January 8, 2015 12:33 pm
Updated: January 8, 2015 2:47 pm

An avocado a day keeps the cardiologist away, new research suggests


WATCH: There’s health news today that speaks to all guacamole lovers out there. A new study shows avocados can help lower bad cholesterol. Erika Edwards reports.

TORONTO – Move over, apples. New research suggests that eating an avocado a day can help lower bad cholesterol levels in people dealing with obesity.

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Adding an avocado a day to a healthy diet lowers LDL cholesterol – dubbed the bad cholesterol – compared to diets that are low or moderate in fat, doctors from Pennsylvania State University say in findings published Wednesday night.

“In the United States, avocados are not a mainstream food yet and they can be expensive, especially at certain times of the year. Also, most people do not really know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole,” according to lead author, Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton.

“But guacamole is typically eaten with corn chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Avocados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods like chicken or fish or even whole,” she said.

READ MORE: Why Canadian scientists say you should add nuts to your daily diet

Her team’s study put 45 overweight or obese patients between 21 and 70 years old on three different cholesterol-lowering diets. For two weeks, the volunteers followed an average diet – 34 per cent of calories came from fat, 51 per cent from carbohydrates and 16 per cent from protein.

After that, they were placed on one of three cholesterol-lowering plans:

  • The first was low-fat without avocado – in this case, dieters ate plenty of fruits, low-fat dairy, chicken and whole grains
  • The second had moderate fat intake without avocado – it was the same as the first diet, except nuts and oils were weaved into the diet
  • The last option had participants eating an avocado a day for fat intake

(For comparison, the low-fat diet had about 24 per cent of calories from fat, while the other options had 34 per cent of calories coming from fat.)

READ MORE: Why you should eat beans, lentils and peas to lower bad cholesterol

The volunteers followed each of these test diets for five weeks. According to NPR, a sample meal plan on the avocado diet had volunteers eating a chicken salad with half an avocado or turkey tacos with another half of an avocado in a day.

Turns out, compared to the baseline diet, consumers lowered their LDL cholesterol levels by 13.5 mg/dL on the moderate fat diet that included a daily avocado. That was the strongest improvement compared to the low fat diet (7.4 mg/dL lower) and the moderate fat diet without avocado (8.3 mg/dL).

Total cholesterol and triglyceride levels saw the most improvement from the avocado diet, too.

“This was a controlled feeding study, but that is not the real-world — so it is a proof-of-concept investigation. We need to focus on getting people to eat a heart-healthy diet that includes avocados and other nutrient-rich food sources of better fats,” Kris-Etherton said.

READ MORE: 6 misconceptions about nutrition and healthy eating

Hass avocados – the ones with bumpy green skin – were used in the study, but the researchers note that other foods are good sources of healthy fat.

The Mediterranean diet, for example, includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish and food with monounsaturated fatty acids, such as extra-virgin olive oil and nuts.

The diet has been tied to reducing risk of heart disease.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, received a grant from the Hass Avocado Board. But the researchers say the industry group wasn’t involved in designing the study or interpreting the results.

Kris-Etherton told NPR that she’d publish her results even if there weren’t any positive findings tied to eating avocados. Read the full study here.

READ MORE: The 41 most nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables

Earlier this year, Canadian researchers said that eating tree nuts, including almonds, cashews, walnuts and pistachios, could help to lower triglycerides and blood sugars in your body.

A single serving a day — about 30 to 50 grams — is enough to reap the benefits for better heart health.


© 2015 Shaw Media

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