Consider that guac upcharge an investment in your heart health.
- Eating one avocado a day was associated with significantly lower levels of types of LDL, or bad cholesterol, in overweight or obese adults, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition found.
- Avocado also improved levels of lutein, an antioxidant associated with heart health, by more than 68 percent.
- One avocado delivers about half of the heart-disease fighting dietary fibre you need each day.
If you’re an avocado lover, you’re already used to paying extra for adding that dollop of guac to your burrito. Well, now you can consider it an investment in your heart health.
In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Penn State researchers found that eating one avocado a day may help improve your levels of “bad cholesterol.”
In this case, bad cholesterol refers to oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) as well as small, dense LDL particles, both of which significantly raise your risk of atherosclerosis, or the plaque buildup inside your arteries that raises your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Researchers recruited 45 overweight or obese adults, 21 to 70 years of age, and had them follow a typical American diet for two weeks. Then for the next 15 weeks, the volunteers randomly rotated through three diets designed to help lower cholesterol.
For five weeks, the participants ate either a lower-fat diet, consisting of 24 percent fat (7 percent saturated fat, 11 percent monounsaturated fat, and 6 percent polyunsaturated fat), 59 percent carbohydrates, and 16 percent protein; a moderate fat diet that consisted of 34 percent fat (6 percent saturated fat, 17 percent monounsaturated fat, and 9 percent polyunsaturated fat), 49 percent carbohydrates, and 16 percent protein, or a moderate fat avocado diet, which included the same percentage of macronutrients and healthy fats, but incorporated one fresh avocado as a primary fat source.
The avocado diet worked best overall. After five weeks of eating the smooth green fruit every day, participants had significantly lower levels of oxidised LDL cholesterol (which can trigger inflammatory responses) than before the study began or after completing the low- and other moderate healthy fat diets. They lowered those levels by 9 percent.
“When you think about bad cholesterol, it comes packaged in LDL particles, which vary in size,” Kris-Etherton said in the release. “All LDL is bad, but small, dense LDL is particularly bad. A key finding was that people on the avocado diet had fewer oxidized LDL particles.”
The volunteers also increased their levels of lutein—an antioxidant that has been linked to lower risk of heart attack and stroke—by more than 68 percent after the avocado diet. The lutein may be protecting the LDL from becoming oxidized, Kris-Etherton said in the release.
“A lot of research points to oxidation being the basis for conditions like cancer and heart disease,” Kris-Etherton said. “We know that when LDL particles become oxidized, that starts a chain reaction that can promote atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque in the artery wall. Oxidation is not good, so if you can help protect the body through the foods that you eat, that could be very beneficial.”
In 2015, the same team of researchers published a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association showing that adults eating an avocado a day were able to lower their overall LDL cholesterol levels by 13.5 points, nearly twice as much as those who consumed a low-fat diet, who lowered their levels just 7 points.
In full disclosure, both of these studies were supported by grants from the Haas Avocado Board. However, there have been ample amounts of independent research on all the heart healthful components—like fibre, monounsaturated fats, and micronutrients like potassium and magnesium—that are found in avocado, that can help keep scepticism at bay.
A single avocado delivers 13 grams of fibre—half of the 25 to 30 grams a day recommended by the American Heart Association. Eating more dietary fibre is a proven way to improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
One avocado also delivers 975 milligrams (about a third of the daily recommended amount) of potassium, an electrolyte that’s essential for proper heart function. Low potassium levels have been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Finally, healthy dietary fat, like the monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) found in avocados, can help keep you feeling full, manage blood sugar, and reduce bad cholesterol levels while maintaining your good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.
All of that supports these recent findings that people’s cholesterol profiles improve by eating an avocado a day.
“Consequently, people should consider adding avocados to their diet in a healthy way, like on whole-wheat toast or as a veggie dip.” Kris-Etherton said in the release.