An avocado a day keeps the heart doc at bay
What could an avocado possibly have to do with heart health? Plenty, if new research is any indication. Health researchers from Penn State University have discovered that a daily dose of this single-seeded berry (yes, avocado is technically a fruit) may help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and reduce heart disease risk.
LDL or low-density lipoprotein is dubbed the bad cholesterol because it contributes to artery-hardening plaque that can lead to a heart attack, stroke or peripheral artery disease.
The research, published online in early January in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that when avocados were added to a moderate-fat diet, LDL cholesterol levels were greatly reduced along with total cholesterol.
Researchers from the University, Pa.-based university tested three different cholesterol-lowering diets with 45 overweight adult participants between the ages of 21 and 70. One diet consisted of 24 percent fat, while the remaining two diets consisted of 34 percent fat. The latter two moderate-fat diets were almost identical, but one included one Hass avocado each day and the other used a comparable amount of high oleic acid oils (think olive oil) to match the fatty acid content of one avocado. (Hass avocados are smaller than their Florida counterparts and have green, bumpy skin.)
All three diets lowered LDL considerably for participants, however, an even greater reduction in LDL and total cholesterol was realized with the avocado diet. The avocado diet reduced LDL cholesterol by 13.5 mg/dL, while the moderate diet lowered it by 8.3 mg/dL and the low-fat diet by 7.4 mg/dL.
Although this controlled study was met with success, researchers cautioned that this was not a real-world scenario but more of a “proof of concept investigation.”
“We need to focus on getting people to eat a healthy diet that includes avocados and other food sources of better fats,” explained co-study author Penny Kris-Etherton, Penn State’s Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, in a statement.
Incorporating avocados into the diet may call for some education on consumers’ part. Kris-Etherton pointed out that most people in the United States don’t know how to use or prepare avocados, outside of guacamole.
“People should start thinking about eating avocados in new ways,” said 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,” she added.
Catherine LaBella, registered dietitian at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., says that avocado oil is pretty comparable to olive oil.
“It contains monounsaturated fat that is heart healthy and is high in vitamin E,” she says. Some people may steer clear of it because they’re unsure how to cook with it, but LaBella says incorporating it into your diet is fairly easy. She says its ideal use is as an ingredient poured sparingly on dishes like salads and pasta.
LaBella does add a word of caution, however. She says that some people with latex allergies can also have a cross allergy with avocado oil.
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