Heart health and avocados – Center for Healthy Living explains the connection

February is Heart Health Month! You can’t have a discussion about heart health without knowing the key heart health indicators in your body, such as total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides (TG). It is well established that high levels of TC, LDL and TG lead to coronary heart disease (CHD). You might be wondering “how can I decrease those levels through diet to protect my heart and prevent disease?” The meta-analysis highlighted in this article explores the effects of avocado consumption on TC, TG, LDL and HDL levels.  

The Article

Peou S, Milliard-Hasting B, Shah SA. Impact of avocado-enriched diets on plasma lipoproteins: A meta-analysis. J Clin Lipid. 2016; 10(1):161-171.

Center for Healthy Living summary

The purpose of this meta-analysis was to determine if avocado consumption altered LDL, HDL, TG and TC levels. The authors completed an extensive literature search and narrowed down the results to 10 research articles to obtain the appropriate articles for further analysis. The 10 research articles varied in how much avocado participants ate per day, the length of each intervention period, other fat sources participants were allowed to eat and participant demographics. The authors found that substituting avocado for a saturated fatty acid (SFA) source showed clinical significance in decreasing TC, LDL and TG levels. Healthy subjects and subjects with dyslipidemia were the two groups that had the greatest reduction in LDL, TC and TG levels. The authors further suggest that people will see the greatest benefit and improvement in lipoprotein levels if avocado is substituted for SFAs versus just simply adding avocados to a diet.

A lesson on fats

There are four types of fats that are important to know when discussing heart health: saturated fatty acids (SFAs), trans fats, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). SFAs are typically found in animal sources, ie butter, cheese, beef, poultry, etc. SFAs are solid at room temperature. Too much SFAs can increase LDL and increase your risk for heart disease. Trans fatty acids are found in processed foods and should be avoided. Trans fats can also increase your risk for heart disease and raise LDL. The two “good” fats are MUFAs and PUFAs. Chemically speaking, MUFAs only have one double bond in their structure and PUFAs have more than one double bond. MUFAs can be found in olive oil, canola oil, almonds, cashews, and avocados, just to name a few! PUFAs are found in salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts! Both MUFAs and PUFAs protect your heart!

A closer look at avocados

Avocados are full of “good fat”, also known as MUFAs and PUFAs. One cup of sliced avocados contains 10 g of dietary fiber! The recommended amount of fiber for men is 30-35 g and 25-30 g for women. Avocados contain important vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, vitamin E, vitamin K and folate. Since avocados contain lots of fat, avocados can assist with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins K, A, D and E.

Avocado how to’s:

  • How to: Select a Ripe Avocado

Gently squeeze an avocado in the palm of your hand. A ripe avocado should be firm, but give a little when squeezed. It should feel soft, but not mushy. The avocado should be as “squishy” as the tip of your nose when you gently press it with a finger. The color of the skin on a ripe avocado is typically dark green or black. However, color can vary between different types of avocados, so going by feel is best!

  • How to: Ripen an avocado

If you are eager to eat your avocado and want to speed up the ripening process, simply place your avocado into a brown paper bag with an apple or banana for a few days until the avocado is ripe.

  • How to: Cut and peel an avocado

Watch this video for a quick tutorial on how to cut, peel, slice and dice an avocado.

  • How to: Store an avocado

For firm avocados, store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks depending on the ripeness. Ripe avocados can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. If you are storing a cut avocado, sprinkle lime or lemon juice on the cut surface and wrap with plastic wrap or store in an airtight container to prevent browning.

Recipe

Here is a recipe for you to try out at home that uses a mashed avocado instead of butter!

Avocado Banana Muffins

Recipe from My Kids Lick the Bowl

Ingredients: 
1 ripe avocado1 tsp vanilla
150 g (1-2) bananas1.5 cups plain flour
2 eggs2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp honey¼ cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add the avocado, banana, eggs, honey and vanilla to a blender or food processor.
  2. Blitz until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder until well mixed.
  4. Add the avocado and banana mix to the dry ingredients including the chocolate chips.
  5. Mix gently until just combined.
  6. Spoon into a greased or lined 12-hole muffin tin.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
  8. Leave to cool in the tray before removing them.
  9. Serve and enjoy!

Author: Kathryn Russell, MS, RD, LDN

Resources:

Avocado Calories – Nutrition Info About Avocados. (2020, August 28). Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://loveonetoday.com/avocado-nutrition/

Guide to California Avocados: Choosing, Ripening, and Nutrition. (2020, October 26). Retrieved February 02, 2021, from https://californiaavocado.com/how-to/how-to-choose-and-use-an-avocado/

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