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Eat More Avocados. Research Shows They’re Good for Your Heart | by heidi


 


Eating two avocados every week may lower the risk of developing heart disease, according to a new study.


In a large-scale study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that higher avocado intake is associated with a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease generally and a 21% lower risk of coronary heart disease. The study sample involved data from 68,786 women and 41,701 men. Participants completed food frequency questionnaires, which the researchers used to determine avocado consumption.1


“What prompted the study was the gap in the literature regarding avocado intake and risk of cardiovascular disease events,” Lorena S. Pacheco, PhD, MPH, RDN, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the study, told Verywell. 


Pacheco added that previous studies have focused on the impact of avocados on “cardiovascular risk factors” rather than a cardiovascular event, such as coronary artery disease and stroke.2


The researchers also found that replacing common fat sources, like butter, cheese, processed meats, and eggs with avocados was associated with better heart health outcomes.1

What Makes Avocados Nutritious?

Avocados contain a lot of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins E, K, and B. But these vitamins are also found in many other fruits and vegetables, according to Kristian Morey, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian with the Nutrition and Diabetes Education program at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.


What makes avocados unique, however, is their high level of healthy fat, Morey explained. While “fat” often has a negative association, it is an essential macronutrient that our bodies need to function.3


“They can help us absorb certain nutrients better, particularly fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K,” Morey told Verywell. “They can help play a protective role in our bodies. I like to point out how prone to injury would you be if you had absolutely no body fat.”


Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which are considered “healthy” fats.4 Saturated and trans fats can raise LDL—the “bad” cholesterol—while MUFA and PUFA can lower LDL cholesterol and support heart health.5


Why Is LDL Cholesterol Bad?

Build-ups of LDL cholesterol are associated with higher risk of heart attack and stroke. High levels can cause plaque to form in your arteries and lead to serious conditions, such as coronary artery disease (CAD) and peripheral artery disease (PAD), among others.


In addition to MUFA and PUFA, avocados are a great source of dietary fiber.4 One type of dietary fiber, called soluble fiber, attaches to LDL cholesterol in the digestive tract. Fiber is like a “scrub brush” of the digestive tract, Morey said, and it helps move LDL cholesterol out of the body.

She added that avocados are also a “versatile” fruit that can be incorporated into many different recipes.

Avocado Alternatives

Between rising grocery prices, food preferences, and dietary restrictions, avocados may not be the right choice for everyone. Pacheco stressed that avocados should be considered as just one part of a healthy eating pattern.


“It is certainly not a ‘magical bullet’ in itself,” Pacheco said.

While avocados offer many health benefits, Pacheco and her team pointed out in the study that there are alternative dietary sources that can provide similar nutrients.1


“We did not observe an association when we substituted other healthy dietary fats such as olive oil, nuts, and other plants oils for avocado, suggesting that they can all be considered as healthy sources of fat,” Pacheco said.


However, oils including olive oil, vegetable oil, and avocado oil don’t provide any dietary fiber, meaning they don’t offer quite the same benefits as whole avocados. Legumes, nuts, and seeds are great sources of fiber.6


Importantly, the study authors also found that replacing certain fat-containing foods—like butter, yogurt, and processed meats—with avocado led to a reduced heart disease risk.1 Instead of just focusing on adding avocados or other “healthy” fat sources into your eating pattern, experts say it is also essential to reduce saturated fat intake.


“Cutting back a little bit is also going to be a very beneficial step,” Morey said.


Ultimately, experts warn that suggesting one food as the “healthiest” or “best” can add unnecessary stress for individuals who can’t access that food.


“It can perpetuate all or nothing thinking. If I have this food then I’m making a ‘good’ choice but if I don’t, then I’m making a ‘bad’ choice.” Morey said. “When people use terms like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ with food, they tend to take on those labels for themselves.”

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