What Are MUFAs & Why Do You Need Them?
MUFAs (pronounced moo-fah!) are Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: plant-based fats found in foods that are liquid at room temperature and turn solid when chilled. Simply put: MUFAs are a healthy type of fat. They target stubborn belly fat by replacing the salty, fatty snacks in your diet and helping you feel full much longer. Simply put: not all fats are created equal, and MUFAs are a type of fat that are not only healthy, but can help you lose weight!
Per the government’s dietary guidelines, it’s recommended that 30% of the calories you consume daily are fats, and saturated fats make up 10% or less of your total fats consumption. Additionally, according to The American Heart Association, “the majority of the fats that you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Eat foods containing monounsaturated fats and/or polyunsaturated fats instead of foods that contain saturated fats and/or trans fats.” MUFAs are known to decrease your cholesterol level, increase your heart health, and contribute to weight loss. They also contain Vitamin E, a vitamin and antioxidant that many Americans need much more of!
According to the Mayo Clinic, replacing unhealthy fats, like trans and saturated, with healthier fats, like MUFAs, will yield health benefits. MUFAs are proven to have a positive effect on your heart health when you eat them in moderation, and you should aim to replace the saturated fat and trans fats in your diet with MUFAs or PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids).
Mayo Clinic Registered Dietitian Katherine Zeratsky says in an article that MUFAs make up a large portion of the main foods in the Mediterranean diet, one known to be very heart-healthy. The Mediterranean diet encourages eating mostly plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. It replaces saturated fats with unsaturated fats (for example, replacing butter with olive oil) and uses herbs and spices in place of salt and other sodium-rich condiments. This diet reduces the risk of heart disease, lowers cholesterol, and helps clear up your arteries. According to the Mayo Clinic: “The Mediterranean diet is also associated with a reduced incidence of cancer, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.”
Though we’re talking about MUFAs and not just trying to sell you on the Mediterranean Diet, it’s interesting to see the positive effects of a diet so rich in MUFAs. It’s clear that these foods are great for you, and incorporating them into your diet is not only healthy, but delicious, too!
In addition, Prevention Magazine’s Flat Belly Diet program is based upon the idea of increasing your consumption of MUFA’s and has been wildly successful. When you eat healthy fats, you feel satiated. Healthy fats that fill you up and satisfy you as opposed to processed carbs that leave you feeling deprived or craving more of them. People are often shocked that these foods are ok to eat on a daily basis but YES they are and YES we love them, too!
Related: How Eating Fat Can Make You Thin
Where can you get MUFAs?
So, you may be wondering what crazy health foods contain MUFAs. Lucky for us, they’re found in really delicious foods, some of which you definitely already own and love! Avocados, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, nut butters, oils, and olives are all loaded with MUFAs.
We LOVE avocados. They go great on toast, in smoothies, in salads, or just plain with a little lemon and sea salt! Check out our slew of recipes including this delicious MUFA superfood. If you need help figuring out how to work avocados into your diet, check out the GHU Guide to Eating Avocados Every Day! Our absolute favorite is this guacamole–check out the step-by-step video on how to make your own at home!
Using healthy oils instead of oils containing lots of saturated fat is a super easy way to incorporate more MUFAs into your diet! Olive oil is full of antioxidants and polyphenols and is anti-inflammatory. Grill, bake, fry, drizzle or dress any of your meals with this healthier oil. Use it in place of butter or as a salad dressing! When you’re cooking with olive oil, it’s best used for frying, and has a flash-point between 375 and 400 degrees.
Nuts & Seeds:
Need a perfect snack to bring with you on the go? Want a boost of energy in the middle of the day? Nuts & seeds are your new total go-to. They’re SO easy–just throw some in a bag and go! Another benefit of nuts & seeds? They’re packed with protein and great for vegans & vegetarians!
Nut butters are great, and even better when you make them yourself (to avoid all the added preservatives and sugars often found in store-bought brands). Whether you did pecans, peanuts, cashews, or macadamias, you’re just a few steps away from having your favorite nut turn spreadable! Check out this guide that will walk you through the steps of homemade nut butter! If you’re looking for a delicious way to incorporate nut butters into your daily routine, try a smoothie like this one!
Dark chocolate? For health? We love that! But it’s important to remember: we aren’t talking a dark chocolate Hershey’s kiss. In order to truly reap the MUFA benefits, shoot for dark chocolate that contains 65% or more cacao. Unfortunately, this one needs to be in heavy moderation. Dark chocolate is a very concentrated source of calories. BUT, as long as you check the label on your chocolate and make sure that it isn’t full of sugar and other additives, we say a piece of dark chocolate a day keeps the doctor away! If you’re looking for an indulgent, healthy treat, try these Dark Chocolate Emerald Truffles.
Olives are a great source of Vitamin E, Iron, Calcium and Copper, all which are commonly lacking in a Western diet. Because olives are fermented (fresh olives are very bitter!) they also have properties that promote digestive health. They’re rich in antioxidants and help fight sickness! If you don’t already love olives, all of these benefits should be convincing you otherwise! Incorporate olives into your next happy hour or dinner with this DELICIOUS recipe for Olive Tapenade!
These are just our favorite MUFAs! Check out this complete list of all MUFAs you could (and should!) eat more of! Click on each food for a delicious recipe to help you incorporate it into your food routine!
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Safflower oil
- Macadamia nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Ground flaxseed
- Poppy seeds
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate