Unlike other fruits avocado is high in healthy fats rather than carbohydrates. The major type of fat found in avocado are monounsaturated fatty acids, particularly oleic acid, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation within the body (Alvizouri-Munoz et al 1992).
Oleic acid significantly lowers both total and LDL (‘lousy’) cholesterol as well as triglycerides (a measure of fat within the blood stream). A randomised human trial comparing the effects of a diet high in monounsaturated fats from avocado with that of a diet high in complex carbohydrates showed that the diet high in monounsaturated fats resulted in an 8.2% decrease in total cholesterol after 3 weeks with a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol (Colquhoun et al 1992). Another study found oleic acid to increase HDL (‘healthy’) cholesterol levels by 11% whilst lowering triglycerides by 22% in individuals with mildly elevated cholesterol levels (Lopez Ledesma et al 1996).
Like all other plant foods, avocados are naturally cholesterol-free but do contain a compound called beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol which is the plant equivalent of human cholesterol. It competes with cholesterol absorption within the body, thereby lowering cholesterol levels in the bloodstream (Ras et al 2013).
Absorption of Nutrients
Dietitians like to ensure adequate intake of nutrients but we also need to consider issues such as bioavailability and absorption. It doesn’t really matter whether you are consuming sufficient vitamins, minerals and antioxidants through food if you aren’t absorbing them.
Fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) can only be absorbed if eaten in the presence of dietary fats. The same is true for antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lycopene.
Fortunately, as avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, including them in your meals such as salads therefore increases nutrient absorption so these vitamins and antioxidants can actually be used by the body.
Apart from their ability to improve your cholesterol profile, avocados assist with heart health due to their high potassium content (240mg per 50g serving). Potassium directly opposes sodium, with high intakes of this mineral associated with reduced blood pressure (Kim et al 2014).
Avocados are also high in magnesium (15mg per 50g serving), another mineral shown to help regulate blood pressure and heart rhythm (Dreher & Davenport 2013).
It is therefore not surprising that those who regularly eat avocado have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome (Fulgoni et al 2013) as well as cardiovascular disease and stroke.
We are often conscious of what we put on our skin but eating avocado is like moisturising from the inside out.
The monounsaturated fats and vitamin E (functions as an antioxidant at the cellular level) in avocado are particularly nourishing to the skin, helping to prevent dryness by maintaining moisture in the epidermal layer of the skin (Dreher & Davenport 2013).
Avocados are literally a cocktail for healthy glowing skin!
How to Enjoy Avocado
Avocados are best stored at room temperature until just soft to the touch, and then kept in the fridge to halt the ripening process until ready to eat.
Keep cut avocados in the fridge with a squeeze of lemon in an airtight container to help prevent browning.
- use as a spread on toast, sandwiches, wraps or wholegrain crackers instead of butter/margarine
- add to dairy free smoothies to achieve a creamy consistency
(try blending a handful of spinach leaves + 1 medium banana + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder + half an avocado with ice and water)
- make into guacamole dip
- add to salads for the perfect side-dish
Stay tuned for a tasty recipe featuring avocado I’ll be sharing soon.
Alvizouri-Munoz et al (1992), ‘Effects of avocado as a source of monounsaturated fatty acids on plasma lipid levels’, Archives of Medical Research, 23(4): 163-167.
Colquhoun et al (1992), ‘Comparison of the effects on lipoproteins and apolipoproteins of a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids, enriched with avocado, and a high-carbohydrate diet’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 56(1): 671-677.
Dreher & Davenport (2013), ‘Hass avocado composition and potential health effects’, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 53(7): 738-750.
Fulgoni et al (2013), ‘Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008’, Nutrition, 12(1).
Kim et al (2014), ‘The relationship of dietary sodium, potassium, fruits, and vegetable intake with blood pressure among Korean adults aged 40 and older’, Nutrition Research and Practice, 8(4): 453-462.
Lopez Ledesma et al (1996), ‘Monounsaturated fatty acid (avocado) rich diet for mild hypercholesterolemia’, Archives of Medical Research, 27(4): 519-523.
Ras et al (2013), ‘Consumption of plant sterol-enriched foods and effects on plasma plant sterol concentrations – a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies’, Atherosclerosis, 230(2): 336-346.