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Continued from Page 2

Monounsaturated Fats

       Since "mono" means "one", a monounsaturated fat has -- you guessed it -- only ONE double carbon bond in the entire carbon chain. In general, the body prefers monounsaturated fats. These have been shown in studies to nearly HALVE a woman's risk of breast cancer. Although findings are somewhat contradictory depending on the study, monounsaturated fats appear to be very heart healthy, perhaps even more heart healthy than polyunsaturated fats.

       Olive oil and canola oil are high in monounsaturated fat, as are peanuts and peanut oil. (Commercially prepared peanut butter, however contains transfatty acids.) Since all fats are actually a combination of saturated, unsaturated and monounsaturated, I've listed ratios of each below.

Olive Oil
Canola Oil
Peanut Oil
Pecans, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts and nut oils also contain combinations of very favorable fats.


       There is one more type of fat that has received a lot of press lately. This type of fat is one which contains transfatty acids. Transfatty acids are created when a polyunsaturated fat has been bombarded by hydrogen to break all the double carbon bonds and reduce them to single bonds. This then creates places in the molecule for hydrogen atoms to attach. It is thus artificially "filled up" with hydrogen by a process called -- guess what??? -- hydrogenation! For years we were told to use margarine (a hydrogenated fat) over butter (a saturated fat). Now we know that once a polyunsaturated oil has been hydrogenated (i.e., made into margarine), it is actually WORSE for you than butter. Some recent studies suggest that consuming HYDROGENATED polyunsaturated fats versus other kinds of fats can increase the risk of breast cancer in women by as much as 69 percent!

       If you see anything on a nutrition label that uses the word "hydrogenated" or "partialy hydrogenated" (NOT to be confused with hydrolyzed, which is entirely different and doesn't have anything to do with fats) to describe ANY kind of fat, THAT PRODUCT CONTAINS TRANSFATTY ACIDS. These are very bad for you and they are everywhere, since transfatty acids do not require much in the way of refrigeration and are very popular with food manufacturers. As for regular margarine, it is often MADE from relatively healthy oils but then undergoes the hydrogenation process so it will remain solid at room temperature and have a long shelf life. This renders the product you actually put into your body VERY unhealthy. When you see a margarine box that says "Made from pure polyunsatured oil" (or something similar), be aware that it is NOT a polyunsaturated oil you end up eating. It is a transfat. Soft and light margarines vary in their transfat content, so read labels if you insist on eating the stuff.

       For the curious, the term "transfatty" refers to the placement of the hydrogen atoms that are attached at the two ends of the carbon chain. Seems like in "transfatty" acids, these occur on opposite sides of the carbon string, while in saturated fats which occur naturally, the molecules at each end of the strings are on the same. Trivial as this might seem, it makes a BIG difference to our bodies and especially our cardiovascular systems!


       So, which fats to consume? Because of contradictory research findings, this is a difficult question to answer honestly. Your best bet is probably to eat both monounsaturated fats and the polyunsaturated fats which are particularly rich in linoleic acid (See Polyunsaturated Fats above) -- at least until researchers have more conclusive proof about which is best for us, or in what combination. It would appear that throwing a little saturated fat into the mix won't hurt us if we don't eat it exclusively or in excessive quantities. THE NUMBERS IN YOUR BLOOD CHEMISTRY, HOWEVER, NEED TO BE YOUR FINAL AUTHORITY. (I am NOT a physician! Just an enthusiast and proponent of healthy eating.)

       While this is not necessarily a recommendation, Charles and I use olive oil in our cooking about 95 percent of the time. We use extra virgin (greenish in color) when we want to taste that tangy olive oil taste (yummmm!), classic (very golden) when we want a fuller, more mellow and rich taste, and extra light ("light" refers to its nearly clear color, NOT to a fewer number of calories!) when we don't want to taste any olive taste -- as in cooking and baking sweets and desserts. We also use butter (NOT margerine!) for taste in some of our cooking. When we do this, we also try to consume at least equal proportions of olive oil at the same meal. Since many commercially prepared foods are made with soybean oil, we eat most of our polyunsaturated oils in the form of salad dressings and other commercially prepared foods (as long as the label doesn't say "hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated"). We also snack on dry-roasted almonds, peanuts and macadamia nuts.

       Olive oil and other monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils DO go rancid if left out too long. You compromise their health benefits if they do. (Not to mention that they taste REAL nasty!) If you do not use them a lot, I suggest you refrigerate them. The monounsaturated oils will get cloudy and thick in the refrigerator. Just set the bottle in a bowl of hot tap water and it will be ready to pour in no time.


Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin or classico olive oil in a small container.
Add: one finely minced garlic clove
        freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
        dried basil to taste (can use minced fresh basil if you
        have any)Use French bread to dip into olive oil mixture.


       Use light olive oil and butter in equal portions. Melt the butter. Remove from heat and mix in the light olive oil. Refrigerate, returning occasionally before it gets thick to keep the oil and butter well mixed. This will be semi-soft (kinda like soft margarine and a LOT healthier) when cold. It melts quickly on toast and is easy to handle right out of the refrigerator. We have not prepared this with polyunsaturated oils in place of the olive oil, but it might be worth a try if you prefer the polyunsaturates.

A Woman's Perspective Annette McMurrey
© 2007, Annette McMurrey

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