What Are Monounsaturated Fats - and Antioxidants?

We hear about monounsaturated fats, but just what are they and how can they help in our quest for good health?

Monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFAs are the ‘good guys’ that fuel our energy store, provide antioxidants to fight heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

They are found in oils such as cold pressed olive, safflower, avocado, flax seed, macadamia and peanut oils.

These 'fabulous fats' increase metabolic rates, hence helping you to burn fat (when combined with regular exercise – there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?). 

Many nuts and seeds – almond, brazil, cashew, peanut, pumpkin, sunflower, pistachio (unsalted) and sesame are rich in monounsaturated fats, but, as with oils, remember that they are high in calories so moderation is the keyword here. Use raw nuts or seeds only and dry roast them lightly if you need extra crunch and flavor.

Never buy deep fried nuts, often labeled as ‘roasted’. Read labels and email the manufacturer if you are unsure. Pastes made from nuts, spread on multi-grain toast ‘fingers’ are a fabulous and satisfying snacking alternative.

Chia seed deserves a special mention. This miraculous seed packs quite a punch with its high protein, antioxidants,  fibre, Omega 3, calcium and magnesium content.

Best monounsaturated fats?

Avocados, once known as ‘sailors’ butter’, are rich in MUFAs and contain fibre, folic acid, oleic acid, Vitamins C and A as well protein, potassium and magnesium. They quell hunger pangs – and are an excellent party food (try making a simple dip of avocado, plain yoghurt and lemon pepper). My idea of a perfect food, avocados are usually picked green - that’s a good way to buy them so they are not bruised by handling. Once ripe they keep rather well in the fridge; I always try to have a few on hand.

High in MUFAs, dark chocolate or organic cacao powder can assist with cardiovascular diseases, reduce cravings for sweet or salty ‘fixes’ – and help to sharpen up your brain! Avoid milk chocolate and be content with small amounts of the dark variety.

Salmon is high in this special fat as well as being high in protein. Choose the ‘wild Atlantic’ canned variety and check fresh sources in order to avoid accumulated mercury and pesticides which might be present in farmed fish.

Coconut Oil For Weight Loss

Because it is a saturated fat, coconut oil was vilified for decades by vested interests, intent on promoting the margarine and vegetable oil industry. However, of recent years, it has been shown that cold pressed coconut oil, high in lauric acid, is useful for weight loss because of its effect of increasing metabolism, hence the rate at which food is converted to energy in the body.

On the other hand, so-called 'vegetable oils' (which vegetables would those be?) have been hydrogenated and are likely to clog your arteries and contribute to weight gain.

Rich, red tomatoes, full of antioxidants, lycoprene and flavour. Sandwich, salad, sauce - you choose.

Antioxidants and Flavonoids

Antioxidants are the warriors of our immune system, protecting our cells from oxidative stress, which may result in disease. Flavonoids, of which there are many types, support antioxidant activity or can, themselves, be antioxidants.

Here are some excellent, colourful food, herb and spice choices, all packed with antioxidants and non-fattening nutrients:

Green:  kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, parsley, celery, asparagus, green tea, limes, pears (fibre in the skins), apples, cucumbers, mint, basil, oregano, cantaloupes, sprouts (huge nutrient content), olive oil, avocado oil,

Red: tomatoes, watermelons, pomegranates, grapefruit (but not if you are taking blood-thinning meds), chili, dragon fruit, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, cranberries,

Orange: carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, oranges, papaya, rockmelon, turmeric, goji berries

Purple: grapes (red ones contain resveratrol), wine (one glass a day max!), blueberries, eggplants

Yellow: bananas, lemons, squash, apple cider vinegar, lemongrass, pineapples, mangoes

White: Garlic, ginger, coconut oil

Brown: cinnamon, vanilla, chia seeds, black sapote,  kelp, cacao (or dark chocolate),

I’m sure that you can add to this list – Facebook suggestions below.

Here's to your success in making monounsaturated fats and antioxidants your new best friends!

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