The most prominent mono-unsaturated oil in this category is olive oil. Another oil that is getting more and more coverage is a high-oleic sunflower/safflower oil. Normal sunflower and safflower oils are very high in polyunsaturated fatty acids but the high-oleic varieties are made with a particular seed that is about as high in monounsaturated fats as olives. Below is a table with the fatty acid ratios for comparison:
Health benefits of monounsaturated oils
Monounsaturated oils are much easier to understand than their polyunsaturated counterparts. There are no different types or kinds that you need to worry about. Try to think of monounsaturated oils as a hybrid between very unstable polyunsaturated oils and very stable saturated oils. They do not get rancid as easily as polyunsaturated oils and do not have the artery clogging effects of saturated fats. Monounsaturated oils have an anti-inflammatory effect: they are good for people with arthritis and asthma. They tend to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol - whether this actually reduces disease is up for debate though.
Heath dangers of monounsaturated oils
Though more stable than polyunsaturated oils, they do still oxidise readily. Even though olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, it still contains 11% of unstable polyunsaturated fat. Oxidised oils are toxic to your health. They oxidise cholesterol – think of rusting arteries!
Monounsaturated fats have a plethora of health benefits, that is agreed but as extracted oils they are still mostly empty calories. That means they contain very few vitamins and no minerals. You can get the same health promoting fats in a far healthier way by simply eating avocados and almonds.
Buy cold pressed extra virgin oil over standard. This is the best quality olive oil that is pressed without heat thus preserving at least some antioxidants (like Vitamin E) that were originally present in the olive itself. Look for olive oil that is stored in dark bottles and still has a long use by date. Always store the oil sealed in a dark cool place. I have mine in the fridge where it slowly solidifies and is removed a few hours prior to usage in its liquid form. Moderation is the key and two tablespoons of oil as a salad dressing is more than sufficient.