What are MUFAs, and should I include them in my diet?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are a healthy type of fat. Replacing less healthy fats, such as saturated fats and trans fats, with unsaturated fats, such as MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats, may offer health benefits.

Consuming monounsaturated fatty acids may help lower your risk of heart disease by improving your risk factors. For instance, MUFAs may lower your total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels but maintain your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level.

MUFAs may also help improve the function of your blood vessels. And some research shows that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.

MUFAs are a central part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. MUFA-rich foods in your diet include:

  • Olive oil
  • Nuts, such as almonds, cashews, pecans and macadamias
  • Canola oil
  • Avocados
  • Nut butters
  • Olives
  • Peanut oil

But don't go overboard. All fats, including MUFAs, are high in calories, so use MUFAs only in moderation. Consume MUFA-rich foods instead of other fatty foods, not in addition to them.

Feb. 19, 2015