Like all fats, those of the monounsaturated variety are chains of carbon atoms that have hydrogen atoms attached along their sides, like legs on a centipede. What makes them different is that exactly one of the carbon atoms doesn't have a hydrogen atom attached¾hence the prefix mono. Olive oil is an excellent example.
Although most people think all fat is bad, monounsaturates may actually protect you against heart disease and stroke by improving your blood-cholesterol levels. Studies show that people who get a lot of monounsaturated fat are less likely to die of heart disease.* Therefore, as long as your total fat is still under your Personal Daily Allowance (see Fat, Total), the more of your fat that's monounsaturated, the better. (Diet Power doesn't advise carrying this to an extreme, however. For all anyone knows, limiting your fats to the monounsaturated variety may pose a risk of its own.)
For other maladies the news is mixed. Some studies suggest that monounsaturates protect against breast and prostate cancer, but others do not. Most show no protective value against diabetes.
Your Daily Allowance
The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) has not yet issued a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for monounsaturated fats. For simplicity's sake, however, Diet Power makes your Personal Daily Allowance (PDA) the same as that for polyunsaturated fat: the number of grams required to make up 7½ percent of your PDA of calories. When added to the 10 percent of calories allowed for saturated fat, these two figures complete the 25 percent allowed for total fat.
The FNB has not established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for monounsaturated fat.
Revising Your Allowance
You can change your PDA to whatever your doctor advises. See Personal Daily Allowances, Editing Your.
Color Coding of This Nutrient
The monounsaturated-fat bar in your personal Nutrient History is:
· blue for "good" if you've logged 50 to 100 percent of your PDA
· red for "bad" if you've logged more than 100 percent of your PDA
· yellow for "caution" if you've logged less than 50 percent of your PDA
· missing if you've logged no monounsaturated fat.
In the nutrient profile of a food or recipe, the monounsaturated-fat bar is:
· green for "good" if getting your entire PDA of calories from this item would give you less than 50 percent of your PDA of monounsaturated fat
· magenta for "bad" if getting all your calories from the item would give you more than 150 percent of your PDA of monounsaturated fat
· blue for "neutral" otherwise
· missing if the amount of monounsaturated fat is either zero or (when the abbreviation Monounsat. is grayed out) unknown.
How Complete Are Diet Power's Monounsaturated-Fat Readings?
For the 8500 generic items in the Food Dictionary: fairly complete. Only 12 percent list their monounsaturated-fat content as "unknown."
For the 2500 chain-restaurant items: totally incomplete. All list monounsaturated fat as "unknown."
For all 11,000 items combined: not terribly complete. About 30 percent list monounsaturated fat as "unknown."
These figures mean that if you frequently log chain-restaurant foods (or user-added foods with missing monounsaturated-fat readings), your Nutrient History may underreport your intake of monounsaturated fat by a few points.
To see whether a particular food has a monounsaturated-fat reading, open the Food Dictionary and check the food's nutrient profile. If you find a question mark beside "Fat, monounsaturated," it means the amount is unknown. (To see all foods with unknown monounsaturated-fat readings, click the dictionary's PowerFoods tab and sort the foods by monounsaturated-fat power; then scroll toward the bottom of the list until you see foods with question marks in the "Power Rating" column.)
Monounsaturated Fat on Food Labels
Nutrition labels are not required to report how much of a food's fat is monounsaturated, but many do. Since there is no official Daily Value for this nutrient, the amount is always listed in grams. (The Diet Power Daily Value is 22.5 grams.)
For more on label regulations, see Labels, Food.