Monounsaturated Fat: Benefits and Sources

Not all fats are bad for the body, just like how monounsaturated fats are. Get to know the health benefits of monounsaturated fats and which foods are good sources of this healthy fat.

monounsaturated fat

It is unfortunate that most people see fats as irrelevant and unnecessary for the body. Little do they know that fats have major tasks to complete and they are considered as an essential nutrient in the body.

However, are you aware of the different categories of fats? They may not be wrong about fats being bad, but there is just a certain category of fats that can be dangerous when taken excessively, while the others are known to be good fats that help in a lot of functions; an example is the monounsaturated fats.

Different Kinds of Fat

Fats can be identified depending on their effect on the human body. There are good fats, bad fats, and the normal fats (or in-between).

Trans Fats

These trans fats are industrially processed fats that are commonly found in processed foods.

One must avoid excessive intake of trans fat, or better yet it must be completely avoided. The reason why it is considered as a bad fat is that it is capable of raising the bad cholesterol levels in the body while lowering the good cholesterol levels. That alone is a clear indication that these kinds of fat are surely dangerous for the health.

In order to avoid the intake of trans fat, avoid foods like baked goods, fried foods, fast foods, and frozen foods like frozen pizza dough and frozen french fries.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are both good and bad. Consuming enough amount of saturated fats is nothing to worry about, while consuming more than the required enough may lead to some complications.

These fats are considered to be normal and are contained in foods like red meat and most dairy products. It is not that easy to completely avoid the intake of saturated fats, therefore nutritionists suggested to take up 10% of calories a day instead.

There were quite a number of studies that show results regarding saturated fats for not being the direct cause of certain heart diseases. The researchers said that there is no clear evidence to this, thus they recommended the use or consumption of another type of fat instead of the saturated ones since this “good fats” are said to effectively decrease the risk of having heart disease.

Monounsaturated Fat and Polyunsaturated Fat

These good fats are healthy fats that have essential functions in the body. They are commonly found in healthier foods such as fish, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The good fats can be categorized into two: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Let’s start with the polyunsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Healthy cooking oils like corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil contain polyunsaturated fats. These fats are important for body functions. The food we eat provides these fats since our body can’t make them by itself. The main body functions that the polyunsaturated fats take part in our building cell membranes and nerve coverings, supporting proper blood clotting, assisting in the movement of muscles, and preventing inflammation.

Polyunsaturated fats are designated as omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fats are powerful against heart diseases and stroke. They can also lower blood pressure, provide good cholesterol in the body, and reduce levels of triglyceride. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found from sources like fatty fishes such as salmon and mackerel, seeds like flax seeds, nuts such as walnuts, cooking oil like canola oil, and many others.

The omega-6 fatty acids can also be used against the development of heart diseases. The most common sources of omega-6 fats are most vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and many more.

Monounsaturated Fats

Finally, we have come to talk about another healthy fat called monounsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated fats are almost the same as polyunsaturated ones, except that they differ from their carbon bonds; thus named mono and poly.

It was during the 1960s when the health benefits of the monounsaturated fats were discovered. The Greeks were the ones to fully enhance the health capabilities of this fat, thanks to their diet routines which incorporates high-fat diet minus the risk of getting heart disease. Their main source of these fats is the olive oil, which is a staple ingredient for most Mediterranean recipes. This also sparked an interest to nutritionists and dietitians with which they discovered the Mediterranean that consists mainly of plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, legumes and beans, whole grains, some nuts, and the olive oil.

Health Benefits of Monosaturated Fats

Being known as healthy fat, they also provide different health benefits.

Monounsaturated fats are possibly helpful in risk reduction of heart disease.

Quite a lot of studies have already proven how these fats can help in lowering the risk of getting heart disease, especially when they get to replace the previously used saturated fats.

When people continue using saturated fats, they are most likely more exposed to heart diseases; though further studies are suggested before this is claimed to be completely true. But researchers have seen changes in cholesterol levels when people switched from saturated to monounsaturated, this is because the monounsaturated fats are capable of lowering the bad cholesterol levels while increasing the level of the good ones.

The same happens when they were tested for blood pressure regulation.

They may contribute to reducing the risks of getting cancer.

Some studies have provided results of how monounsaturated fats can help in risk reduction in cancer. One of the most tested types of cancer is prostate cancer, which is common among the male population. However, researchers are in need of more data to prove that these fats can completely work against prostate cancer since the previous studies had different results; but some were positive and were said to be effective.

Another type of cancer wherein it was tested with monounsaturated fats is breast cancer; which is common among women. Olive oil was given to women from Spain and the results were positive. It was proven that women who consume more olive oil (which contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid present in the oil) have lower risk in getting possible breast cancer. Unfortunately, just like how it is with prostate cancer, further research is needed to completely prove this claim; since it was only tested on Spanish women.

These fats may aid in the regulation of blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity.

Researchers have conducted studies regarding the ability of these fats to improve the insulin sensitivity of the body, and the results were all positive.

It was proven that a good amount of MUFA incorporated in the diet was able to prevent high blood sugar and the development of type 2 diabetes. This was tested on both healthy patients and those who are suffering from high blood sugar levels.

The fats may help in relieving inflammation.

Studies have shown that consuming monounsaturated fats reduces inflammation in the body, wherein this inflammation may lead to chronic diseases if left untreated. One of the studies was when they tested people who are into Mediterranean diets that resulted in lower inflammation in their bodies.

Sources of Monounsaturated Fat

Below is a list of foods with the most monounsaturated fat content, each of the following measured for 100 grams:

Olive oil

Olive oil has the highest MUFA content, it is also the top player of the Mediterranean diet. 100 grams of olive oil contains 73.1 grams MUFA.

Almonds

100 grams of almonds contains 33.6 grams of MUFA.

Cashews

100 grams of cashew nuts contains 27.3 grams MUFA.

Peanuts

100 grams of peanuts contains 24.7 grams of MUFA.

Pistachios

A 100 gram serving of pistachio nuts can provide 24.2 grams of MUFA.

Olives

100 grams of olives provides 15 grams of MUFA

Pumpkin seeds

100 grams of pumpkin seeds can give the body 13.1 grams of MUFA.

Sunflower seeds

When served with 100 grams of sunflower seeds, the body can be provided with an amount of 9.5 grams of MUFA.

monounsaturated fat

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