Many people believe that all fats are the enemy when it comes to weight control, lower cholesterol, and healthy eating. There are many, many products that are marketed as “fat-free” and the phrase has somehow become synonymous with “healthy.” While it’s true that there are some fats that are bad for you, there are also some that are healthy for you and that, in fact, you absolutely need for a well-balanced diet.
Consider, for example, monounsaturated fats. These fats have been used for centuries in many regional diets. The Greeks have boosted their health with the use of olive oil since time immemorial. And chocolate has been worshipped for its healing powers as far back as the time of the Aztecs.
Researchers have found that the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, chocolate, avocados, and other foods help to fight many chronic conditions. Monounsaturated fats are also needed for healthy skin and hair. But perhaps the most important role of all when it comes to monounsaturated fats and the human body is brain health. About two-thirds of your brain is composed of specialized fat cells. These specialized cells help you to think and feel. Myelin, the protective sheath that covers the communicating neurons in your brain, is composed of 70% fat. And one of the most common fatty acids in myelin is oleic acid.
Monounsaturated oleic acid is the main component in olive oil, as well as almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, peanuts, and avocados.
Starting to be convinced about the importance of healthy fats? Here’s some more proof that these fats can be beneficial — even to those with high cholesterol levels.
In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned 17 men and seven postmenopausal women with mild to moderate elevated cholesterol levels to either a high-monounsaturated diet or a low-monounsaturated diet.
Both groups were given a vegetarian diet that included oats, barley, psyllium, eggplant, okra, soy, almonds, and a plant sterol-enriched margarine. In the high-monounsaturated fat group, the researchers substituted 13% of calories from carbohydrates with sunflower oil, with the option of a partial exchange with avocado oil.
The researchers found that the high-monounsaturated group increased levels of good cholesterol by12.5%, while decreasing levels of bad cholesterol by 35%.
The researchers concluded that the addition of monounsaturated fats increased HDL cholesterol and may further boost the cardio-protective effect of a cholesterol-lowering diet.
So go ahead and add some healthy fats to your diet. Monounsaturated fats used in moderation could help your heart and brain to function optimally. Here are some foods that contain monounsaturated fats: