Some health-conscious consumers steer clear of avocados, wary of the fruit’s high fat content -- roughly 29 grams in the average avocado. In so doing, these consumers overlook the makeup of the avocado’s fat, which consists overwhelmingly of the unsaturated varieties that may help to lower cholesterol levels. This rich supply of healthy fat along with other nutrients and phytochemicals in avocados promote cardiac health.
Good vs. Bad Fats
Not all fats are created equal, at least in terms of their effects on human health. As the American Heart Association points out in an overview of dietary fats, it is saturated fats, trans-fatty acids and dietary cholesterol that can boost blood levels of low-density lipoproteins, or LDLs. As the so-called “bad” cholesterol, LDLs are responsible for the buildup of artery-clogging plaque. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, may even lower LDL levels when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fats and trans-fatty acids, according to the AHA. More than 80 percent of the fats in avocados are of the unsaturated variety, which accounts for the association’s recommendation of the fruit as a source of healthy fats. While cautioning that fats should account for no more than 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories, the AHA strongly recommends opting for unsaturated instead of saturated fats.
A researcher at Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University conducted an animal study to assess what effect, if any, avocado had on the blood cholesterol levels of rats in which hyperlipidemia had been induced. After 70 days on a high-cholesterol diet, laboratory animals were fed 1 to 2 milliliters of avocado fruit pulp daily. Testing after an extended period of the avocado supplementation revealed lower overall blood levels of cholesterol marked, most notably, by sharply lower LDL levels. Test animals also showed significantly lower levels of malondialdehyde, or MDA, in the tissues of their hearts and livers. MDA is a byproduct of the oxidative breakdown of lipids in your body and is considered an indicator of oxidative stress. These lower MDA levels indicate that the avocado not only lowered cholesterol levels but also increased antioxidant activity in the test subjects. Results were published in the September 2011 issue of “African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.”
Impact on Overall Nutrition
In an analysis of data from a broad national nutrition survey, a team of U.S. researchers examined the nutritional profiles of 273 survey respondents who indicated they had consumed avocados in the 24-hour period that was the subject of the survey. Data showed that avocado consumers had a higher intake of total fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, dietary fiber, vitamins E and K, potassium and magnesium than respondents who had not eaten avocados but had comparable caloric intake. The statistics also revealed that avocado consumers had lower body weight, body mass index and waist circumference and higher levels of high-density lipoprotein than non-avocado consumers. In the April 2010 issue of “The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology,” researchers revealed that avocado consumers had sharply lower odds of metabolic syndrome, a collection of medical disorders that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Facilitates Carotenoid Absorption
Heart-healthy carotenoids such as lutein and alpha- and beta-carotene occur naturally in a wide array of fruits and vegetables. However, the lipids necessary to facilitate maximal absorption of carotenoids are present in very few of these foods. Ohio State University researchers conducted a study that showed the addition of avocado or avocado oil to a salad or salsa sharply increased the absorption of carotenoids from those foods. They published their findings in the March 2005 issue of “The Journal of Nutrition.”
About the Author
Don Amerman has spent his entire professional career in the editorial field. For many years he was an editor and writer for The Journal of Commerce. Since 1996 he has been freelancing full-time, writing for a large number of print and online publishers including Gale Group, Charles Scribner’s Sons, Greenwood Publishing, Rock Hill Works and others.
- avocado in avocado pÃ¼ree image by Lucky Dragon from Fotolia.com
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