An Avocado a Day may Help Keep Bad Cholesterol at Bay
Eating an avocado every day as part of a heart healthy, cholesterol-lowering, moderate-fat diet can help improve bad cholesterol levels in overweight and obese people, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Forty-five overweight or obese patients between 21 and 70 who were otherwise healthy were put on three different cholesterol-lowering test diets. For two weeks before starting their test diet, all participants ate a baseline diet consisting of 34 percent of calories from fat, 51 percent carbohydrates and 16 percent protein. Following the two weeks of baseline diet, participants randomly sequenced through each of the following three test diets, following each diet for five weeks:
- Lower-fat diet without avocado.
- Moderate-fat diet without avocado.
- Moderate-fat diet with one avocado each day.
- The two moderate-fat diets both provided 34 percent of calories from fat, half from monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs); the lower-fat diet provided 24 percent fat calories (11 percent from MUFAs).
Compared to the baseline diet, LDL cholesterol was 13.5 mg/dL lower after consuming the moderate-fat diet with an avocado. LDL was also lower on the moderate-fat diet without the avocado (8.3 mg/dL lower) and the lower-fat diet (7.4 mg/dL lower).
Several additional blood measurements were also more favorable after the avocado diet versus the other two cholesterol-lowering diets, including total cholesterol and triglycerides.
"This was a controlled feeding study, but that is not the real-world — so it is a proof-of-concept investigation," said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., senior study author and Chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park. "We need to focus on getting people to eat a heart-healthy diet that includes avocados and other nutrient-rich food sources of better fats.
"In the United States avocados are not a mainstream food yet, and they can be expensive, especially at certain times of the year. Also, most people do not really know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole. But guacamole is typically eaten with corn chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Avocados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods (like chicken or fish) or even whole." Many heart healthy diets recommend replacing saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fats. This is because saturated fats (solid at room temperature) can increase bad cholesterol.
The Mediterranean diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and foods rich in unsaturated fats — such as extra-virgin olive oil and nuts. Like avocados, some research indicates that these foods contain better fats and certain micronutrients and bioactive components that may play an important role in reducing risk of heart disease.