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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Fats >>  Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are the main two type of unsaturated fatty acid. In unsaturated fatty acid either one or more than one pair of hydrogen atom is missing. If there is one gap (one hydrogen atom missing) then it is called monounsaturated fatty acid and if there are many gaps (many hydrogen atoms missing) then it is called polyunsaturated fatty acid. Monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) contains all single bonds and only one double bond in its carbon chain, while polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) contains more than one double bond in its chain.
The fluidity of fatty acids depends on the number of double bonds present in its chain.
Thus MUFA is liquid in room temperature but solidifies when refrigerated and has a melting temperature lower than saturated fatty acids, but higher than PUFA.

Palmitoleic acid and oleic acid are the most common monosaturated fatty acid. Palmitoleic acid has a long chain of 16 carbon atoms and had double bond on the 7th carbon atom away from the methyl group. While oleic acid has 18 carbon atoms in its chain and has a double bond on the 9th carbon atom away from the methyl group.

Avocadoes and nuts are good sources of monounsaturated fatty acid and it is also the main component of olive oil and tea-oil camellia. Olive oil has about 75% MUFA and tea-oil camellia has over 80% MUFA. Canola oil also has substantial amount of MUFA; 57-60%. Other oils with high MUFA content include grapeseed oil, peanut oil/groundnut oil, sesame oil, flaxseed oil and corn oil. Tea-oil camellia is a commonly used in cooking in parts of Asia and olive oil is believed to have a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases and is a key component in the Mediterranean diet.

Monounsaturated fatty acids are not as vulnerable as polyunsaturated fatty acids to lipid peroxidation that leads to fat rancidity. On the contrary monounsaturated fatty acid promote insulin resistance, where as polyunsaturated fatty acids are only protective against insulin resistance.

Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fat is a trend, as there are researches that prove monounsaturated fatty acid might have protective effect against heart diseases. Monounsaturated fatty acid is also included as a main source of fat in patients with compromised liver function and other digestive issues, for a simple reason as they do not require many enzymes to get digested and are absorbed easily by the body to provide energy. The total fat in a healthy individual’s diet should not exceed beyond 30% of the total calories out of which MUFA can be as high as 15% of the total caloric intake.

Submitted on January 16, 2014