MUFA: the funny-sounding fat you should know about

ChemCompound_sqContrary to popular belief, fat is critical in keeping our bodies healthy. However, that doesn’t mean we can eat just any kind of fat. The key to maintaining good health, a nutritious diet, and a happy GI tract is eating the right kinds of fats in the right quantities. This post is on MUFAs, the funny-sounding fat you should know about and include in your diet.

MUFAs stand for monounsaturated fatty acids, but I like to refer to them as the Mediterranean fats. The high MUFA composition in this popular anti-inflammatory diet is partly to thank for its robust health benefits.

To better understand MUFAs, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of how fatty acids are classified.

Fatty acids are defined by how many carbon molecules they have as well as by the number and position of their double bonds. Saturated fats have no double bonds, which makes them very rigid whereas unsaturated fats (mono- and polyunsaturated fats) contain at least one double bond and are more bendable. Our cells prefer bendability over rigidity.

MUFAs have been shown to lower total and LDL (lousy) cholesterol, triglycerides (a type of fat in your body) and blood pressure. They’ve also been linked to increased levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and improved blood glucose control. Furthermore, MUFAs help fight chronic and unfavorable inflammation, the foundation for many serious illnesses.

All of these items are good sources of MUFAs:

  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Peanuts, peanut butter (all-natural), and peanut oil
  • Nuts and seeds, including nut and seed butters
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Organic canola oil
  • Sesame seeds and tahini (sesame paste commonly used in hummus)
  • Dark chocolate (yay!)

Notice that all of these foods are plant-based and therefore high in all kinds of other important disease-fighting nutrients. Also, healthy plant fats are generally better tolerated than animal fats and less likely to lead to gastrointestinal upset. Animal fats and fried foods often contribute to abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, and diarrhea (often urgent and after meals).

Bear in mind that all fats contain more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates so do be mindful of portion control.

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