One of the dominant sources of fat in your diet should be from mufas, or monounsaturated fatty acids (omega-9 fatty acids), but don’t forget about other important fats such as, cold-water fatty fishes that contain omega-3 fatty acid.
The Mediterranean diet is comprised of up to 40% of calories from fat, with the majority coming from monounsaturated fats in the form of olive oil. Monounsaturated fats are among the healthiest types of fat and diets that focus on these types of fats have been shown to be protective against certain chronic diseases.
All of the cells and tissues of your body contain fat and the types and ratios of dietary fats you consume will determine, 1. the fat composition of your cells and 2. how well they function. A cell without a healthy membrane loses their ability to communicate with other cells and hold water and vital nutrients. Loss of cell to cell communication is thought to be one of the physiological events that leads to the growth of cancer. Your overall health is often linked to how healthy your cells are and how well they are functioning… this is often linked to your diet. For example, monounsaturated fats provide a flexible and fluid cell membrane as compared to other dietary fats which allows for cell to cell communication and healthy cell membranes. You are the type of fat you eat and this will make a difference in your overall health, healing and outward appearance.
Remember to include other important fatty acids in your diet such as omega-3’s and unrefined omega-6's. Many people correlate the Meditteranean diet and its health benefits with olive oil (and maybe wine!), but don’t necessarily think about the oils from nuts and seeds and fish. Additionally, many public health messages focus on increasing dietary monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, as well as other oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (not all good), but often neglect foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as overall fatty acid balance.
Even though monounsaturated fats should dominate, don’t forget about getting in adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acid rich foods and a small amount of quality omega-6 fatty acids. (For more on omega-3 fatty and omega-6 fatty acids see my other website pages).
The best dietary sources of monounsaturated fats include, expeller pressed extra virgin olive oil, hazelnuts, and almonds. Other good sources include: Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and avocados. In general, shoot for 1 serving per day of nuts or seeds high in mufas. Organic (non-GMO), expeller pressed canola oil is another good source of mufas, but for high temperature cooking consider using avocado oil with its very high smoke point of 520 degrees Fahrenheit (peanut oil is another oil high in mufas with a high smoke point). Although some consider olive oil to be relatively stable at medium heat, I would not recommend using it in cooking since research suggests its health benefits may be compromised. Its best to buy olive oil in a dark glass or tin container as exposure to light can degrade the oil (promotes oxidation).
This is a general guide to mufas and diet recommendations may need to be modified based on your individual health and healing needs. In general, focusing on the correct balance of fats in your daily diet, including a dominant source being foods and oils rich in monounsaturated fats is a major step forward in your health and healing process.
Some References: The Institute of Functional Medicine, Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach, 2004: Hyman, M. Ultrametabolism, 2006; a weil guide, The Center for Mind Body Medicine, Food as Medicine conference, 2012
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