Twice-monthly health columns are written by a practicing cardiologist, clinical professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Bingham Farms. He’s an author and has appeared on national TV, including “Dr. Oz” and “The Doctors Show.”
By Joel Kahn
This is Nutrition Month, an ideal time to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and avoiding meats – as many people do for Lent.
Avocado slices are one of my favorite additions. Avocados join tomatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins as generally being seen as vegetables, although they’re actually fruits because they start from flowers. Knowing a few surprising nutrition facts about avocados may help make them a favorite of yours too. For example, note the high amount of fiber – over 9 grams — in an average-size avocado.
Most of the calories in an avocado (about 230 in a medium-size one) come from fat. A whole avocado contains about 21 grams of fat, but mostly in the form of healthier monounsaturated fat. A larger fruit provides up to 30 grams of fat, 4.2 grams of saturated fat, almost 20 grams of monounsaturated fat and 3.6 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
The highest quality nutrition science is usually considered to be the randomized clinical trial. In a 2018 study of 31 obese or overweight middle-aged adults, participants consumed energy-matched breakfast meals containing no avocado, a half avocado or a whole fresh Hass avocado on three separate occasions.
Replacing carbohydrate components of their meals with avocados improved a measure of artery health. The avocado-enriched meals also improved blood sugar and cholesterol results. The authors concluded: “Incorporating fresh Hass avocados in meals can help people achieve dietary recommendations to eat more fruits and vegetables and simple substitution strategies with avocados for carbohydrates can add to the nutrient diversity of the diet and potentially have important cardio-metabolic benefits worthy of investigating further.” That’s a lot to accomplish.
A second recent study looked at how eating a daily avocado affects a form of cholesterol called oxidized LDL (oxLDL), which can accelerate atherosclerosis (cholesterol plaque buildup in the walls of arteries, obstructing blood flow). This research enrolled 45 men and women who were overweight or obese and had an elevated LDL cholesterol. Three cholesterol-lowering diets were provided for five weeks each.
Half or whole avocado daily
Compared with a baseline level, the diet with one avocado a day significantly decreased circulating oxLDL, which would be anticipated to be of benefit for the vascular system. Researchers concluded that one avocado a day in a heart-healthy diet decreased oxLDL in adults, and the effect was associated with the reduction in LDL cholesterol too.
Observe Nutrition Month with more fruits and vegetables. A half or whole avocado a day, particularly if replacing refined carbohydrates or animal fats, is a healthy choice. Even for many cardiac patients in a stable state, enjoying avocados is a reasonable and safe choice as they provide “healthy” fats.
I hope you join me by adding a few slices of avocado on your salads regularly.