Monounsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs)

monounsaturated fats are heart healthy

Monounsaturated fatty acids(MUFAs) are healthy fats that are liquid at room temperature.  They are most commonly associated with plant-based foods including  extra virgin olive oil,  nuts, avocados and avocado oil, macadamia nuts and macadamia nut oil, but they are also found in high concentrations in animal foods (including lard!)

These heart healthy-fats are a a staple in the Mediterranean diet and have been found have a wide variety of health benefits.

Health Benefits of Monounsaturated Fats

avocado oil monounsaturated fats

Avocado oil is a highly stable oil that’s rich in monounsaturated fats and great for cooking!

Before we look at the specific conditions these healthy fats have been found to benefit, lets take a look at what makes these fats unique:

  1. MUFAs Don’t Readily Oxidize: MUFAs are stable fats that contain only one double bond. This makes them much less prone to oxidation than their omega-6 cousins.
  2. MUFAs are Packaged with Potent Antioxidants: The foods rich in MUFAS also tend to be rich in antioxidants, minerals and phytonutrients, including magnesium, selenium, vitamin E and phenolic compounds, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin.
  3. MUFAs Reduce Inflammation: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined data from 690 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. Researchers found that higher “diet quality” scores – particularly on the Mediterranean Diet Index – were associated with lower concentrations of markers for endothelial dysfunction (endothelial cells are those that line the interior surface of blood vessels) and inflammation.

Now let’s take a look at how these healthy fats can help prevent disease.

MUFAs Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

  • The Mediterranean diet, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids was found to have the greatest positive effect on blood vessels dilation as well as reducing plasma levels of vascular cell-adhesion molecule.
  • In 2005, Greek scientists studying more than 3,000 men and women found those eating a diet closest to the traditional Mediterranean diet (rich in MUFAs) had 19% lower oxidized LDL levels than those with the lowest adherence to the diet.
  • A recent review in the journal Nutrition found that consumption of 50 –100 g/d of various nuts—including almonds, peanuts, pecans and walnuts – can significantly decrease total cholesterol and LDL.
Macadamia nuts

Fight cancer with macadamia nuts – the nut with the concentration of monounsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated Fats Fight Cancer

  • A recent study published in Public Health Nutrition found that women getting the most monounsaturated fat had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer than those getting the least.
  • A study published in Cancer Causes and Control found that men getting eating a MUFA rich diet had less chance of prostate cancer. And the more MUFA in the diet, the greater reduction in prostate cancer risk.

MUFAs Balance Blood Sugar & Promote Weight Loss

mufas weight loss

Trade your carbs for delicious sources of monounsaturated fat – like avocados, olives and macadamia nuts – and watch the fat fall off!

  • According to a study in Diabetes Care, a diet rich in monounsaturated fats helps reduce abdominal fat better than a carbohydrate-rich diet. When test subjects ate a carbohydrate enriched diet, they accumulated fat in the abdomen. When they ate a diet that had more MUFA, abdominal fat decreased (even without exercise).
  • A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that MUFAs have a profound effect on blood sugar. After six months on a MUFA-rich diet, fasting glucose dropped by 3%, insulin was reduced by 9.4% and the insulin resistance score was reduced by 12.1%.
  • A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that a MUFA-rich diet improves fasting insulin levels in insulin- resistant subjects. What’s more, eating a breakfast rich in virgin olive oil decreased the post-meal rise in blood sugar and insulin, while increasing the beneficial HDL cholesterol compared to a carb-rich breakfast.

Maximize Your MUFAs!

Now that you know how important monounsaturated fats are, use this list to get more of these healthy fats into your diet… deliciously!

Fat Composition of Common Nuts and Oils

Macadamia nuts (1 oz) 3 g 16 g 0g
Avocado (1 cup) 3 g 15 g 3g
Hazelnuts (1 oz) 1g 13g 2 g
Pecans (1 oz) 2g 11 g 6 g
Almonds (1 oz) 1 g 9 g 3.4 g
Brazil nuts ( 1 oz) 4 g 7 g 6 g
Cashews (1 oz) 2 g 7 g 2 g
Peanuts (1 oz) 2g 7g 4 g
Pistachios (1 oz) 1.5 g 6.5 g 4 g
Pine nuts (1 oz) 3 g 6 g 7 g
Olive oil (1 tsp) 0.7 g 4 g 0.5 g
Hazelnut oil (1 tsp) 0.3 g 3.5 g 0.5 g
Almond oil (1 tsp) 0.4 g 3 g 0.8 g
Apricot Kernel Oil (1 tsp) 0.3 g 3 g 1 g
Avocado oil (1 tsp) 0.5 g 3 g 0.6 g
Walnuts (1 oz) 2 g 2.5 g 13 g
Sesame oil (1 tsp) 0.6 g 1.8 g 1.8 g
Coconut (1 tsp 4.3 g 0.3 g 0 g
Walnut oil (1 tsp) 0.4 g 1 g 3 g
Grapeseed oil (1 tsp) 0.8 g 0.8 g 3.5 g
Flaxseed oil (1 tsp) 0.3 g 0.7 g 2.2 g
Palm oil (1 tsp) 3 g 0.4 g 0 g




Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs) - Found in:

Macadamia Nuts, Avocados, Olive Oil, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios, Brazil nuts, Peanuts, Pine Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Avocado Oil,
Riccardi G, Giacco R, Rivellese AA.Dietary fat, insulin sensitivity and the metabolic syndrome.Clin Nutr. 2004 Aug;23(4):447-56.Ros E. Dietary cis-monounsaturated fatty acids and metabolic control in type 2 diabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;78(3):617S-625S.FDA allows qualified health claim to decrease risk of coronary heart disease. FDA news release, November 1, 2004. Willett WC.The Mediterranean diet: science and practice.Public Health Nutr. 2006 Feb;9(1A):105-10.Esposito K, Marfella R, Ciotola M, Di Palo C, Giugliano F, Giugliano G, D`Armiento M, D`Andrea F, Giugliano D.Effect of a mediterranean-style diet on endothelial dysfunction and markers of vascular inflammation in the metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial.JAMA. 2004 Sep 22;292(12):1440-6. 168. de Lorgeril M, Salen P, Martin JL, Monjaud I, Delaye J, Mamelle N. Mediterranean diet, traditional risk factors, and the rate of cardiovascular complications after myocardial infarction: final report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study. Circulation. 1999;99(6):779-785. 207. Bes-Rastrollo M, Sabate J, Gomez-Gracia E, Alonso A, Martinez JA, Martinez-Gonzalez MA. Nut consumption and weight gain in a Mediterranean cohort: The SUN study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Jan;15(1):107-16. 2007. PMID:17228038. 208. Blomhoff R, Carlsen MH, Andersen LF, Jacobs DR Jr. Health benefits of nuts: potential role of antioxidants. Br J Nutr. 2006 Nov;96 Suppl 2:S52-60. 2006. PMID:17125534. 209. Jaceldo-Siegl K, Sabate J, Rajaram S, Fraser GE. Long-term almond supplementation without advice on food replacement induces favourable nutrient modifications to the habitual diets of free-living individuals. Br J Nutr. 2004 Sep;92(3):533-40. 2004. PMID:15469659. 210. Jambazian P, Haddad E, Rajaram S, Tanzman J, Sabate J. Almonds in the diet simultaneously improve plasma alpha- tocopherol concentrations and reduce plasma lipids. J Am Dietetic Assoc. 2005 March;105(3), 449-454. 2005. PMID:15746835. 211. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Josse AR, Salvatore S, Brighenti F, Augustin LS, Ellis PR, Vidgen E, Rao AV. Almonds decrease postprandial glycemia, insulinemia, and oxidative damage in healthy individuals. J Nutr. 2006 Dec;136(12):2987-92. 2006. PMID:17116708. 212. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, Faulkner DA, Josse AR, et al. Direct comparison of dietary portfolio vs. statin on C-reactive protein. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 May 18; [Epub ahead of print] 2005. PMID:15900306. Josse AR, Kendall CW, Augustin LS, Ellis PR, Jenkins DJ. Almonds and postprandial glycemia--a dose-response study. Metabolism. 2007 Mar;56(3):400-4. 2007. PMID:17292730. Kelly JH Jr, Sabate J. Nuts and coronary heart disease: an epidemiological perspective. Br J Nutr. 2006 Nov;96 Suppl 2:S61-7. 2006. PMID:17125535. Cortés B et al. “Acute effects of high-fat meals enriched with walnuts or olive oil on postprandial endothelial function.” J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Oct 17;48(8):1666-71. Epub 2006 Sep 26. Perona JS et al. "Virgin olive oil reduces blood pressure in hypertensive elderly subjects." ClinNutr. 23, 5:1113-21, 2004. Jerling JC et al. “A systematic review of the effects of nuts on blood lipid profiles in humans.” J Nutr. 135, 9:2082-9, 2005. Alper CM, Mattes RD. "Peanut consumption improves indices of cardiovascular disease risk in healthy adults." J Am Coll Nutr. 22, 2:133-41, 2003. Ros E et al. "A walnut diet improves endothelial function in hypercholesterolemic subjects: a randomized crossover trial." Circulation. 6, 109, 13:1609-14, 2004. Tapsell LC et al. “Including Walnuts in a Low-Fat/Modified-Fat Diet Improves HDL Cholesterol to-Total Cholesterol Ratios in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diab Care. 27, 12:2777-83, 2004. Jenkins DJ et al. "Almonds decrease postprandial glycemia, insulinemia, and oxidative damage in healthy individuals." J Nutr. 136(12):2987-92, 2006

About The Author

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.

Kelley Herring – who has written posts on Healing Gourmet.

About Kelley Herring

Kelley Herring, founder of Healing Gourmet, is a natural nutrition enthusiast with a background in biochemistry. Her passion is educating on how foods promote health and protect against disease and creating simple and delicious recipes for vibrant health and enjoyment.


  1. Laurie Kay says:

    I recently purchased your Keto Breads cookbook and I’m wondering if I can substitute avocado oil for coconut oil?

    • Kelley Herring says:

      Hi Laurie!
      Thanks so much for supporting our work.

      Absolutely you can use another healthy fat. I’ve used grass-fed butter, ghee and even duck fat with delicious results.

      Hope you enjoy!

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