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There’s no doubt that avocados are high in fat and calories. A medium-sized avocado contains about 322 calories and 25 to 30 grams of fat.
Even so, there are many reasons why avocados are considered a healthy food. About 20 grams of the fat in an avocado is the monounsaturated variety, which is why they are great for your heart health. Avocados also contain plenty of potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, as well as antioxidants like vitamins C and E. And one avocado contains 6 to 7 grams of fiber to help maintain good gastrointestinal health.
Some diets tout avocado as a means of weight loss, and there is some evidence to back this up. At least one animal study has shown that a fat molecule in avocados can help slow weight gain and improve insulin sensitivity. Also, some smaller studies had connected eating avocados with lower body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumferences.
To get a better picture of the avocado’s role in weight management, researchers from five universities decided to band together to conduct the largest and longest study to date on the health impacts of avocados in overweight people. The results were a little surprising….
The health effects of an avocado a day
The HAT (Habitual Diet and Avocado) Trial compared eating one large avocado per day for six months with a habitual diet in a group of 1,008 individuals who were overweight or obese. Participants were 25 years and older with a waist circumference of 35 inches or greater for women and 40 inches or greater for men. Another requirement was that the participants were already consuming up to two avocados per month.
Half of the participants were instructed to eat an avocado every day with their regular diet, while the other half continued their usual diet and were told to limit their avocado consumption to less than two a month.
Before and at the end of the study, each participant had an MRI scan to examine abdominal fat and the fat around their abdominal organs (what’s known as visceral fat). Results of these scans showed no difference in these measurements between the two groups.
Researchers found that while daily avocado consumption had no impact on abdominal or visceral fat, or on waist measurements, it still had a very positive effect for the daily avocado group: their diet improved by eight points on a 100-point scale.
“Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is generally poor in the U.S., and our findings suggest that eating an avocado per day can substantially increase overall diet quality,” says Penny Kris-Etherton, a professor at Penn State. “This is important because we know a higher diet quality is associated with lower risk of several diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”
Another big plus?
Lower cholesterol levels
“While one avocado a day did not lead to clinically significant improvements in abdominal fat and other cardiometabolic risk factors, consuming one avocado a day did not result in body weight gain,” says Joan Sabaté, professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. “This is positive because eating extra calories from avocados doesn’t impact body weight or abdominal fat, and it slightly decreases total and LDL-cholesterol.”
Sounds like an avocado could be the perfect substitution for those unhealthy cholesterol-ridden snacks, like baked goods and sweets.
Eating an avocado a day may seem like a lot, especially if you’ve avoided avocado because you’re on a calorie-restricted diet.
Luckily, many nutrition experts say eating half of a medium or large avocado each day may be enough for you to get its full health benefits. And that includes satiety, which will help control your urge to snack and make weight loss easier.
One good way to incorporate more avocado in your diet is to slice up a half or whole avocado and add it to soups, salads or sandwiches.
For instance, avocado toast can make a nice breakfast or lunch. Or if, like me, you drink a smoothie every day for breakfast, avocado blends in nicely and helps keep you full longer.
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