Don’t be ashamed for loving avocados. The feeling is oh-so right and never wrong. They are green, creamy, and rich in omega-3s and many other vitamins and minerals that may help the body absorb other nutrients more efficiently. In fact, a recent study found that eating one avocado every day may help to naturally lower bad cholesterol levels in people who are overweight and obese.
The findings of this study do not simply indicate that the simple addition of an avocado to an otherwise unhealthy diet will improve cholesterol levels. What the study meant to reveal is that the heart-healthy fats in avocados, in addition to the other nutrients from a balanced plant-based diet that is rich in fresh ingredients, can help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
How Cholesterol Works
Cholesterol, which is produced by the liver, is a naturally occurring, essential part of the human body. The reason that a high percentage of Americans have high cholesterol levels is because excess cholesterol exists in animal products, such as meat, poultry, pork, and dairy products. Regular consumption of those foods can lead to elevated blood cholesterol level, putting you at a greater risk for atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attack.
High Fat Doesn’t Mean More Cholesterol
Sometimes avocados are frowned upon because they contain fat and are high in calories. A lot of people don’t realize that the monounsaturated fats in avocados can help to lower bad cholesterol. Animal products, fast foods, and processed foods, on the other hand, contain saturated fats and trans fats. These can raise LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol), while avocados contain zero cholesterol and work to promote healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels (the good cholesterol). Additionally, avocados contain potassium, which helps to lower sodium levels in the body, and that is good news for high blood pressure patients.
The avocado study asked 45 overweight or obese participants to eat the Standard American Diet for two weeks. This diet is comprised of 51% calories from carbs, 34% calories form fat, and 15% calories from protein. This served to get a common baseline test for cholesterol levels. After this two-week period, the participants completed a series of three different diets in a random order. They had to complete a low fat diet (24% of calories from fat) without avocado, a moderate fat diet (34% of calories from fat) with avocado, a moderate fat diet without avocado, and finally a moderate fat diet with a daily serving of one avocado. Each diet lasted 5 weeks.
All of the participants were provided the same meals for this diet to make the test uniform. The findings indicated that all of the low and moderate fat diets helped to naturally decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. It should be noted that someone who eats a Standard American Diet should not expect to have lower cholesterol levels just by eating one avocado a day. If the person continues to eat junk food like grain-based desserts, fried foods, or processed foods, they most likely will not see positive results. Try substituting an avocado for certain junk foods and lower your calories from fat percentage.
Avocados aren’t readily available to all parts of the country year round. There are similar unsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, and certain oils. However, lowering cholesterol levels with those foods is not as concrete as the moderate fat avocado diet. So what sets avocados apart from other plant-based foods with monounsaturated fats?
As mentioned earlier, avocados are packed with potassium and they have one of the highest protein levels for a fruit. They even have anti-inflammatory properties that have helped people with arthritis. Some of the cholesterol-lowering properties may be attributed to certain properties in avocados that also exist naturally in the plant world. Studies are still being conducted, but moderate fat intake (34% fat from calories) with one avocado a day has demonstrated positive cholesterol-lowering results.