Monounsaturated Fat

Why This Type of Fat Is a Better Choice in Your Diet

foods high in monounsaturated fats
Foods high in monounsaturated fats. Clive Champion/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Monounsaturated fats are recommended as better choices in your diet than saturated fats. The term unsaturated refers to the hydrogen atoms bonded to the fat molecules. Saturated fat molecules have hydrogen bound at every binding site while unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds at binding sites and therefore fewer hydrogen molecules.

Monounsaturated fats have one ("mono") of these bonds which lack hydrogen.

Due to this chemical arrangement, monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature but can turn solid in the refrigerator. All fats provide nine calories per gram.

Monounsaturated fats are commonly thought of as healthy fats when eaten in moderation and in preference to saturated fats and trans fats. There is evidence that they may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Olive oil is most commonly associated with this type of fat, as most of its fat is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

Also Known As: MUFAs, oleic acid (which is one type of monounsaturated fat), monounsaturated fatty acids

Sources of Monounsaturated Fats

Besides olive oil, in which 77 percent of the fats are monounsaturated, excellent sources include macadamia nuts (80 percent of fat is monounsaturated), hazelnuts (77 percent), avocados (71 percent), almonds (70 percent), canola oil (59 percent), pecans (59 percent) and peanuts and peanut oil (46 percent).

Also, while regular sunflower and safflower oils are not good sources of monounsaturated fat, some of the seeds have been bred to produce more of this type of oil. These oils are usually labeled "high oleic" sunflower or safflower oil, and can contain up to 81 percent monounsaturated fat.

Almost all natural sources of fats are a mixture of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

For example, almost half of the fat in beef is monounsaturated and the rest is saturated.

Trans fats are artificially-produced partially hydrogenated oils that are often used to deep-fry foods and in baked goods. Trans fats raise your bad LDL cholesterol level and lower your good HDL cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association.

Benefits of Monounsaturated Fats

It is thought that at least some of the benefits of the heart-protective Mediterranean Diet are due to the high consumption of olive oil and its monounsaturated fat. There is some evidence for the following protective benefits of this fat:

  • Fats are satiating: You may have less hunger when you include fat in a meal.
  • Lower LDL cholesterol levels: The American Heart Association recommends olive oil and other sources of monounsaturated fats to help keep blood cholesterol at a healthy level.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke: This is the reason the Mediterranean Diet first came to the attention of heart disease experts. The American Heart Association recommends monounsaturated fat as they can help reduce the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood, therefore reducing your cardiovascular risks.

Sources:

Monounsaturated Fats. American Heart Association. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/Eat-smart/Articles/Monounsaturated-Fats.

Trans Fat. American Heart Association. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/eat-smart/articles/trans-fat.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. United States Department of Agriculture. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/.

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