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Monounsaturated Fat Functions and Facts

Sep 22, 2009

Monounsaturated fat is considered to be the healthiest type of dietary fat. Monounsaturated fats remain stable at higher temperatures, and are therefore better for cooking because they're less likely to hydrogenate or become saturated. Monounsaturated fats also carry a number of health benefits.

What are Monounsaturated Fats?

Chemically speaking, monounsaturated fats are fats that have one double-bonded carbon in the molecule. They are liquid at room temperature and begin to turn solid when chilled. Olive oil is an example of a monounsaturated fat.

Monounsaturated Fats Can Lower Your Risks of Stroke, Heart Disease and Cancer

When eaten in moderation, and used to replace saturated and trans fatty acids in your diet, monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your health. They can help decrease the levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol in your blood, while increasing levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. They can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, while providing nutrients, such as vitamin E, that your body needs. Monounsaturated fats can also decrease your risk for breast cancer, help you lose weight and relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.

Monounsaturated Fats Help Your Body Absorb Nutrients

Some amount of fat is essential to a healthy diet because fats help your body absorb nutrients, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats provide energy and help to keep our hair and skin healthy. Fats also help you feel full after a meal.

Monounsaturated Fats Regulate Bodily Functions

Monounsaturated fats and fatty acids help keep your heart healthy by reducing total cholesterol, triglycerides and "bad" LDL cholesterol, while increasing levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood. Fats are needed for normal growth and development in children, and they help keep our brains and central nervous systems healthy. They also produce hormone-like substances that regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and the immune system.

Balancing Monounsaturated Fats in Your Diet

While monounsaturated fats can have a number of health benefits, it's still important not to consume too many of them. No more than 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat. You should minimize your intake of saturated fats and trans fatty acids as much as possible, and try to substitute monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats instead.

Monounsaturated fats come mostly from plant sources. Foods that contain monounsaturated fats include:

  • peanuts
  • avocados 
  • olives
  • canola, olive, almond, hazelnut and peanut oils

Remember, monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and may become solid when chilled. Fats that are solid at room temperature, such as stick margarine and vegetable shortening, contain hydrogenated oils and may be high in trans fatty acids. Try to keep these types of fats out of your diet; use canola, olive, peanut or almond oil and tub margarine instead. Avoid processed foods and deep fried foods, such as donuts and french fries, as these are often high in trans fatty acids.

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