Food With High Monounsaturated Fat


Wondering what are the Food With High Monounsaturated Fat? Monounsaturated fat has been shown to lower your LDL or bad cholesterol levels, while raising your HDL, also known as good cholesterol. Research also indicates that monounsaturated fats may lower blood pressure. Foods high in monounsaturated fish or olive oil include salmon, mackerel, shrimp and avocados – each of which are full of healthy fats and vitamins.

Monounsaturated fat benefits are numerous. A detailed look at this type of fat will reveal that it has great potential for both your health and weight management.

Food With High Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsturated Fats

Most people look for the nutrition chart given on the packet while purchasing any food item so that they can keep their calorie intake under control. The nutrition fact label provides detailed information about the nutrient content of food items, such as the amount of fat, carbohydrates, proteins, and fiber it has. While most of these contents are essential macronutrients required for human metabolism, their excess intake can cause several health problems. In particular, the excess consumption of dietary fat can cause several issues such as obesity, clogged arteries, an increased risk of certain diseases, and so forth. Therefore, it is advised to analyze the fat content of a food item before eating it. All food items containing fats have a mix of specific types of fats. Essentially, all fats are organic compounds made of hydrocarbon molecules. The classification of fats is based on their chemical composition. In chemistry, fats (oils) often refer specifically to triglycerides (esters composed of three fatty acid units joined to glycerol, trihydroxy alcohol). They are primarily classified into two categories: saturated and unsaturated.

Schematic diagram of a triglyceride with a saturated fatty acid (top), a monounsaturated one (middle), and a polyunsaturated one (bottom).

Saturated fats do not contain any double-bonded carbons in the hydrocarbon chain, whereas unsaturated fats are those, which have at least one doubly-bonded pair of carbon atoms in the hydrocarbon chain. Dietary fats provide fatty acids for the synthesis of the cell membrane (a vital component of all animal cells).  Unsaturated fats have gaps (uneven structures) due to the presence of double-bonded atoms. These gaps provide membrane fluidity, facilitating membrane transport and cellular signaling. While both types are needed for the optimal composition of the cell membrane, abundance in saturated fats would make the membrane rigid and hinder cellular responsiveness. Overall, unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats. Unsaturated fats are further classified into monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), the one with a single double bond, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), the one with two or more double bonds. The most common fatty acids in the human diet are unsaturated or monounsaturated. The quantitatively most important representative in the diet and tissue lipids is oleic acid (18:1, n-9) with a double bond at the n-9 (ω9) position. Like other fatty acids, MUFAs are almost completely absorbed from the intestine and are oxidized (for energy production), converted into other fatty acids, or incorporated into tissue lipids. Humans can synthesize monounsaturated fatty acids, and therefore, they do not require them as such from the diet. However, monosaturated fatty acids have certain benefits on cardiovascular health when used to replace saturated and trans fats in the diet. These effects include helping to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while maintaining HDL (“good”) cholesterol and improving blood vessel function. Observational studies have shown that replacing 5% of energy from saturated fat with monounsaturated fatty acids has been associated with a 15% lower risk of coronary heart disease, and that replacement of saturated fat with MUFAs (mainly from plant sources) decreases CHD risk. Though the fat content we read on the nutrition chart of the food items is a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats, few food items are rich in monounsaturated fat content. Let’s take a look at a few examples of monosaturated fats sources in daily life.

1. Avocado

It is not every day that we come across a food that is rich in fats and still good for health. Avocado is a bright green fruit with a large pit and dark leathery skin. You need to consume a certain amount of fat for good health, as your body needs fat for energy, blood clotting, brain development, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, and limiting inflammation. Avocados contain naturally good fats. In fact, over 75% of the fat in avocados is good fat with 5g coming from monounsaturated fat (MUFA) and 1g from polyunsaturated fat per 50g serving. Avocados are an excellent substitute for saturated or trans fats in your favorite dishes. The most abundant fatty acid is oleic acid, which is also the main component of olive oil. Research has linked oleic acid to reduced inflammation and it may have beneficial effects on cancer. Avocado oil is an excellent source of healthful fats, and animal studies suggest they offer protection against inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes. Avocados are rich in many essential vitamins and minerals. Some of the most abundant ones include vitamins, folate, potassium, and copper.

2. Algal Oil

Most of us are familiar with the greenish film called algae that develops on ponds and lakes. In addition to their ecological importance as an oxygen producer for aquatic life, algae are also an economically important source of crude oil, which has several applications in various industries, especially in the pharmaceutical sector. Chemical analysis of the crude oil produced from algae shows that it has a 92% concentration of monounsaturated fats present in it. This makes it a potential alternative for several oils used in culinary arts. There are hundreds of strains of algae, which can be crossbred and otherwise genetically modified in ways that shift the organism’s nutrient profile. That’s how algae oil for cooking is produced. Due to the presence of omega-3 and omega -9 monounsaturated fatty acids in algal oil, it is quite important in the pharmaceutical industry. These fatty acids can reduce inflammation (swelling), improve levels of some fats in the blood, and help with brain function. It also has the potential for improving thinking skills in children and older people, lowering cholesterol, improving vision in people with a certain eye condition (retinitis pigmentosa), and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

3. Olive Oil

When we talk about dietary choices, olive oil is viewed as a healthier option in comparison to most of the other commercially available cooking oils. Olive oil is the fat that is obtained from crushing olives, the fruit of the olive tree. People use olive oil in cooking, cosmetics, medicine, soaps, and as a fuel for traditional lamps. Olive oil originally came from the Mediterranean, but today, it is popular around the world. After harvest, olives are crushed into a paste and then decanted and put through a centrifugation process to separate the oil. The final product is then stored in stainless steel tanks that are protected from oxygen. When bottled, the oil should go into a dark glass bottle to keep it fresh. Healthwise, olive oil is packed with 75% of monounsaturated fatty acid, which reduces the risk of high cholesterol levels and several cardiovascular diseases. One tablespoon of olive oil contains 13.5 g of fats, out of which monounsaturated fatty acids contribute to 9.1 g, and saturated fats only contribute to the 1.9 g, remaining 2.5 g is accounted for by the presence of several vitamins. The majority of olive oils comprises oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, abbreviated with a lipid number of 18:1 cis-9. The quality of olive oil is defined as a percentage of grams of oleic acid, the main fatty acid present in olive oil, in 100 grams of oil. Based on this percentage, the highest quality olive oil (Extra-Virgin olive oil) must feature a free acidity lower than 0.8%, the virgin olive oil is characterized by acidity between 0.8% and 2%, and the lampante olive oil (a low-quality oil that is not edible) features a free acidity higher than 2%.

4. Sunflower Oil

Sunflower is a beautiful tall plant, scientifically known as Helianthus, belonging to the daisy family Asteraceae, whose flower looks like the sun. However, there is more to their nature than just beauty. The multipurpose plants deliver healthy snacks, useful oil, and bird seeds. Any potential benefits of sunflower oil depend on the type and nutrient composition. Originally domesticated as a crop around 2100 BCE, sunflower oil, today, has become a popular food, medicine, and skincare ingredient. It is available in several forms, each with a different formula and with its own health benefits. Sunflower oil is also commonly used in the kitchen because of its mild flavor and high smoke point (the temperature at which an oil or fat begins to produce a continuous bluish smoke that may catch fire). Sunflower oil is primarily composed of both polyunsaturated fatty acid (Linoleic acid) and monounsaturated fatty acid (Oleic acid). There are three types of sunflower oils available commercially in the market:

  • High-Linoleic sunflower oil found on grocery store shelves today is high in polyunsaturates or linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid. It is an excellent home cooking oil and salad oil with a light, clean taste, high smoke point, and low level of saturated fat.
  • High oleic sunflower oil is premium sunflower oil with monounsaturated levels of 80% and above. It is used in the food and industrial applications where high monounsaturated levels are required.
  • Nu-Sun is a mid-oleic sunflower oil new to the market. Developed by standard hybrid procedures, it has a monounsaturated level (oleic) of between 55-75% with an average of about 60-65%. Saturated fat levels of 8-9% are 20% lower than linoleic sunflower oil. The balance of its composition is linoleic acid. NuSun is mostly used in commercial frying applications. It requires no hydrogenation, thus eliminating the concern of trans fatty acids. The 25% linoleic presence adds the benefit of pleasing taste.

5. Canola Oil


Canola is a bright, yellow-flowering plant belonging to the Brassicaceae family. This family includes three different species: Brassica napus, B. rapa, and B. juncea. Originally from the Mediterranean area and Northern Europe, B. napus are commonly known as rapeseed. Rapeseed was identified in 2000 BC as a high-erucic acid crop, containing >40% erucic acid in the oil. Erucic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid that mainly enters the food chain when rapeseed oil is used in industrial food processing and home cooking in some countries. Canola oil is composed of low level (7%) of saturated fatty acids (SFAs), substantial amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) including 61% oleic acid, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) including 21% linoleic acid and 11% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). With regard to the high MUFA content of canola oil, there is enough evidence supporting the positive effects of MUFAs compared with SFAs on cardiovascular health through the regulation of plasma lipids and lipoproteins, susceptibility of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, and insulin sensitivity. Also, for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, canola oil has been recommended for achieving daily n-3 FA requirements of 1 g/day. It’s important to note that the heating methods used during canola manufacturing as well as high-heat cooking methods like frying, negatively impact polyunsaturated fats like ALA. Although canola oil is one of the most widely used oils in the food industry, comparatively few long-term studies exist on its health impacts. While some studies link it to improved health, many suggest it causes inflammation and harms to our memory and the heart. Until larger and better-quality studies are available, it may be best to choose oils that have been proven healthy, such as extra virgin olive oil, instead.

6. Nuts


Nuts are some of the best sources of monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats help lower cholesterol levels and can stabilize blood sugar levels, which is especially important if you are diabetic. Some of the nuts rich in monounsaturated fats are pecans, almonds, pistachios, and peanuts. Among them, pecans are considered to be the healthiest and the richest source of MUFAs in the diet. Pecans about 74% fat out of which 8% are saturated fats, 58% of monounsaturated fats, and 27% are polyunsaturated fats. Pecans are also a rich source of manganese, copper, magnesium, thiamine, phosphorus, copper, zinc, iron, and fiber. They are believed to lower the lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in people with normal lipid levels.

7. Animal Fat


Animal products provide a wide variety of nutrients important in the human diet. They are the sole food sources of some nutrients and provide one-half or more of other nutrients. Animal fats are a by-product of the whole meat chain, but they are not produced as such. Animal fats are only produced in relation to the raising of animals for meat, eggs, milk, or wool production. Animal fats are a side, co-, or by-product of the production of another animal product. Animal fats are rendered tissue fats that can be obtained from a variety of animals. Although many animal parts and secretions may yield oil, in commercial practice, oil is extracted primarily from rendered tissue fats from livestock animals like pigs, chickens, and cows. Dairy products yield animal fat and oil products such as butter. Out of many fats and oils produced as a by-product of meat harvesting, Tallow and Lard are particularly rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. Tallow is a hard fat rendered from the fatty tissues of cattle that is removed during the processing of beef. It has around 50% of MUFAs present in it, whereas, lard is the fat rendered from clean, edible tissues of hogs in good health at the time of slaughter. Its production is limited to certain killing and cutting fats from the hog. Lard usually comprises 40% monounsaturated fatty acids.

Food With High Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fat is present in both plant foods and animal products. One of the healthiest examples of monounsaturated fat that people may be familiar with is olive oil.

Chemically speaking, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are fat molecules with one unsaturated double carbon bond. These fats are usually liquid when at room temperature and turn solid when chilled.

In common with all types of fats, monounsaturated fats contain nine calories per gram.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA) monounsaturated fats can positively affect someone’s health when they eat them in moderation.

The AHA advises that the majority of fats that people eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

People should consume monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats instead of foods that contain saturated or trans fats, as these can negatively affect their health.

The following sections look at what the evidence says about specific health effects of monounsaturated fats.

Heart health

Some evidence suggests that monounsaturated fats can improve heart health.

For example, the PREDIMED study indicated a link between intakes of MUFAs and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

The AHA also advises that monounsaturated fats can improve someone’s cholesterol profile and lower their risk for heart disease and stroke. They add that monounsaturated fats also contribute the antioxidant vitamin E to the diet, which many people living in the United States are deficient in.

A 2018 review explains that compared to eating a high saturated fat meal, consuming a high monounsaturated fat meal has the following benefits:

  • larger, more buoyant low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles, which are less dangerous to heart health
  • faster clearance of fats after eating
  • more fat burning and less fat storage
  • reduction in fasting triglycerides and coagulation factors

Additionally, a 2019 laboratory study on human veins showed that MUFAs prevented the damaging effects of saturated fats on cells.

Although scientists need to do more research, the researchers suggest that the protective effects of MUFAs could be important for heart health.


According to a 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis, diets high in MUFAs may benefit people with type 2 diabetes.

The review suggested that compared to high carbohydrate diets, high MUFA diets reduced the following risk factors:

  • fasting plasma glucose
  • triglycerides
  • body weight
  • systolic blood pressure

The researchers also found that high MUFA diets increased beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Additionally, high MUFA diets had more beneficial effects on fasting glucose than high polyunsaturated fatty acid diets.

Inflammation and obesity

According to a 2021 review, evidence links MUFAs to anti-inflammatory states and less obesity. Conversely, saturated fats are inflammatory and can contribute to excess weight and obesity.

The researchers point out that the Mediterranean diet includes 60% MUFAs compared with 36% in the Western diet.

People consuming a Mediterranean diet have less incidence of obesity and its related inflammatory effects, such as cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, the TOMORROW study suggested that anti-inflammatory MUFAs might suppress disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Sources of Monounsaturated Fat

Although animal products such as eggs and meat contain MUFAs, the richest sources are plant foods. Good sources of MUFAs include:

  • olive oil
  • canola oil
  • peanut oil
  • sesame oil
  • safflower oil
  • avocados
  • peanut butter
  • nuts and seeds


Monounsaturated fats are a healthy addition to a person’s diet.

Compared to saturated fats, which experts advise that people limit, monounsaturated fats can have several health benefits. These include less risk of obesity and heart diseases.

A sensible approach is to replace most saturated fats with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. However, to maintain a moderate weight, people should not eat too much fat.

Monounsaturated Fat Benefits

1. Monounsaturated Fats May Help You Lose Weight

All fats provide the same amount of energy — 9 calories per gram — while carbs and protein provide 4 calories per gram.

Therefore, reducing the amount of fat in your diet can be an effective way to reduce your calorie intake and lose weight.

However, a diet with moderate-to-high amounts of monounsaturated fats can also help with weight loss, as long as you aren’t eating more calories than you’re burning

A couple of studies have shown that when calorie intake remained the same, diets high in MUFAs led to weight loss similar to that of low-fat diets

For example, one study of 124 people who were overweight or obese found that eating either a high-MUFA diet (20% of total calories) or a high-carb diet for one year led to comparable weight loss of around 8.8 pounds (4 kg)

A larger study that combined the results of 24 other studies showed that high-MUFA diets are slightly more effective than high-carb diets for weight loss

Therefore, high-MUFA diets can be an effective way to lose weight when replacing other calories, rather than adding extra calories to the diet.

SUMMARY:High-MUFA diets can help with weight loss and may be more effective than low-fat, high-carb diets.

2. They May Help Reduce Risk Factors for Heart Disease

There is a big debate in nutrition about whether excessive saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease.

However, there is good evidence that increasing MUFAs in your diet can reduce risk factors for heart disease, especially if you’re replacing saturated fat.

Too much cholesterol in the blood is a risk factor for heart disease, as it can clog arteries and lead to heart attacks or stroke. Various studies have shown that a high intake of monounsaturated fats can reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides

For example, one study of 162 healthy people compared three months of a high-MUFA diet with a high-saturated fat diet to see the effects on blood cholesterol.

This study found that the diet high in saturated fat increased unhealthy LDL cholesterol by 4%, while the high-MUFA diet reduced LDL cholesterol by 5%

Other smaller studies have found similar results of MUFAs reducing LDL cholesterol and also increasing “good” HDL cholesterol

High-MUFA diets can help lower blood pressure, too. A large study of 164 people with high blood pressure found that a high-MUFA diet lowered blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, compared to a high-carb diet

Similar beneficial results in blood pressure have also been found in people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome

However, it is important to note that the beneficial effects of high-MUFA diets are only seen when they replace saturated fat or carbs in the diet.

Furthermore, in each of these studies, the high-MUFA diets were part of calorie-controlled diets, meaning that adding extra calories to your diet through high-MUFA foods may not have the same benefits.

SUMMARY:High-MUFA diets may help reduce blood cholesterol, blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors, particularly if they replace some saturated fats in the diet.

3. They May Help Reduce Cancer Risk

There is also some evidence that diets rich in MUFAs may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Prostate cancer, for example, is one of the most common types of cancer in men, especially older men.

Many studies have examined whether men who eat a good amount of MUFAs have reduced or increased rates of prostate cancer, but the evidence remains unclear.

Each of the studies examining the role of high-MUFA diets in prostate cancer has found different results. Some show a protective effect, some show no effect and others show a harmful effect

One of these studies suggested that other components of high-MUFA foods may cause the protective effect rather than the MUFAs themselves. Therefore, it is unclear how MUFAs affect prostate cancer.

High-MUFA diets have also been studied in relation to breast cancer risk

One large study of 642 women found that those with the highest amounts of oleic acid (a type of MUFA found in olive oil) in their fat tissue had the lowest rates of breast cancer

However, this was only seen in women in Spain — where olive oil is widely consumed — and not in women from other countries. This suggests it may be another component of olive oil that has a protective effect.

In fact, a number of studies have examined olive oil specifically and found that people who eat more olive oil have lower rates of breast cancer

Moreover, all of these studies were observational, meaning they can’t prove cause and effect. Thus, other components of diet and lifestyle may be contributing to this beneficial effect.

SUMMARY:People with high MUFA intakes have lower rates of breast cancer. However, this may due to other components of MUFA-containing foods, rather than MUFAs themselves.

4. Monounsaturated Fats May Help Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is a hormone that controls your blood sugar by moving it from the blood into your cells. The production of insulin is important for preventing high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes.

Studies have shown that high-MUFA diets can improve insulin sensitivity in both those with and without high blood sugar.

One study of 162 healthy people found that eating a high-MUFA diet for three months improved insulin sensitivity by 9%

A similar, separate study of 472 people with metabolic syndrome found that those who ate a high-MUFA diet for 12 weeks had significantly reduced insulin resistance

Other studies have found similar beneficial effects of high-MUFA diets on insulin and blood sugar control

SUMMARY:High-MUFA diets may be beneficial for improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control in those with and without high blood sugar.

5. They May Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is a normal immune system process that helps your body fight infection.

But sometimes inflammation happens slowly over a long period of time, which can contribute to chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease.

Compared to other diets, such as high-saturated fat diets and Western diets, high-MUFA diets can reduce inflammation.

One study found that high-MUFA diets reduced inflammation in patients with metabolic syndrome, compared to high-saturated fat diets

Other studies have shown that people who eat a Mediterranean diet high in MUFAs have significantly lower inflammatory chemicals in their blood, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6)

High-MUFA diets can also reduce the expression of inflammatory genes in fat tissue compared to high-saturated fat diets. This may be one of the ways that MUFAs are helpful for weight loss

By reducing inflammation, high-MUFA diets may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

SUMMARY:High-MUFA diets may help to reduce inflammation, a process that can contribute to chronic disease.

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