The yummy fatty food that improves cholesterol

The esteemed members of the medical establishment often obsess over statin drugs and a low-fat diet as their choices for bettering heart health. But a little fatty treat turns out to be one of the best things you can consume for your heart and arteries.

If you want to avert heart problems, you should be eating avocados.

We’ve previously showed you how including avocado with a meal lowers inflammation in the heart that can be caused by fried foods and other foods with inflammatory fats. And now researchers at Penn State have found that nutrients in the avocado can help reduce your LDL – bad cholesterol – and raise your good cholesterol. This improved ratio can shrink your heart disease risk.

The researchers note that other research has focused on the monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados that are known to promote better cardiovascular function. More than 2/3 of the fat from one cup of avocado comes from monounsaturated fat. But no one has looked closely at their impact on cholesterol.

“Including one avocado each day as part of a moderate-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet compared to a comparable moderate-fat diet without an avocado provides additional LDL (low-density lipoproteins) lowering affects, which benefit CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk,” says researcher Penny M. Kris-Etherton, who teaches nutrition at Penn State.

In this study, the researchers tested three diets – a low-fat diet whose calories were 24 percent fat and two moderate fat diets in which fat calories were 34 percent of the total calories. The moderate fat diet that included avocados was the most effective at lowering LDL cholesterol.

“People should start thinking about eating avocados in new ways,” says Kris-Etherton. “I think using it as a condiment is a great way to incorporate avocados into meals – for instance, putting a slice or two on a sandwich or using chopped avocado in a salad or to season vegetables.”

Where I part ways with Kris-Etherton, though, is in her belief in the benefits of a “moderate” fat diet. Other researchers – and I agree with them – stress that you should focus on eating healthy fats (skipping highly refined oils like soy and cottonseed oils) instead of worrying about how much fat you consume. Get plenty of nuts, olive oil and omega-3 fats from fish oil (avocadoes have some too). Stay away from trans fats and deep-fried foods unless you want to deep fry your health.

If you’ve never tried an avocado, well, I hadn’t either for a long time. When I finally did, I was surprised at the mild, delicious taste. They look pasty, but they’re more like a melon than a vegetable. One thing I did learn was that if you’re not going to eat the whole avocado, leave the pit in. It’ll stay fresh longer.

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Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.