What Is Monounsaturated Fat & Polyunsaturated Fat? – The Healthy, Good Fats
Now that we’ve covered the so-called “bad and unhealthy” fats, it’s time to move on to the supposed “good and healthy” ones.
You know all of those beneficial things you’ve heard (or certainly should have heard) about fat, especially in recent years? Well, in 100% of those cases, it’s the 2 unsaturated fats that are being referred to.
I’m talking of course about monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
And once again, a new set of questions are in need of answering…
- How true are all of those benefits you may have heard about?
- What are those benefits anyway?
- What foods are high in monounsaturated fat? What foods are high in polyunsaturated fat?
- Is it really just as simple as a type of fat being 100% “good?”
Let’s find out…
What Is Monounsaturated Fat?
Monounsaturated fat, which is most abundant in foods like nuts and various plant oils (olive oil, canola oil, etc.), will most often end up comprising the majority of your total fat intake.
For the most part, this is a good thing. You know how research shows that the “bad fats” increase your risk of heart disease and stroke?
Well, research also shows that monounsaturated fats may help lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, which means a diet containing a sufficient amount of monounsaturated fat may actually help REDUCE your risk of heart disease and stroke.
What Is Polyunsaturated Fat?
With monounsaturated fats comprising the majority of your fat intake, the next largest portion of your daily fat intake should come from polyunsaturated fats. And once again, there is a very good reason for this.
Ever hear the term “essential fatty acids?” Sounds pretty important, right? They are, after all, fatty acids that are “essential” to your body.
Well, those essential fatty acids are all polyunsaturated fats. Maybe you’ve heard of them, too…
They are your essential fatty acids, and that means your body REQUIRES them in order to keep you alive and functioning properly. The same cannot be said for any of the other types of fat, including monounsaturated.
And, since your body is incapable of producing them on its own, it’s up to your diet to supply a sufficient amount of it on a regular basis.
Specifically, the omega-6 fatty acid is most commonly found in most vegetable oils (and most other food oils) as well as various types of nuts. For this reason, it is rarely ever lacking in the typical diet and, if anything, is usually a bit too high as it is (more on that in a second).
On the other hand, if there is one thing the typical person’s diet is lacking, it’s the omega-3 fatty acid. And that’s not good at all.
Why? Well, remember when I referred to a type of fat as being “the closest thing we have to a real life miracle food” in my little intro to dietary fat?
Well, I was referring to the omega-3 fatty acid.
The omega-3 fatty acid, which is most abundant in fish (and fish oil supplements), basically improves your body’s ability to do damn near EVERYTHING (build muscle, lose fat, live, function, prevent diseases, etc.).
Research has shown that it lowers your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, raises your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, reduces inflammation (and so on and so on) as well as helps prevent or improve a list of diseases and disorders so big you’re going to have to wait till later when I give it its own separate article.
Also worth mentioning now is that it may also help with calorie partitioning.
Meaning, when in a caloric surplus, calories will be more likely to go towards building muscle rather than being stored as fat. And when in a caloric deficit, your body will be more likely to burn fat instead of muscle.
In addition to all of these wonderful benefits (plus the many others I’ll be mentioning later), another reason that the omega-3 fatty acid is such an important part of your diet is that, while the omega-6 fatty acid is definitely also an important, healthy and required part of your diet, it’s the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 that might be most important.
Omega-6 vs Omega 3: The Ratio Is Key!
In a perfect world, this ratio should be about 2:1 for optimal health and function. In reality however, it’s more like 10:1 or possibly even 20:1 or 30:1 in some cases.
The reason this ratio is so far off from what it should be is due to a combination of the fact that the omega-6 fatty acid is extremely prevalent in the typical diet while the omega-3 fatty acid is usually always greatly lacking.
The big problem with this common unevenness is that it’s been shown to cause its own set of problems by increasing our risk for a variety of diseases and health issues.
So, while polyunsaturated fats are definitely “good” and “healthy” and a key part of your fat intake and overall diet, it’s the essential fatty acids (and their ratio in your diet) that makes it so “good” and “healthy” in the first place.
How Much Fat Should I Eat Per Day & Where Should It Come From?
Alright, so you’re now armed with a good basic understanding of the 4 different types of fat and how each affects your body, your diet and your goal.
You know which to avoid completely (trans fat), which to limit to a certain extent (saturated fat), and which to get the majority of your daily fat intake from (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, with an extra emphasis on getting a sufficient amount of the omega-3 fatty acid).
All you need to know now is how much total fat you should actually be eating per day and what foods it should primarily come from.
Let’s figure that out right now…
(This article is part of a completely free and amazingly awesome guide to creating the absolute best diet plan possible for your exact goal and preferences. Check out the entire guide here: The Best Diet Plan)