Q. I've heard about MUFAs. What are they and why should I eat them?
A. MUFA is the acronym for monounsaturated fatty acids, a much healthier type of fat. There are real health benefits in using fats like MUFAs and PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) instead of saturated fats and trans fats. Remember, the word "hydrogenated" on a label means some of the polyunsaturated fat has been converted to saturated fat.
Eating MUFAs can help lower the risk of heart disease by positively affecting associated risk factors. For example, MUFAs can impact total blood cholesterol and low-density lipid (LDL) cholesterol levels for the better, as well as help normalize insulin and blood sugar levels.
MUFAs are a large part of what make the Mediterranean diet so healthful. However, because MUFAs are high in calories they're best used in moderation and as alternatives to other fatty foods, not alongside them. The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services now recommend that healthy fats make up between 20 to 35 percent of daily intake.
Being especially fat-savvy does take extra research but can make a big difference to overall health and energy. For instance, a cup of avocado contains approximately 30 grams of good fat calories that are more easily digested than the equivalent in a small handful of nuts or seeds. Though they both contain a similar amount of MUFA, the nuts are more difficult to break down and the body will spend extra energy digesting them. Raw nuts, in particular, are digested more easily than those that are roasted. However, this extra energy spent isn't like burning calories with exercise. It's more accurately understood as a drain on "expensive" enzymes. It places a higher tax on the pancreas and bile production in the liver.
Although cooking your eggs in olive oil won't be a miracle cure for anything, compared to cooking with butter or adding cheese, it's an improvement. To really embrace the MUFA lifestyle, check out the TLC diet, and learn more about the amazing benefits of konjac root and drinking yerba mate.
Also, discontinue use of aerosol cooking sprays. Low-grade processing + propellants = bad oil.
GOOD MUFA SOURCES:
Avocados and avocado oil
Olives and olive oil
Sesame seeds and sesame oil
Expeller and cold-pressed canola, safflower, cottonseed, and sunflower oils
Nuts, nut oils and nut butters especially almonds, pecans and macadamias
Cashews (cashew oil and completely raw seeds are inedible)
High-oleic peanuts, butters and peanut oil
Herring, sardines, salmon, mackerel
Ethan Engel is the associate editor of Marmapoints.