Monounsaturated fats are commonly found in avocados, olive oil, and certain types of nuts. Evidence has shown that this type of fats is extremely beneficial for health and can help in weight reduction, a decrease in inflammation, and the treatment for heart diseases.
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What are the benefits of monounsaturated fats? What are the foods rich in monounsaturated fats? Keep reading to know more.
What are Monounsaturated Fats?
The fats that make up your food are not all the same. In fact, there are different kinds of them which vary according to their chemical structure.
Unsaturated fats refer to those with double bonds present in their basic structure. Monounsaturated fats, also known as MUFAs, are a subtype.
The word “mono” indicates that such type of fats consists of one bond in their structure. MUFAs are further classified into different types. The most common type is the one with oleic acid which makes up for about 90% of the fats we eat.
Other types of MUFAs include vaccenic acid and palmitoleic acid.
Most of the foods you eat have high concentrations of MUFAs in them. However, these foods are also rich in other types of fat at the same time. Only a limited number of foods currently have one type of fat in their composition.
How do you know if a particular food item is rich in unsaturated fats?
Foods that tend to have higher levels of unsaturated fats are found in liquid form at room temperature. The biggest example of such food items is olive oil. Butter and coconut oil, on the other hand, are solid at room temperature as they mainly consist of saturated fats.
This difference is important as different kinds of fat affect your health in a different manner. Monounsaturated fats are extremely beneficial for health in contrast to the saturated fats.
Monounsaturated Fats for Weight Reduction
All types of fats provide an equal amount of energy to the body i.e. 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, release 4 calories of energy per gram.
This means that reducing the amount of fat in your daily food can effectively help in weight reduction. However, cutting off fat from your diet may not be easy.
Alternatively, you may consider switching to a diet with a moderate level of monounsaturated fats. This is practically feasible as long as you burn more than you consume.
It has been proven the diets with high levels of MUFAs can lead to weight loss if taken in same caloric amounts.
One particular study established that obese people who took MUFAs as 20% of their total diet for a year lost 8.8 pounds. A diet rich in MUFAs has also been found to be a little more effective as compared to a high carb diet.
Monounsaturated Fats for a Healthy Heart
The role of saturated fats is still controversial regarding their effects on the health of the human heart. On the other hand, MUFAs are proven to be extremely healthy for the heart as they reduce the risk of different cardiovascular complications.
Cholesterol is known as an enemy of your heart. High levels of this agent can prove deadly for the cardiovascular health as it increases the risk of stroke or heart attacks.
Studies have proven that MUFAs can significantly reduce the levels of cholesterol in the human body. This means that consuming these fats can strengthen your heart. These fats may even reduce the levels of bad triglycerides in your body.
Other benefits of monounsaturated fats include a reduction in the LDL cholesterol and increase in the levels of HDL cholesterol that is good for your body.
A diet rich in MUFAs is also said to lower the blood pressure. By controlling hypertension, these fats can eventually cut down the risk of a major cardiovascular event as well.
MUFAs are also beneficial for people who are suffering from Type 2 diabetes or any other metabolic syndrome. However, it is important to remember that the benefits of MUFAs are only visible when they completely replace the carbohydrates or other saturated fats in your diet.
Moreover, the role of MUFAs is beneficial only in a setup where calories are controlled. This means that adding MUFAs to a diet where caloric intake is being increased may not be beneficial.
MUFAs and the Risk of Cancer
MUFAs can help in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. One such type of cancer is cancer of the prostate in men.
A lot of studies have investigated the role of MUFAs in preventing prostate cancer. Variable results have been recorded in this regard with some rendering MUFAs effective against prostate cancer while others being inconclusive.
Diets rich in MUFAs have also been studied for their effect on breast cancer.
A study in this regard investigated the role of oleic acid in relation to the prevalence of breast cancer. The study established that women who used this fatty acid in the form of olive oil had the lowest rates of developing breast cancer.
Monounsaturated Fats and their Role in Diabetes
Insulin is a hormone that is naturally produced by your body. It is responsible for controlling your blood sugar by moving it into the cells and clearing it in the blood.
The production of insulin is extremely important as it prevents certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Scientists have proven that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats can significantly improve the body’s sensitivity towards insulin. This effect can be achieved in all the people irrespective of their blood sugar levels.
One such study examined 162 people who consumed a diet rich in MUFAs for three months. The results concluded that these participants observed an improvement in their insulin sensitivity by 9%.
What are the Sources of Monounsaturated Fats?
If you are interested in gaining the benefits of monounsaturated fats, you must switch to plant-based foods immediately. Such food items include seeds, nuts, and olive oil.
MUFAs can also be found in certain animal-based food items. However, the plant-based sources, olive oil, for example, are generally more desirable as compared to the animal-based sources.
Following is a list of all the food items rich in monounsaturated fats. Each of these items is accompanied by the total amount of MUFAs in grams present in 3.5 ounces of each item.
Almonds: 33.6 g
Peanuts: 24.7 g
Olives: 15 g
Pistachios: 24 g
Olive Oil: 73.1 g
Eggs: 4 g
Avocados: 9.8 g
Pork: 10.8 g
The Bottom Line
Monounsaturated fats are extremely healthy for your body and are generally found in plant-based foods such as nuts and olive oil. You may also obtain it from certain animal-based foods as well.
Foods rich in monounsaturated fats can help in reducing weight. These items can also decrease your risk of getting cardiovascular diseases as long as they are not adding to your daily caloric intake.
Foods containing high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil can also reduce inflammation in your body. These fats can lower the risk of acquiring cancer and may improve insulin resistance in the patients with diabetes.
It is generally important to eat other types of fats. However, replacing the unhealthy ones with MUFAs can bring a large number of health benefits to your body.