There’s no disputing the tastebud-pleasing powers of guacamole. There’s also no denying the health benefits brought about by the main ingredient of this avocado-based dip. Avocados are vessels of all kinds of goodness, including healthy fats, antioxidants and minerals.
The Health Benefits of Eating Avocado
A recent scientific review of the benefits of eating avocado determined the fruit with creamy green flesh can play a role in fighting metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a series of risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure and blood sugar, and elevated cholesterol, that can put people at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
The review emphasizes the use of medicinal plants, and avocado in particular. Because metabolic syndrome increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease up to five times, the study’s authors say “it is of vital importance to manage such conditions with herbal options, which have less undesirable adverse effects and may be more efficacious in comparison with synthetic options.” That’s great news for those of us who love a few slices of “alligator pears” on our toast.
The review’s findings are also good reminders for Monica Szeliga, who has always appreciated avocados for their fiber, folate and healthy fats. The registered dietitian from Hamilton, Ontario has typically recommended including avocado in diets of clients managing high levels of bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Now others stand to benefit from eating more avocado, too, she notes. “There are many different risk factors of metabolic syndrome and [the review] showed the benefits of avocado on all risk factors, because you want to work on all risk factors, not just one,” Szeliga said.
The fiber in half an avocado (6.7 grams) is more than one quarter of what we need each day and even the protein can leave us feeling fuller after we eat it. That’s helpful for those watching their weight and wanting to curb cravings for less healthy snacks. Even though they’re high in calories (there are 320 calories in a medium avocado) they can help you lose weight. A small study of overweight adults found that adding half an avocado to lunch helped people feel more satisfied and full over a subsequent 3-5 hour period.
The findings could also help some of Szeliga’s clients overcome their fear of fats and focus on including the right kinds in their diets. “One thing I tell clients is that in the past fat was demonized but we know that’s not the case anymore,” she says. “The public has become more comfortable with fat and [the review] talks about the benefits of healthy fats, like nuts, seeds and avocados.”
Monounsaturated and unsaturated fats were among the most abundant bioactive compounds found in avocados, according to the review. Both fats are touted as important players in reducing the risk of heart disease. Still, there’s a strong genetic component to metabolic syndrome, Szeliga notes. The risks also increase as we age. So while eating avocados may be a preventive measure for some, it may be more of a maintenance tool for those with a tendency toward metabolic syndrome.
Also, the study showed only the short-term benefits of eating avocados. Szeliga was curious what the long-term outcomes of an avocado-rich diet would be.
And while the review confirmed some of what she already knew about the fruit, Szeliga wouldn’t want anyone to think eating an avocado a day will keep the doctor away. “Focus on overall diet patterns rather than specific foods. I wouldn’t necessarily tell people to have an avocado or half an avocado every day,” she said. “I don’t think someone could continue with an unhealthy diet and eat an avocado every day and expect things to change.”