Ingredient labels can get pretty confusing. What is monousaturated fat? And what’s the difference between monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat? Are these considered “healthy fats” or “unhealthy fats?” Monounsaturated fat is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in vegetable oils and animals oils. Benefits of monounsaturated fat include improved heart health, strong bones, the ability to help maintain a healthy weight, and a reduced risk of cancer.
What is Monounsaturated Fat?
So exactly what is monounsaturated fat? It’s a fatty acid that contains nine calories per gram, just like other fats. The most common MUFA found in food is oleic acid. It can be found in olive oil, nuts and avocados, foods that are common in a Mediterranean diet. Studies have shown that children who have high levels of unsaturated fats in their diets have less fats in their blood. The Mediterranean diet, which consists of plenty of high-fat foods, is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Monounsaturated Fats vs. Polyunsaturated Fats
So what is monounsaturated fat compared to polyunsaturated fat? Both types of fat are unsaturated and have similar health benefits. However, polyunsaturated fats contain two separate types of fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6. Consuming too much omega-6 in related to omega-3 consumption can cause health problems, including high blood pressure and an increased risk of obesity, heart attack, stroke and depression.
Benefits of Monounsaturated Fat
1. Protects Against Heart Disease
What is monounsaturated fat good for? Benefits of monounsaturated fat include protection from heart disease. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming healthy dietary fats can help lower the risk of atrial fibrillation. Benefits of monounsaturated fat also include a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and inflammatory conditions. Healthy fats help lower inflammation levels in the body to prevent disease. (1)
2. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Benefits of monounsaturated fat include improved insulin sensitivity. Millions of people suffer from insulin resistance. The condition causes glucose to build up into the bloodstream, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Replacing saturated fats in your diet with monounsaturated fats an help increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of obesity. (2)
3. Aids in Weight Loss
Studies have shown that benefits of monounsaturated fat include the ability to help you maintain a healthy weight. Diets high in monounsaturated fats have been shown to aid in weight loss and prevent further fat accumulation in the body. MUFA’s can also benefit those with precursor liver disease symptoms, by helping them lose weight and reduce cholesterol levels. (3)
4. Improves Mood
Benefits of monounsaturated fat include the ability to improve mood. Studies have shown that replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats can help increase physical activity, energy expenditure and mood. These benefits of monounsaturated fat stem from their ability to activate dopamine in the brain. Studies suggest that avocados, peanuts, extra virgin olive oil and other foods that contain monounsaturated fats may be a beneficial addition to a depression diet. (4)
5. Strengthens Bones
Diets high in saturated fats can lead to lower bone density and reduced calcium absorption. Benefits of monounsaturated fats include strong bones. The fats allow the bones to absorb calcium more efficiently, to help reduce the risk of weak bones, fractures and osteoporosis. (5)
6. Reduces Cancer Risk
Benefits of monounsaturated fat include a reduced risk of cancer. MUFA’s are listed among some of the top cancer-fighting foods. Studies have shown that monounsaturated fats may help reduce the risk of endometrial, breast and liver cancers. (6)
Best Monounsaturated Fats
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Tea seed oil