These days, you can’t talk nutrition without hearing some mention of the “Omega-3’s”. Don’t get me wrong, they really are fantastic (as we’ve previously blogged), its just that while these polyunsaturated fats are getting all of the attention, another disease-fighting group, the monounsaturated fats, may be getting overlooked. And trust me, they really do deserve some stage time!
Monounsaturated fatty acids have only 1 double bond, as opposed to their counterparts that have multiple double bonds (hence, poly). They are loaded with nutrients that help our cells develop and keep them strong. They usually go hand-in-hand with another disease-fighter, the antioxidant vitamin E. These SOLO fats can help reduce the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol circulating in our blood and have their own disease-fighting properties, aiming straight at heart disease and strokes.
So where can we find these loners?
Great sources of monounsaturated fats include avocados, certain oils (think avocado, olive, peanut, canola), and many nuts and seeds (think pine, pumpkin, sunflower). Many supermarkets and some convenient stores may have one or more of these ingredients, but for the greatest selection, check out Whole Foods or Trader Joes. This past weekend, I went crazy on the nut and seed isle at Whole Foods- I got sunflower seeds, soy nuts, pine nuts, and a nut-and-seed trail mix (all un-salted). I store each separately (in the refrigerator to prevent oxidation) and mix them together, as needed, to total ¼ of a cup per serving for a great monounsaturated-filled snack.
How much fat do we need?
Current recommendations say to consume 25-35% of our total daily calories from fat (mostly unsaturated). But what does that mean? For the average 2000 Kcal per day diet, this comes out to 500-700 calories from fat or 55-78 grams of fat per day (FYI 1 Tbsp olive oil has about 120 calories and 14g fat- about 11 monounsaturated). Translation- we should eat about 2-3 servings of oils/nuts/seeds per day, depending on our other fat intake.
Why have you done a good thing?
Olive oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts may help lower the risk of age-related eye disease due to their monounsaturated fat content. They are powerhouses- fighting heart disease, inflammation, and cell damage!
Recipe ideas: Make your own trail mix to snack on, including sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and any dried fruits of your choice! Remember, a serving is ¼ cup. Instead of salad dressing, drizzle some EVOO and balsamic over greens. Switch up your baking routine by using nut flour and oil rather than white flour and butter or change up your PB&J with Trader Joe's Sunflower Butter.
Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats (yea!) and also have a number of other vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, folate, B vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Combined, these nutrients help our vision, heart, blood clotting ability, metabolism, and help fight off oxidative damage to our cells. Avocados get their pigment, or color, in part from Lutein, an antioxidant that helps ward off some serious illnesses! As we can see, there are so many nutrients packed into this green “fruit”, it is clearly a nutrient-dense choice and a great Bang for your Bite!
Recipe ideas: Use avocado to make guacamole, add it to your favorite salad, use it as a sandwich condiment instead of mayonnaise, or as a butter replacement in many recipes! Avocados can be used in so many ways, even eaten by itself for a heart-healthy, brain-enhancing, fiber-filling snack (just ask my 1 year cousin, Nate, he loves them!) But remember, one serving size is ¼ of an avocado which equals 80 calories, 7g fat (mostly monounsaturated), 1g protein, 3.5g fiber.
Is your grilled chicken usually Ridin’ Solo? Add an Avocado Salsa for the perfect pair!
-1 tomato (try a more exotic (perhaps yellow) tomato from the Farmers Market!)
-1 Tbsp fresh-squeezed limejuice (give it a roll before you slice it for optimal juiciness)
-¼ garlic powder
-Salt and pepper, to taste.
-Cilantro (optional 1-2 Tbsp)
Roughly chop the avocado and tomato. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
*For a spicy salsa, add 1/4 or 1/2 of a seeded jalapeno pepper.
Grill the chicken as desired (you can marinate it in salad dressing or just season with salt and pepper and cook with a little monounsaturated-filled olive oil). Serve salsa on top of grilled chicken and add a side salad for a great meal!