A daily avocado may be the secret to healthy cholesterol

Feb. 8, 2015—An avocado a day could help keep high cholesterol at bay—particularly if you’re overweight—new research in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests.

About the study

Researchers put 45 healthy, overweight adults on an average American diet—high in carbohydrates and fat—for 2 weeks. They were then randomly assigned to 1 of 3 different diets:

  • A low-fat diet.
  • A moderate-fat diet that contained heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from sources like canola and sunflower oil.
  • A moderate-fat diet that contained monounsaturated fats from a whole Hass avocado each day.

Forty participants rotated through all 3 diets, following each for 5 weeks with 2-week breaks in between. Three people completed 2 of the diets, and 2 completed only 1.

After 5 weeks, all 3 diets resulted in lower levels of both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol , the bad kind of cholesterol that causes plaque in the arteries. But the avocado diet provided the best results, with the most significant decreases in LDL and total cholesterol.

The moderate-fat diets also did not lower HDL cholesterol—this is the good type of cholesterol that helps sweep LDL cholesterol out of the arteries—as much as the low-fat diet did.

The study, which was funded by the Hass Avocado Board, suggests that while all foods rich in monounsaturated fats contain fatty acids that are good for cholesterol, avocados may have an extra edge, thanks to their nutrient-dense nature.

Even so, the study supports the benefits of replacing saturated fats with any foods that contain healthier, unsaturated fats. Doing so may improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease.

Learn more about this study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The take-home message
Replacing the saturated fats in your diet with avocados may help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease. But eating more of the green stuff is just 1 dietary step you can take toward a healthier ticker .

Knowing the difference between the types of fats and kinds of cholesterol can help you choose foods that are healthier.

Eating foods that are high in saturated fats raises cholesterol levels in your blood and increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke, which is why experts recommend limiting your intake of them.

Saturated fats are found in such foods as:

  • Fatty beef
  • Lamb
  • Poultry with skin
  • Lard
  • Dairy products, such as butter, cream and cheese, made with whole or 2 percent milk
  • Baked goods and fried foods

The majority of the fat you consume should come from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated sources, which can help lower levels of bad cholesterol in your blood and reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

In addition to avocados, good sources of these fats include:

  • Olive or canola oil
  • Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, herring or trout
  • Tofu and soybeans

Remember, all fats contain 9 calories per gram, and eating too much fat can contribute to weight gain. To maintain a healthy weight, even healthy fats should be eaten in moderation.

 

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