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What is a Monoglyceride?

By Shelby Miller
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A monoglyceride is a type of glyceride molecule, also known as a lipid or fat. It can come from plant oils or animal fats, and it can also be manufactured synthetically. Monoglycerides are added to processed food to act as emulsifiers, which means they bind liquids that don’t blend easily, such as oil and vinegar. They can be found on the ingredient list of many processed sweets, including baked goods, gum, and ice cream, and labeled as simply monoglycerides or as monoacylglycerols.

There are three types of glycerides, each of which consists of one or more chains of fatty acids bonded to a glycerol: monoglycerides, diglycerides, and triglycerides. Whereas a triglyceride is made up of three fatty acid chains and a glycerol, a monoglyceride is distinguished by the fact that it has only one fatty acid chain in its molecule. It can be produced by synthetic means, but it also can be created by breaking down a triglyceride, which is chemically the same, and removing two of its fatty acids.

Unlike triglycerides, which are found in vegetable oil and animal fats and associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, monoglycerides and diglycerides make up a very small percentage of the fats that humans consume. All glycerides have an identical caloric value of 9 calories per gram, but because this type are added to foods in such minute amounts, they do not contribute nearly the number of fat calories that the triglycerides found in oils and butter do. As such, they are not on their face considered to pose a health risk, but they have no known health benefits, either.

A monoglyceride as a food additive is both an emulsifier and a binder, meaning that it helps to combine fatty liquids like oils with water-based liquids as well as prevent the two from separating. An example can be seen in peanut butter. Natural peanut butter, which is made using only peanuts and sometimes salt, separates as the oil rises to the top. Processed peanut butter has an even consistency thanks to the addition of these molecules.

Similarly, they can act as a thickener in baked goods. When added to bread, monoglycerides help to increase the mass, resulting in a larger loaf. They also affect the texture of baked goods, making them not denser but lighter, softer, and fluffier. In addition, they are an important component of chewing gum. Not only do they lend a softer texture to the gum base, but they are the ingredient that delays the loss of flavor from the gum, making it possible to chew longer.

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Discussion Comments

By anon998651 — On Jul 24, 2017

Monoglycerides and diglycerides and diglycerides contain trans fats. If you want all kind of health issues, you can consume more and keep that fraudulent industry running and making billions.

Even FDA decided to rule out trans fats as unhealthy, after lying to people for decades. So, all these *-glicerides are a slow poison.

How do you know if a product has them? Always assume, it does. Then read the ingredients list, not the nutrition label. Nutrition label is another hoax from food industry, made with a convenient help from the FDA, to help the industry conceal trans fats (and not only. Never forget that FDA is not working in interest of people's health, but in interest of big industry profits. CEO's change chairs from FDA to private food corporations, back and forth, back and forth, every 5-10 years. So don't expect those people to care about your health.

Read, read, read!

By anon990642 — On May 02, 2015

Do they contain trans fats?

By kylee07drg — On Jun 07, 2012

I eat a lot of frozen pre-cooked foods, and almost all of them contain vegetable monoglycerides. Some of them are meals designed to be lower in fat and calories, and others are totally caloric and delicious.

I try to mix things up. I figure if I eat low-fat part of the time, it won’t hurt to cheat now and then.

I am not a good cook and I don’t have a lot of time to prepare food, so I depend on everything from frozen fajitas to frozen shrimp alfredo TV dinners. I eat them for lunch and for supper.

By orangey03 — On Jun 07, 2012

@StarJo - I don’t think monoglycerides are bad for you. Like you said, many of the foods that contain them are not the greatest, but then, you have foods like bread that are actually nutritious and benefit from having monoglycerides added to them.

No one would want to eat a flat piece of bread. The fluffier the bread is, the more it appeals to us.

I think as long as you take control of your portion size, it doesn’t hurt anything to eat a little cake or ice cream now and then. The monoglycerides are not going to kill you. If you eat them in moderation, you won’t see a significant weight gain, which is the only thing they could cause that might harm you down the line, in my opinion.

By StarJo — On Jun 06, 2012

Unfortunately, I believe that I consume more than my fair share of monoglycerides in food! I don’t know if they are necessarily bad for you in themselves, but the foods that they are used in are usually the unhealthy kind.

I love peanut butter and ice cream, both of which are high in fat. I know that in small amounts, peanut butter is good, because it is full of protein. However, I don’t just consume a little bit when I eat it.

The same goes for ice cream. I can’t eat just one scoop, and a serving size is only half a cup! So, I keep my body well supplied with monoglycerides, for better or for worse.

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