• By Jane Hart, MD

Avocados Linked to Better Health

Avocados may be one tasty and important ingredient for good health. A study in Nutrition Journal links eating avocados to having fewer risk factors that make up the condition known as metabolic syndrome.

Avocados contain “good” fats known as monounsaturated fatty acids

Reasons to eat avocados

In this study, researchers looked at the link between eating avocados and indicators of health, and examined the dietary patterns of 17,567 people, age 19 years and older, in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001 to 2008. Dietary patterns were assessed from 24-hour dietary recall data, and researchers collected physical data from examinations conducted during the survey period.

Results showed that, compared with people who did not eat avocados, people who ate an average of one-half of a medium size avocado per day had:

  • A lower body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference,
  • higher HDL or “good” cholesterol levels,
  • an estimated 50% lower risk of metabolic syndrome (symptoms include high blood pressure, large waist circumference, low HDL cholesterol levels, and high fasting blood glucose levels), and
  • a better quality of diet overall with more fruits and vegetables and less added sugar.

The study authors comment, “Dietitians can recommend consumption of avocados as part of a healthful diet that focuses on increased fruit and vegetable intake,” and they add that avocados “may be of additional benefit to those who have increased risk for metabolic disease risk factors.”

The authors caution that causal evidence between eating avocados and improvements in health cannot be confirmed by this one study, funded by the Hass Avocado Board, and further research is needed to validate these findings.

What’s in the avocado?

Nutrient-rich fruit. Did you know that an avocado is a fruit and not a vegetable? Avocados are a fruit because they contain a seed. But avocados are lower in sugar compared to many other types of fruit and are rich in fiber and vitamins and minerals, including folate, other B vitamins, and potassium. Adding avocados to a balanced diet may be one way to make sure you get all your daily fruit servings.

“Good” fat benefits. Avocados contain “good” fats known as monounsaturated fatty acids. The study authors point out that these fatty acids help increase the health effects of other nutrients in the salads and salsa that people often eat with avocados. Prior research has linked these fatty acids to better health and lower risk of heart disease. However, because avocados are rich in fat it is wise to eat them in moderation to avoid weight gain.

Talk with a doctor about ways to lower your risk for disease and optimize health and about a diet that is appropriate for you.

(Nutr J 2013, 12:1)

Jane Hart, MD

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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