Saturated and Unsaturated Fats, Hydrogenation, and Trans Fatty Acids

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Fats and fatty acids. Fatty acids are mainly chains of carbon atoms, shown here as black dots. (Each carbon atom has two hydrogen atoms projecting from it; the hydrogen atoms are not shown.) A fat molecule is a triglyceride, which is formed from one molecule of glycerol and three fatty acids. The acidic heads of the fatty acids are capped and neutralized by the glycerol, so the triglyceride as a whole no longer has a polar, water-compatible end. The fatty-acid chains can rotate around the glycerol head to form chair-like arrangements (bottom).