There are many different types of fatty acids and they can be classified in several ways.
For example, fatty acids can be grouped based on how long their structure is, such as short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain fatty acids.
The main group of fat's I'm writing about here are:
1. Saturates - can usually be very supportive of producing the sex hormones in men and women (estrogen and testosterone). Yet they are also very forming of cholesterol so they should be consumed in moderation.
2. Mono-unsaturates - can help lower cholesterol if they replace saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats may also help decrease the risk of breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis pain. These fat's are also very good at balancing hormones and especially supporting male and female reproduction.
3. Poly-unsaturates - can help lower cholesterol. These can also be omega-3 polyunsaturates which may help protect against heart disease and omega-6 fatty acids which may help with growth and brain function.
In this table below I will show you some great examples of each of these fat types and their varying amounts.
Now let's digress into which fat's/oil's are best to cook with...
The smoke point of an oil or fat is the temperature at which it starts to burn and degrade – oils and fats with a higher smoke point are more suited to frying food than those with lower smoke points, which are more suited for cold use - such as in salad dressings.
Generally the main rule of thumb is to mostly cook with saturates and mono-unsaturates, this is because their molecular chains are much stronger and the oil won't deteriorate and burn whilst you cook with it.
An important note to make here is that poly-unsaturates never a good choice to cook with. When a poly-unsaturate is heating to a high enough temperature it degrades and can change into another well-known fat 'hydrogenated fat'.
Hydrogenated fat's are 'man-made' fat's that are not typical found in nature. Hence when consumed your body doesn't understand what this molecule is and what to do with it. Sometimes in this case, this fat can be stored in the body as cellulite - an unrecognisable fat. And subsequently it can become very difficult to remove from your body as it isn't easily digested.
1. Margarine is typically used as a substitute for butter, for spreading on bread and in baking. There are many different brands of margarine containing different blends of oils and fats. My suggestion would be to avoid margarine where possible. Most margarine e.g. flora, benecol, I can't believe its not butter are made with hydrogenated fats and as I've mentioned above are very bad for you.