Over 50 years of research has sought to define the role dietary fat plays in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Although optimal dietary fat quantity has been keenly pursued over past decades, attention has recently centered on the value of dietary fat quality. The purpose of the present review is to provide a critical assessment of the current body of evidence surrounding efficacy of dietary monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) for reduction of traditional risk factors defining metabolic syndrome (MetS) and CVD. Due to existing and emerging research on health attributes of MUFA rich diets, and to the low prevalence of chronic disease in populations consuming MUFA rich Mediterranean diets, national dietary guidelines are increasingly recommending dietary MUFA, primarily at the expense of saturated fatty acids (SFA). Consumption of dietary MUFA promotes healthy blood lipid profiles, mediates blood pressure, improves insulin sensitivity and regulates glucose levels. Moreover, provocative newer data suggest a role for preferential oxidation and metabolism of dietary MUFA, influencing body composition and ameliorating the risk of obesity. Mounting epidemiological and human clinical trial data continue to demonstrate the cardioprotective activity of the MUFA content of dietary fat. As the debate on the optimal fatty acid composition of the diet continues, the benefit of increasing MUFA intakes, particularly as a substitute for dietary SFA, deserves considerable attention.