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I Heart Avocados

Avocados May Help Lower Cholesterol 

From salads to sandwiches to smoothies, avocados are popping up everywhere in modern cuisine. Once an exotic delicacy, this creamy fruit can now be found at supermarkets, on menus and in kitchens nationwide. The avocado’s surge in popularity may be partially due to its impressive nutritional profile. Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, the good fat linked to heart health. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of South Australia suggest the avocado may offer more than just good fat when it comes to health.  

In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, 45 overweight adults ate three different cholesterol-lowering diets for five weeks each. The three diets were similar, except that they replaced saturated fats with carbohydrates, monounsaturated fat-rich oils, or one Hass avocado. At the beginning of the study and after each five-week diet period, researchers analyzed blood samples from each participant.

All three diets were successful in lowering LDL (bad) and total cholesterol, but the avocado diet yielded the most striking results. Compared with a typical American diet, the avocado diet lowered LDL cholesterol by 10% and total cholesterol by 8%, while the diets with carbohydrates and oils reduced LDL and total cholesterol by about 5% and 4%, respectively. The avocado diet also helped to preserve levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that carries excess cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to the liver where it is broken down.

Researchers suspect it is more than just the healthy fats in avocados at work in lowering cholesterol. The avocado diet was more successful than the diet that included sunflower and canola oils, also high in monounsaturated fats, suggesting other compounds in avocados add to the effect. Avocados are nutrient-dense and are rich in phytosterols, compounds that inhibit absorption of cholesterol and help lower LDL and total cholesterol. One avocado packs over nine grams of fiber, also beneficial in lowering cholesterol.

Too much cholesterol in the blood can have several negative health effects, including heart disease and stroke. Inclusion of one avocado per day as part of a moderate-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet may be beneficial to your heart and overall health. Try using avocado in place of mayonnaise on sandwiches or in lieu of creamy dressing on salads. Avocado is a hearty addition to sushi rolls and tastes delicious in Asian cuisine.

Published August 1, 2015

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