Monounsaturated Fats: How Food Affects Health

This kind of fat can be a good friend, provided you don’t hang out with it all the time! Used in moderation, monounsaturated fats have enormous health benefits.

Monounsaturated fats are healthy fats found in abundance in olive oil, avocado, seeds, nuts, and nut butters. Like other fats, monounsaturated fats are high in calories (about double the calories per gram that carbs and protein provide), so you’ll want to carefully watch portions if you’re trying to lose weight. However, everyone needs some fat in their diet to maintain good health, a healthy weight, and normal physiological functions. These healthy sources of fat can also add flavor, help satiate your appetite, and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Monounsaturated fats help protect your heart by lowering blood pressure, improving your cholesterol profile, and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease — specifically when you use them to replace unhealthy fats. In other words, cook your food in olive or canola oil instead of butter, lard, or stick margarine There is also some evidence that substituting monounsaturated fats for refined carbohydrates in your diet can increase your HDL (good) cholesterol. For example, snack on nuts and seeds instead of cookies, pretzels, crackers, or candy. And you’ll want to increase your consumption of monounsaturated fats if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes because they may lower peak blood-glucose response.

Some monounsaturated fats like olives and olive oil also contain polyphenols, antioxidants that protect the body from inflammation, which can ease arthritis pain and reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of migraine headaches.

The best food sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil (and olives), canola oil, avocado, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, pine nuts, peanut butter (and other nut butters), sesame seeds (and tahini), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.