MUFAs and PUFAs explained
According to the Heart Foundation a balanced diet needs to include healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
These fats work hard to protect your heart by lowering your risk for things like artery-clogging high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. They also help to boost immune function, protect against certain diseases, and new research shows they're good at helping reduce belly fat.
Don't go crazy though. It's still wise to keep your total daily fat intake to around 30 per cent. MUFAs and PUFAs contain the same number of kJs as any other type of fat, they just give you a better run for your money.
Good for your heart, blood pressure, circulation, bones, digestive system, central nervous system, brain, skin - you name it. Avocados help your body absorb essential nutrients from other foods. They're also a rich source of glutathione, a super antioxidant believed to thwart around 30 different carcinogens.
But aren't they fattening?
Well, that depends how many you plan to eat in a day! They do contain a lot of fat but remember, it's the good MUFA kind that bestows all the aforementioned benefits. A whole medium avocado contains around 1000 kJs, and can be used with confidence as part of a weight-loss plan since the high water and fibre content makes them very filling.
Nuts are so awesome, it's ridiculous. If you tend to run scared from them because of their high fat content, it's time for a rethink.
Nutty about nuts
When eaten in moderation, nuts can be a dieter's best friend. They're so filling that around a handful each day does the trick. And they're just so good for you! There's a ton of research available showing that people who include nuts as part of their regular diet are at lower risk of heart disease - the good fat in nuts helps reduce bad cholesterol and reduce inflammation in arteries, which means less chance of heart attack.
Pick 'n' mix
Nuts are a great source of fibre and contain essential nutrients, including B-group vitamins, vitamin E, iron, potassium, selenium, magnesium and cancer-fighting antioxidant compounds like resveratrol and flavonoids. They're also a moderate source of protein, and great for vegetarians and vegans. No one nut is necessarily better than any other, so we suggest you go wild and mix 'em up for maximum benefit. Go easy on brazil nuts, as just one has enough of the cancer-fighting mineral selenium to last you a day. Too much selenium can be harmful, so limit to around five per day. A regular helping of cashews may help prevent gallstones. Cashews, incidentally, are from the same family as mangoes!
Ever wondered how almonds are harvested?
In addition to its raft of heart-healthy, immune-boosting properties, when consumed daily, antioxidant-rich olive oil is believed to help guard against stroke, osteoporosis, arthritis, skin cancer and depression. Olive oil contains a particular mono-unsaturated fat called oleic acid, along with essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from the polyunsaturated fat family.
Oils ain't oils
When choosing olive oil, buy the best you can afford and opt for extra virgin where possible. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO in foodie speak) comes from the first cold pressing of the olives. Next comes 'virgin' olive oil, from the second pressing. 'Pure' and 'light' are regarded as lower-quality oils.
Quick tips: Olive oil
Store olive oil in a cool, dark spot and use within a year to preserve freshness. When cooking with extra virgin olive oil, take care not to heat it past smoking point (generally around 140°C) as its chemical structure degrades and it can lose some of its awesomeness. Two tablespoons of olive oil contains approximately 1000 kJs, the recommended daily amount to reap the heath benefits.
Oily fish is another great source of Omega-3 oils. Omega-3s are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. They also work to lower blood pressure by reducing cholesterol levels and promote eye health. The Heart Foundation recommends eating two or three 150g serves every week.
Tips for buying salmon
Where possible, buy sustainable salmon - good fishmonger will be able to tell you if your fish comes from a sustainable source. Check for clear eyes and firmness of flesh and be sure to use your nose as well - if it smells a bit funky, steer clear!
Dark chocolate is a MUFA-rich treat bursting with protective antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and several mood-boosting chemical compounds. Apparently, this yum fest contains the same chemical your brain releases when you're falling in love. No wonder it feels so good to indulge! Dark chocolate also contains small amounts of caffeine and theobromine, stimulants that help boost short-term brain function. Some studies also show that the flavonols in cocoa beans may even help protect us from sun damage by improving blood flow to the skin.
Quick tips: Dark Chocolate
For best results, choose a good quality, organic dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 per cent or higher - this ensures less sugar and more of the good stuff. With around 700 kJs per 30 grams, we're green-lighting you for at least a couple of squares per day!
MUFA facts at a glance
- Good for your heart.
- Help reduce high LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- May help increase HDL (good) cholesterol.
- May help improve insulin levels and stabilise blood sugars.
- Boosts immune function, which protects against illness and disease.
- Promotes satiety (keeps you fuller for longer, so discourages overeating).
- Great for skin, hair and nail health and more.