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Avocados

January 2018

By Garry Messick

Despite what seems to be commonly believed, there are indeed healthy foods that are also delicious. Avocados are a case in point.

A mainstay of South American and Mexican cuisine, the avocado is the fruit of the avocado tree, which may have originated in Peru, according to recent research. It is characterized by its smooth, creamy texture and famed for containing a much greater amount of healthy monounsaturated fats than any other fruit.

Let’s delve into some of the more notable health benefits of this nutrient-dense food.

Fiber

At about 7% by weight, the fiber content of the avocado is unusually high compared to most foods. That breaks down to about 25% soluble fiber, 75% insoluble fiber.1 Soluble fiber has the benefit of feeding beneficial gut bacteria2 and fiber in general is an important dietary component, linked to a lower risk of heart disease,3 aiding in weight control,4 and reducing blood-sugar spikes.5

Fats

The avocado is a very fatty food (more than three-quarters of its calories derive from fat), but it’s the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which has been shown to lower inflammation6 and to reduce the risk of some types of cancer.7

Cholesterol

Research has found avocados can improve lipid profiles. One study found that a diet featuring avocados led to a 17% reduction in total serum cholesterol in study subjects, a 22% decrease in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides and an 11% increase in beneficial HDL cholesterol.8

Nutrient Absorption

Research shows avocados can enhance the absorption of some nutrients. A study in The Journal of Nutrition found that eating an avocado along with raw carrots or tomato sauce significantly enhanced the absorption of alpha- and beta-carotene and their conversion to an active form of vitamin A.9

References

  1. J Nutr. 2002;132(7):2015-8.
  2. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006;24(5):701-14.
  3. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(4):370-6.
  4. J Nutr. 2000;130(2S Suppl):272s-5s.
  5. Croat Med J. 2008;49(6):772-82.
  6. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2006;26(5):995-1001.
  7. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2006;7(6):495-502.
  8. Arch Med Res. 1996;27(4):519-23.
  9. J Nutr. 2014;144(8):1158-66.