Most of us have heard of omega-3 and probably omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-9 fatty acids, on the other hand, are not as well known.
Quite wrongly, as we will see, especially since they are essential for heart, brain, and general health!
What Is Omega-9 Fatty Acid?
Except for mead acid, all omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated fatty acids (or MUFAs).
Although omega-9 fatty acids can provide remarkable health benefits, they are not essential because the body can produce them. Nevertheless, it is vital to get them through food.
Since oleic acid is associated with several health benefits, it is the most studied omega-9 fatty acid.
Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 vs. Omega-9 Fatty Acids
All fats are long chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, which are linked together by molecular bonds.
In contrast to the polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (or PUFAs), omega-9 fatty acids only have one double bond.
With this in mind, the designation as omega 3, 6, or 9 fatty acids is due to their chemical structure.
Because omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids are all unsaturated fats, they have at least one double bond – a weak point – in the carbon chain.
While Omega stands for the end of the chain of carbon atoms, the number, the position of the first double bond:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: The first double bond is at the 3rd carbon atom from the omega end, as this is not saturated with a hydrogen atom.
- Omega-6 fatty acids: The first weak point (double bond) is located just after the 6th carbon atom from the omega end.
- Omega-9 fatty acids: The first and usually only double bond is after the 9th carbon atom of the chain.
However, this tells us very little about the health benefits of Omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids.
However, the structure of a fatty acid merely shows how sensitive it is. The more double bonds they have, the more susceptible they are to air, pressure, and heat.
Accordingly, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are not suitable for cooking because they have several weak points (double bonds).
Since omega-9 fatty acids have only one double bond, they are suitable for medium heat cooking. But the best fats for frying are those with high saturated fatty acid content, such as virgin coconut oil, lard, or ghee.
While omega-3 fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory, omega-6 fatty acids from industrial seed oils are known to be inflammatory.
But what does omega-9 do?
What Are Omega-9 Foods Good For?
Unlike essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the body can produce omega-9 fatty acids itself.
Therefore, you do not necessarily have to take them in with food. Nevertheless, the consumption of omega-9 foods yields a variety of health benefits.
Moreover, you can find omega-9 fatty acids in foods in various forms, whereby favorable properties predominate:
- Oleic acid (18:1): You’ll find the best-known monounsaturated fat in olive oil, macadamia nuts, goose fat, lard, or bacon. Accordingly, it is known as the fat behind the remarkable health benefits of olive oil.
- Mead acid (20:3): Since it’s polyunsaturated, it is the exception among omega-9 fatty acids. Primarily, you can find it in cartilage tissue. According to studies, it can positively influence chemotherapy treatment and help fight cancer (Kinoshita et al. 20161).
- Erucic acid (22:1): This monounsaturated fat has raised concerns about its potential danger to humans due to animal experiments. However, this is not an issue for our Omega-9 food list since you primarily find it in industrial vegetable oils, such as mustard oil (*).
- Nervonic acid (24:1): This monounsaturated omega-9 fat can improve memory function. For example, you can find nervonic acid in fatty fish and nuts such as macadamia (Yuan et al. 20132).
Benefits of Eating Omega-9 Foods
As the subject of countless scientific studies, oleic acid is the most widely researched.
Hence, it’s unsurprising that this fat, for which olive oil is known to be healthy, is responsible for numerous positive effects of omega-9 fatty acids.
As you might have heard, people living in the Mediterranean region enjoy way better health than, for example, the population of the United States.
Accordingly, this fact is often associated with prominent omega-9 food, olive oil.
Not only do olives have a very high content of monounsaturated fatty acids in general, but they are also incredibly rich in oleic acid.
Due to the extremely high consumption of olive oil, the Mediterranean diet can reduce abdominal fat and the risk of type 2 diabetes (Mashek et al. 20153).
Correspondingly, the WHO (World Health Organization) concluded in a global comparison that the consumption of monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids is the best predictor of a low level of obesity.
On top of that, omega-9 oleic acid in olive oil improves the function of blood vessels. Therefore, it reduces the general risk of cardiovascular disease (Pérez-Jiménez et al. 20024).
Since hypertension is one of the main symptoms of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure is always in the spotlight.
In this sense, the effect of omega-9 fatty acids on hypertension is more than remarkable.
In one study, 23 hypertension patients were given a six-month diet high in either omega-9 fatty acids from olive oil or omega-6 fatty acids from safflower oil.
As a result, the participants who consumed food with omega-9 fatty acids were not only able to reduce their medication after six months, but eight of them could also stop taking it completely (Ferrara et al. 20005).
Although complex fiber-rich carbohydrates are often recommended to lower cholesterol, foods containing omega-9 fatty acids are a more effective alternative.
With this in mind, both dietary options seem to lower cholesterol levels.
However, while omega-9 foods increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and lower triglyceride levels, complex carbohydrates increase triglycerides (Mensink et al. 19876).
Due to recent findings in biochemistry, we now know that high HDL and low triglyceride levels are far better indicators of good heart health than low cholesterol levels could ever be.
For example, in people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, increased insulin sensitivity can make drug treatment obsolete and even reverse the disease if they eat the right diet.
Accordingly, a low-carbohydrate diet rich in omega-9 fatty acids could significantly improve insulin and blood sugar levels in people with diabetes (Parillo et al. 19928).
Best Omega-9 Fatty Acids Foods List
Although nuts and extra virgin olive oil are known for monounsaturated fatty acids, this omega-9 food list might surprise you:
1. Avocados and Avocado Oil
Since there are hardly any more nutritious natural high-fat foods, avocado enjoys excellent popularity among nutrition-conscious people.
Therefore, avocados are the only fruits you should enjoy in large quantities. Accordingly, they are full of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, E, K, and B.
Not only can the omega-9 fatty acids in avocados be quickly burned by the body, but they also keep you full longer. Thus, they help you lose weight (Wien et al. 20139).
Avocado oil is the highly concentrated version of the omega-9 fatty acids in the fruit. Also, they help you absorb nutrients from other foods more efficiently, such as in salads.
Not only can organic lard be used for frying due to its high content of saturated fatty acids, but it also contains monounsaturated fats.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not saturated but the omega-9 fatty acids, as in olive oil, which predominate in animal fats (*).
Since their fatty acid profile is much more stable, not only organic lard, but also goose fat, chicken fat, or beef tallow should always be preferred to industrial vegetable oils when cooking.
Although athletes often eat only the protein, you should never do without the yolk.
With this in mind, the nutrients and monounsaturated fatty acids are hiding in the egg yolk.
Besides A, B, and D vitamins, it is full of healthy fats that help maintain and renew skin, bones, and muscles (*).
Because their nutrient profile is better, you should also always opt for pastured eggs.
4. Macadamia Nuts
The macadamia nut consists mainly of unsaturated fatty acids. With this intention, oleic acid makes up no less than 45% of the total nut (*).
Hence, studies show that macadamias improve insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels. Furthermore, this omega-9 food counteracts abdominal fat and heart disease (Garg et al. 200710).
Almond flour can be a substitute for wheat flour. Therefore, almonds are wildly popular in a diet with healthy fats, such as the Keto diet.
Moreover, almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease and mortality in general, and can help you lose weight (Luo et al. 201411).
If you want to know more about the effects and portioning of healthy fats from nuts, I recommend my ultimate guide to nuts on keto.
6. Olives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olives are known as a staple food of the Mediterranean diet.
As it is brimming with oleic acid, olive oil is probably the best-known food with omega-9 fatty acids.
Also, olives contain polyphenols as well as E and K vitamins, antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress and free radicals (Rahmani et al. 201412).
Furthermore, the consumption of these healthy omega-9 foods can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, prostate, and colon cancer (Tuck et al. 200213).
If you want the full health benefits of the omega-9 fatty acids, it is best to consume olive oil raw, for example, as a salad dressing. With this in mind, olive oil is only suitable for cooking at lower temperatures.
Moreover, always opt for cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil obtained from mechanical processes.
With pecans, another omega-9 food with health benefits stems from the nut family.
Like olives and macadamias, pecans contain high levels of oleic acid.
This powerful monounsaturated fat reduces the risk of the following health conditions (McKay et al. 201814):
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Type 2 diabetes
Moreover, the whole nut consists of over 40% oleic acid (*).
Although conventional wisdom still demonizes it, bacon is by no means unhealthy.
In the context of the current vegan trend, it is almost ironic that the same omega-9 fatty acid olive oil is famous for predominates in bacon – oleic acid (*).
Despite the standard classification as saturated fat, bacon consists of more monounsaturated than saturated fatty acids, which yield numerous health benefits.
If you have the chance, take bacon from organic farming – its fat profile will be even better!
9. Grass-Fed Beef
Not only pork but also beef represents healthy food with omega-9 fatty acids in abundance (*).
Besides the omega-9 fats, grass-fed beef can offer a fatty acid with sensational health benefits: Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
Besides a positive effect on heart health, conjugated linoleic acid helps to reduce body fat and maintain muscle mass (McCrorie et al. 201117).
Since grass-fed beef contains about six times more CLA than grain-fed beef, natural feeding makes the difference (Dhiman et al. 199918).
Eat Omega-9 Foods Instead of Supplements
Although foods with omega-9 fatty acids are not as well known as those with omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, they are just as important, if not more important, for health.
Accordingly, researchers have found that the ideal diet consists of a 1:6:1 ratio (Singh et al. 201019).
Hence, consuming one part saturated, six parts MUFAs, such as Omega-9, and one part PUFAs is most balanced.
However, since it is easy to absorb omega-9 fatty acids in the form of natural foods, dietary omega-9 supplements are not necessary.
Due to the research about olive oil and the Mediterranean diet, we now know that omega-9 foods are essential for heart health and weight loss. So, grab some real omega-9 foods from the list.
Best Omega-9 Foods List FAQ
How much omega 9 should you have a day?
Although there is no recommended dosage per day, scientists suggest a ratio of omega-9 to saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids of 6:1:1. But since you can get natural foods with omega-9, such as nuts, olive oil, and fatty meat in abundance, there is no need to supplement.
What is the difference between omega 3 6 and 9?
The right balance of omega 3 6 9 fatty acids is essential for good health. With this in mind, people tend to consume too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 fatty acids.
Why Omega 6 is bad for you?
An abundance of omega-6 fatty acids, like in the standard American diet (SAD), leads to chronic inflammation. Moreover, omega-6 fatty acids in refined vegetable oils, such as canola, soy, corn, or grape seed, oxidize during production and thus harm your body.
Which Omega is best?
Because we get too much omega-6 and can get enough omega-9 through food, omega-3 fatty acids are the best to eat or supplement.
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Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
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