Examples of Unsaturated Fats: A List of Common Types

, Staff Writer
Updated June 16, 2021
unsaturated fats salmon avocado nuts olives
    unsaturated fats salmon avocado nuts olives
    JulijaDmitrijeva / iStock / Getty Images Plus
    Used under Getty Images license

Unsaturated fats are the healthiest type of fat that humans consume. As a result, they are often referred to as "good" fats, meaning that there can be health benefits associated with consuming them in moderation. Unsaturated fats are considered more healthful than trans fats and unsaturated fats. Review a selection of unsaturated fat examples organized by type.

Types of Unsaturated Fats

There are two types of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Both kinds can be found in some plant and animal sources and are liquid at room temperature. Both can help lower LDL cholesterol, which is the "bad" type of cholesterol that can clog arteries and play a role in cardiovascular disease.

Unsaturated Fat Examples: Monounsaturated

Monounsaturated fats contain only one double bond within the carbon chain. It is believed that they play a role in keeping human cells healthy. Examples of monounsaturated fats are present in many common food items.

  • avocadoes
  • canola oil
  • cashews
  • olive oil
  • peanut butter
  • peanuts
  • sesame oil
  • sesame seeds

Unsaturated Fat Examples: Polyunsaturated

Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond. Polyunsaturated fats are also sources of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, substances necessary for both cell growth and proper function. Many examples of common food items contain polyunsaturated fats.

  • chia seeds
  • corn oil
  • fish (especially fatty fish, for Omega-3 fatty acid)
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower oil
  • sunflower seeds
  • safflower
  • soybean oil
  • walnuts

Unsaturated Fat Dietary Recommendations

A food that is high in unsaturated fat does not have to include only one type or the other (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated). Many food sources contain both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. All unsaturated fats are considered to be healthful when eaten in moderation.

  • The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that most of a person's daily fat intake comes from unsaturated fat sources. It does not matter if they are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
  • It is also acceptable for people to eat some saturated fat, equivalent to no more than six percent of daily calories per AHA recommendations. Eggs contain both saturated fat and unsaturated fat. They are considered a healthy food choice, though it is best to avoid using more saturated fat (such as butter) for cooking.

Unsaturated Fat vs. Unsaturated Fatty Acid

When a person eats fat, their body breaks down the fat into fatty acids, which are then absorbed into their blood. Fatty acids are necessary for the human body to function. Any time that glucose is not available to provide energy to the cells, the body uses fatty acids to do the job. Fatty acids also bond together to become triglycerides, as do carbohydrates. Review a few unsaturated fatty acids examples.

  • Examples of monounsaturated fatty acids include oleic acid, myristoleic acid, nervonic acid, and gadoleic acid.
  • Examples of polyunsaturated fatty acids include arachidonic acid, linoleic acid, erucic acid, and elaidic acid.

It is not just unsaturated fat that converts to fatty acids during digestion. All types of fats can be broken down into fatty acids. Explore some examples of saturated fatty acids in food and products.


Explore Other Healthy Food Options

Now that you are aware of the different types of unsaturated fats and are familiar with some unsaturated fats examples, you're on your way to having all the information you need to make healthy food choices. Now, add to your knowledge of foods that can be healthy by exploring some examples of complex carbohydrates.