Advocating for Avocados

 In Health, NBAC Café

Many people avoid avocados, thinking they’re too fattening and that they raise blood cholesterol.  First, let’s clear up these confusions, so that everyone can enjoy these full-bodied, velvety fruits (yes they are fruits, not vegetables) without guilt.

Though avocados are high in calories for a fruit (110 to 180 per half, depending on the variety), that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily gain weight if you eat them.  And though it’s true that avocados have a lot of fat (10 to15 grams per half), the fat—like that in olive and canola oils– is predominantly monounsaturated fat, which doesn’t raise blood cholesterol.  In fact, avocados may actually help reduce cholesterol, according to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, which got a lot of media buzz earlier this year.

Heartening News  The study included overweight or obese adults who followed three different low-saturated-fat diets designed to lower cholesterol.  One diet was high-carb, low-fat (24 percent of calories from fat).  One was moderate in total fat (34 percent of calories) but high in monounsaturated fat, largely from vegetable oils.  The third was similar in composition to the second diet except its monounsaturated fat come largely from a daily avocado.

After five weeks, all three diets reduced cholesterol, but the avocado one lowered it most.  Moreover, only the avocado diet reduced small dense LDL cholesterol particles (considered) more harmful than large, “fluffy” particles).  The researchers said the benefits may be due to the combined effects of the fat, fiber, and compounds called phytosterols, in avocados.  The study was funded by the Hass Avocado Board.

This wasn’t the first study to show potential cardiovascular benefits of avocados.  According to a 2013 paper in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, research dating back more than 50 years found that avocados had either a cholesterol-lowering or cholesterol-neutral effect.  Then, several studies in the 1990’s found that they lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in particular, compared to high-carb, low-fat diets.  And an analysis of national nutrition data collected from 2001 to 2008 noted that people who ate avocados tended o have higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

Avocados are satiating and may help in weight control.  In a small study in Nutrition Journal in 2013, overweight or obese people who ate half an avocado at lunch reported increased satisfaction and decreased desire to eat for several hours afterwards, compared to when they ate a control (no avocado) lunch.  Having some avocado with a meal may thus help prevent excessive snacking between meals, the researchers concluded.

Using data from a national food survey, another study in the Nutrition Journal in 2013 noted that avocado eaters tend to weigh less and have smaller waist circumferences than avocado abstainers (they also tend to have better diets in general– higher in vegetables, fruits, and fiber and lower in sugar).  Some researchers think that a unique sugar in avocados, D-mannoheptulose, may help with blood sugar control and weight management.

Avocados boost absorption of carotenoids form low-fat or nonfat foods.  In a study in the Journal of Nutrition in 2014, eating avocado with tomato sauce or raw carrots increased absorption of beta carotene (which is fat-soluble) from these foods.

Earlier research found that eating avocado with salsa enhanced beta carotene and lycopene absorption.  In addition, both avocado and avocado oil increased carotenoid absorption from salads, indicating that it’s the fat (not other constituents) in avocados that’s responsible for the effect.

BerkeleyWellness.com  June 2015

The NBAC Café has a great menu where avocados are used, the food is clean and delicious, try us out for lunch.

 

 

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