS and Ph.D. degrees from Iowa State University in Zoology (Physiology). He has spent his career looking at the effects of diet on our health and how to alter risks in human behaviors, particularly where it comes to cholesterol. He also teaches a course on the Fundamentals of Nutrition.