Dietary Fats: All you need to know about Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats
Also known as MUFA and PUFA, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the “healthy dietary fats” that one should include in their diets. These unsaturated dietary fats dismiss the age-old conception of fats being unhealthy as they not only protect your health and heart but are also an integral part of a balanced diet. So, what are MUFA and PUFA? Read on to find out!
What are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated Fatty Acids?
MUFAs or monounsaturated fatty acids are fatty acids with one double bond in the fatty acid chain. MUFAs are typically liquid at room temperature but solidify when cooled. MUFA has a higher melting point than polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs) because of their chemical configuration.
Omega-7 fatty acids and omega-9 fatty acids are the two main components of monounsaturated fatty acids.
PUFAs are fatty acids which have more than one double bond between the carbon atoms, in the fatty acid chain. They are not only liquid at room temperature and also maintain their liquidity when cooled.
Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are the two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids beneficial for our health and well-being. They are also known as essential fatty acids because they are not synthesized by our body and hence is essential to be consumed through our foods.
How do monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats affect my health?
MUFAs and PUFAs can help reduce “bad” cholesterol or LDL (low-density lipoproteins) levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients that help develop and maintain your body’s cells.
Oils rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats also contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin that keeps your body healthy by protecting your cells from damage.
Replacing saturated fatty acids with these unsaturated fatty acids helps lower blood pressure, prevents unnecessary weight gain and also reduces the risk of diabetes and cancer.
Omega-7 fatty acids (mainly palmitoleic acid) can reduce cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels, as well as lower insulin levels, improve liver function, and promote weight loss. The intake of Omega 7 fatty acids has been also linked to improved bowel regularity and rejuvenation of skin and sustain healthy cells in the digestive tract and skin.
Our body does not require Omega-9 fatty acids as they are produced by omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Two important forms of omega-9 are oleic acid (found in olive oil and other monounsaturated fats) and erucic acid (found in rapeseed, mustard seed etc.). Omega-9 can help lower levels of LDL and increase levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol in the body.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in normal growth and development and proper brain function. They also reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis.
Similarly, omega-6 fatty acids play a role in growth, development and brain function. But, they also regulate metabolism, stimulate hair growth and keep the reproductive system healthy. Unlike omega-3s, some omega-6 fatty acids can stimulate inflammation.
How can I include these dietary fats in my diet?
Foods rich in MUFAs include avocados, whole milk products, peanut butter, nuts, cheese and different seeds. Some sources of oils rich in monounsaturated fats include mustard oil, olive oil, almond oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil and rice bran oil among many others.
Sources of PUFAs include soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, fish oil, and canola oil. Fishes such as salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring also contain PUFAs. Other sources are cashews, walnuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds etc.
How much monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats should I consume?
The key to a healthy diet is moderation. The National Institute of Nutrition recommends a diet that includes 20 to 30 % of total calories from fat. The majority of those calories should come from unsaturated fats i.e. MUFA and PUFA.
If you consume 2000 calories daily, aim for 40 to 62 grams of unsaturated fat per day. MUFA and PUFA should each individually account for 8 to 10 % of the total energy intake (2000 calories). A balance of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is important. You should eat more essential fatty acids – omega-3s and omega-6s as our body do not produce it naturally. Thus, you should include more of such dietary fats in your diet.