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What are Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs) and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)?

Update:01-04-2022

Products like fish oil and flaxseed oil are all the rage these days in the wellness world, and it turns out that the nutrients in these supplements have a solid scientific basis. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are the main reason people take fish oil and similar supplements. If you don't already know what monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are, then after reading this article, you will know about them.

What are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)? Why do we need them?

As the name suggests, these two are fatty acids, but there's more to it. They are also essential fatty acids, which means that the body cannot produce these two types of essential fatty acids automatically, but needs to be ingested through food. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are beneficial to health, so we must consume adequate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in our diet. Often, you hear their shortened names - omega 3 (monounsaturated fatty acid) and omega 6 (polyunsaturated fatty acid).

What is the difference between monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)?

Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are important to our health, but they are very different in chemical structure. The human body needs to consume approximately equal amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, but according to the University of Maryland Medical Center study, Western diets are largely skewed toward higher intakes of omega 6 fatty acids. Unlike omega 3, omega 6 can trigger inflammation, which can cause a variety of health problems. That's why doctors recommend taking omega 3 supplements, such as fish oil, krill oil, and flaxseed oil, to help balance the total amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in your body.

Source of Omega 3

While taking fish oil supplements is a great option, it's not the only option. It is also relatively easy to get monounsaturated fatty acids from the diet. The Mediterranean diet is a set of diets that primarily consist of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seafood, shellfish, and moderate amounts of cheese and lean meats, and is widely praised for being rich in omega 3s.

One of the best sources of monounsaturated fatty acids in cold-water fish such as herring, mackerel, tuna, and salmon. These fish contain two very important omega 3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). You can also get omega 3 in the form of linolenic acid (ALA) from plant sources such as flaxseed oil and soybean oil. However, the body needs to convert linolenic acid into a form usable by the body (DHA), so linolenic acid is not the most efficient way of ingesting monounsaturated fatty acids.