All hail the avocado!
Trendy, popular and a bit of an overachiever in the health department, avocado is like the homecoming queen of the fats parade.
Avocado is actually a single-seeded berry native to Mexico, but at 322 calories and 29 grams of fat—10 to 20 times what you’ll find in any other item in the produce aisle—the avocado can arguably be considered more of a fat than a fruit. Moreover, it’s the mono-unsaturated fat content of an avocado–20 grams per berry–that researchers say make it so special, and deserving of the health food fame. With its proven ability to lower cholesterol, quell hunger pangs and even spot-reduce belly fat, the avocado is arguably one of only a few perfect foods to lose weight.
Apples are so cliche. Researchers now say it’s an avocado a day that can really keep the doctor—and your cholesterol levels—at bay. One study in the Journal of the American Heart Association put 45 overweight people on one of three different cholesterol-lowering diets for five weeks. One diet was lower in fat, with 24 percent of total calories coming from mostly saturated fat, and didn’t include an avocado. A second non-avocado diet was more moderate in fat, with 34 percent of total calories coming from mostly saturated fats. The third was equally moderate in fat, at 34 percent, but replaced some of the saturated fats with one whole Haas avocado per day. The result? Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, was 13.5 mg/dL lower among the avocado dieters than the low-fat group—enough to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Researchers attribute the results to avocado’s monounsaturated fat content (a type of heart-healthy fat molecule that has one unsaturated carbon bond), which may play an important part in lowering elevated cholesterol—a factor in insulin resistance, excess weight, and obesity.
Do a little belly dance! Make a little lunch! And get down on avocado oil. Researchers say swapping your cooking and finishing oils for varieties like avocado oil that are rich in monounsaturated and oleic fatty acids can spot reduce abdominal fat, which may decrease the risk for metabolic syndrome—the name for a combination of negative health markers associated with weight gain. A recent Penn State study found people who consumed 40 grams (about 3 tablespoons) of high-oleic oils on a daily basis for four weeks lowered their belly fat by 1.6 percent compared to those who consumed a flax/safflower oil blend, which is comparatively high in polyunsaturated fat. A second study in the journal Diabetes Care found similar results: A diet rich in monounsaturated fat may actually prevent body fat distribution around the belly by down-regulating the expression of certain fat genes. One tablespoon of mild and slightly nutty-tasting avocado oil is about 120 calories and 10 grams of monounsaturated fat—a nutritional profile almost identical to extra virgin olive oil. But unlike EVOO, avocado oil has a very high smoke point, so you can use it for sautés and stir-frys without risk of creating free radicals that can harm your health.
Low-calorie, vitamin-rich and chock-full of important nutrients that can shrink your waist, vegetables are a dieter’s best friend; but you won’t get much benefit from a garden salad without adding a little fat, researchers say. And when it comes to fat, the type found in avocados reigns supreme. In one study, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, researchers fed participants salads topped with saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat-based dressings and tested their blood for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids—disease-fighting compounds associated with improved weight and fat loss. The result? Veggies topped with monounsaturated fat required the least amount—just 3 grams—to get the most carotenoid absorption, while saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat dressings required higher amounts of fat (20 grams) to get the same benefit. Another study in the Journal of Nutrition found that adding avocado to salad allowed participants to absorb three to five times more carotenoids. Give your greens the ultimate nutrient boost with a dollop of flavorful guacamole, a few slices of fresh avocado, or a tablespoon of avocado oil-based vinaigrette. Those dressing-on-the-side folks don’t know what they’re missing. But speaking of salad dressings, make sure you steer clear of these 16 Salad Dressings Worse Than Chocolate Syrup!
There’s a war going on inside your body! The free radicals have launched an attack on the mitochondria and it’s sabotaging your metabolism! What the what? Free radicals are destructive rogue oxygen molecules—natural byproducts of metabolism—that trigger various chain reactions in the body that destroy cells and DNA, causing all kinds of health problems. Antioxidants in fresh fruits and vegetables can help neutralize some free radicals, but they can’t reach the mitochondria—base camp for the free radical army. And that’s a problem; when your mitochondria aren’t working properly, your metabolism runs less efficiently. Enter: Avocado. Researchers say the results jive with low disease rates in Mediterranean countries where olive oil—nutritionally similar to the avocado—is a diet staple. In fact, study authors predict avocado oil could eventually be referred to as “the olive oil of the Americas.” So put down the white flag and pick up a green fruit; it’s good for your metabolism and patriotic to boot.
A scoop of guacamole may be one of the most effective hunger-squashers known to man. In a study published in Nutrition Journal, participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterward. At only 60 calories, a two-tablespoon serving of guacamole (on top of eggs, salads, grilled meats, etc.) can provide the same satiety benefit with even more of a flavor punch. Just 86 the chips and be sure when buying store-bought guac that avocados actually made it into the jar. Believe it or not, many are made without the real fruit! We love Wholly Guacamole as a store brand, and they’ve just released perfectly portioned “minis” so you don’t have to worry about going overboard.