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What Is Monounsaturated Fat? (Sources, Benefits & Function)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: April 18, 2022

When people see fat listed on the nutritional label of food, they often indiscriminately jump to the conclusion that it’s bad and must be avoided at all costs.

But in reality, the human body is highly reliant on different types of fat to properly function. And having a deficiency in healthy fats can have some significant impacts on your overall health.

So, to help our readers better understand monounsaturated fat, I sat down with my dietitian to get the full background and scientific research behind it.

Here’s what I learned.

Quick Summary

  • Monounsaturated fat has a loose molecule bond, which means it’s liquid at room temperature like certain types of plant-based oils.
  • This type of fat is a vital nutrient that has been associated with improved brain and heart health.
  • There is an ideal range of daily monounsaturated fat intake, and it’s important to monitor this carefully to optimize your diet.

How Does Science Define Monounsaturated Fat?

A bowl of almonds and hazelnuts

Science defines monounsaturated fat as having one double carbon bond in the molecule [1].

Yes, that sounds complicated, and I won’t bore you with the chemistry behind this.

What it means is that the molecules are not tightly bound, and as a result, monounsaturated fat will be liquid at room temperature.

Here are some examples of foods that are rich in monounsaturated fat:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Canola oil
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts

Adding more of these to your daily meal plans is tasty, and getting the right amount is easy to achieve through your main meals.

More on that shortly.

Related Article: All Types Of Fat

What Is Better: Mono Or Polyunsaturated Fat?

Neither monounsaturated fat nor polyunsaturated fat can be classed as better for your health.

Your body requires both of them to function properly; however, when it comes to the types of the latter, omega 3s are much more beneficial than omega 6s, and you should focus on getting more of the first into your diet [2].

Monounsaturated fats have been predominantly linked to improving heart health and reducing the risks of strokes [3]. And the main benefits of polyunsaturated fat have been linked to providing anti-inflammatory effects [4].

However, there is one interesting study that showed that an increased polyunsaturated fat intake could reduce the risks of heart disease by almost 20% [5].

How are Monounsaturated Fats Different From Polyunsaturated Fats?

Top view of olive oil

The main difference between mono and polyunsaturated fat comes down to the carbon bonds in the molecules [6].

Monounsaturated fats have only one double bond in the molecule, while polyunsaturated fat has multiple double bonds.

Now, you won’t be able to tell this from the taste or texture of the fat, and many types of plant sources will contain both types of fat.

But the reason this is important comes down to how stable these oils are and what physical responses they trigger.

Because of that one double bond (mono comes from Greek, and it means one or single), monounsaturated ones are much more stable and less prone to oxidation when exposed to air for longer periods of time. This means polyunsaturated fats go rancid much more quickly and easily than mono ones.

Another thing that stands out with monounsaturated fat is that it can have a more direct impact on how your blood vessels function as well as your glucose levels [7].

“Consuming monounsaturated fatty acids may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving your risk factors. For instance, MUFAs may lower your total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels but maintain your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level.” - Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D at MayoClinic.org.

How Much Should You Eat?

Avocado slices on plate

You should aim to eat up to 20% monounsaturated fat for your daily calorie intake [8].

And it’s easiest to explain what that means with an example.

Let’s take the average daily calorie intake for an adult male at 2,000 calories. Here’s what you need to do to calculate the correct amount.

Monounsaturated fat: 2,000 calories x 20% = 400 calories / 9 = 44 grams

Obviously, you’d need to adjust that up or down if your daily calorie intake is different, but you get the gist.

To give you an idea of what that means, a tablespoon of olive oil has 11 grams of monounsaturated fat [9]. So it wouldn’t take much to increase your intake.

Related Article: How Much Fat Should You Eat Per Day?

FAQs

Is Monounsaturated Fat Good for You?

Yes, monounsaturated fat in the right amounts is good for you. It plays a vital role in delivering antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can improve your heart and brain health.

Is Cheese High in Monounsaturated Fat?

No, cheese is not high in monounsaturated fat. Depending on the type of cheese, it’s more likely to contain saturated fat, which you should limit in your daily food plans.

Keep Track Of Your Monounsaturated Fat Intake

The first thing I would advise you to do is get into the habit of keeping a food journal with an app like Noom. It’s an easy way to get exact details about your nutrient intake, and you’ll see if you have any deficiencies.

The result can be much better control over your heart health and blood sugar levels, and it should also impact your weight management.

If you want to take things one step further with your diet, then my fitness advice is to consider taking a natural nighttime fat burner to help with controlling your weight.

They aren’t magic pills, but with the right macro-based diet and exercise routine, they can significantly speed up your progress towards an ideal weight.


References:

  1. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/monounsaturated-fats
  2. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3-supplements-in-depth
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000785.htm
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3821664/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20351774/
  6. https://pediaa.com/difference-between-monounsaturated-and-polyunsaturated-fats/
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/mufas/faq-20057775
  8. https://news.christianacare.org/2013/04/nutrition-numbers-revealed-fat-intake/
  9. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/olive-oil-vs-coconut-oil-which-is-heart-healthier

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