The answer you receive from this question will depend on who you ask, so it is important to have an understanding of lipids and fats from a chemical and nutritional perspective.
To a chemist, lipids consist of:
- Fatty Acids
These compounds are grouped together because of their structural and physical property similarities. For instance, all lipids have hydrophobic (water-fearing) properties. Chemists further separate lipids into fats and oils based on their physical properties at room temperature:
- Fats are solid at room temperature
- Oils are liquid at room temperature
From a nutritional perspective, the definition of lipids is the same. The definition of a fat differs, however, because nutrition-oriented people define fats based on their caloric contribution rather than whether they are solid at room temperature. Thus, from a nutrition perspective:
- Fats are triglycerides, fatty acids, and phospholipids that provide 9 kcal/g.
The other difference is that from a caloric perspective, an oil is a fat. For example, let's consider olive oil. Clearly, it is an oil according to a chemist definition, but from a caloric standpoint it is a fat because it provides 9 kcal/g.
The following sections will discuss the different lipid classes introduced above in detail.