Omega-9 oils are not essential fatty acids, that is, you don't have to consume them in food to stay alive, but they play an important role in day to day health. Most of the fat you consume is omega-9 fat, and excesses of other kinds of fat are transformed into omega-9's in your fatty tissue.
The human body doesn't make omega-9 fatty acids unless supplies of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are very low. That's because a "desaturase" enzyme used to make the storage form of omega-9 fat is used by omega-3's and omega-6's first. This means, if you don't want your body making omega-9's to store in your body fat, make sure you get plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 (in that order)! But some omega-9 fatty acids in your diet is useful for health.
Omega-9 fatty acids are found in lard, butter, bacon fat, chicken fat, and also in:
- Macadamia nuts
- Pistachio nuts
- Sesame oil
The best source of omega-9 fatty acids, however, is olive oil.
Olive oil is the most important nutrient in the Mediterranean diet. Moderate use of olive oil in dressing salads and as a dip for bread is associated with lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, and lower rates of heart attack and hardening of the arteries.
A little olive oil with your meal slows down the rate at which your stomach empties into the small intestine. This helps you feel full faster and keeps you feeling full longer.
Olive oil stimulates the release of a hormone called cholecystokinin. This is the hormone that is triggered by eating "comfort foods," most of which are high in calories and sugar. The "creaminess" imparted by just a little olive oil is what causes the release of the hormone.
If you diet also contains fish or fish oil, olive oil slows down fat gain. The additional fat in your meal increases the rate at which your body burns fat, compensating for the extra fat in the olive oil.
A little olive oil, up to one and one-half tablespoons (25 ml) per meal is a good thing. Like all good things, it's possible to get too much. But olive oil is by far the easiest omega-9 fatty acid to incorporate into your diet.
What about taking omega-9 supplements? It's important to remember that the omega-9's are non-essential. Our bodies can make them. The problem for most of us who do not live in famine conditions is that our bodies make too much!
When a small amount of omega-9 fat is obtained from the diet, even if it's lard or bacon fat, we have all the fat we need for storage. It's far more important to obtain the omega-3's and omega-6's our bodies need for hormones from supplements,
- Bellisle F. Infrequently asked questions about the Mediterranean diet. Public Health Nutr. 2009 Sep;12(9A):1644-7.
- Casas-Agustench P, Lopez-Uriarte P, Bullo M, Ros E, Gómez-Flores A, Salas-Salvado J. Acute effects of three high-fat meals with different fat saturations on energy expenditure, substrate oxidation and satiety. Clin Nutr. 2009 Feb;28(1):39-45. Epub 2008 Nov 17.