The seven surprising benefits of avocados you may not know about

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The seven surprising benefits of avocados you may not know about


The seven surprising benefits of avocados you may not know about

Avocados have surged in popularity in recent years, becoming a staple in modern diets.1 With the creamy texture, delicious taste, and versatility, the increase in avocado consumption isn’t too surprising. But did you know that the deliciousness of avocados comes with a multitude of health benefits?

Avocados may look and taste like a vegetable, but they’re actually a fruit, specifically a single-seeded berry.2 And, nutritionally avocados are more like nuts, rich in healthy fat, fiber, and essential nutrients. The nutritional makeup of the avocado is what makes it so good for your health. 

This article will shed light on seven lesser-known benefits of avocados as supported by scientific research and expert advice from a registered dietitian.

They’re Chock Full of Heart-Healthy Fat 

Many Americans struggle with carrying too much abdominal adiposity — otherwise known as fat around their stomach area.3 This type of fat isn’t the pinchable fat, but the hidden fat that wraps around the internal abdominal organs. Having too much visceral fat — usually indicated by a waist circumference greater than 40 inches in women and 35 inches in men — increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.3

Food choices influence health and body composition. If you have too much abdominal fat, you may think avoiding fat is the best way to go. But not all fat is bad, like the fat in avocados.

In the Habitual Diet and Avocado Trial (HAT Trial) published in 2022 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers wanted to know how eating one fresh avocado a day for six months affected weight and heart health in a group of adults (1,008 participants).3

In one of the most extensive trials of its kind, researchers discovered that eating avocados every day seems to lower total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels, improving cardiovascular health and potentially lowering the risk of heart disease.3 And, despite consuming extra calories and fat, the researchers noted that there were no changes in waist circumference or body weight in the avocado-eating participants.3

Though health and wellness depend more on the whole diet than one single food, the HAT Trial supports a growing body of evidence that suggests regular consumption of avocados is good for your heart, weight, and overall health. And, because they pack such a potent dose of nutrition, avocados improve the quality of your diet. 

They May Reduce The Risk of Cancer

 

The nutrients and phytochemicals in avocados may offer protection against cancer. A 2023 prospective study published in Cancer Prevention Research looked at avocado consumption and cancer risk in men and women living in the United States.4

The study used data from the 45,289 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) and the 67,039 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS). The study found an association between regular avocado consumption and a reduced risk of colon, lung, and bladder cancer in men, but found mixed results in women.4

When part of a balanced eating plan, avocados may protect against cancer. But association doesn’t mean causation, and more research is needed to better understand how eating avocados may protect you from cancer.

They May Improve Blood Glucose Levels

Diet quality counts when it comes to health and disease. Eating a diet high in saturated fat, sodium, and highly processed carbs that’s also low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains increases the risk of long-term health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.5

But making a few changes in food choices can improve diet quality and benefit your overall health. Swapping out foods high in saturated with foods rich in monounsaturated fat — the main fat in avocados — may lower your risk of health problems like type 2 diabetes by improving blood glucose levels.5

A 2022 randomized, controlled clinical trial published in The Journal of Nutrition explored the potential health benefits of eating avocados every day for 12 weeks in a group of overweight and obese adults at risk of type 2 diabetes (93 participants).5

For the study, researchers counseled the participants to swap out the usual carbohydrate-rich foods in their normal diet with either avocados (avocado group) or a low-fat, low-fiber food item (control group). 

At the end of the 12-week study, researchers noted that the people in the avocado group consumed more heart-healthy unsaturated fat, fiber, and vegetables than the control group. They also showed modest improvements in fasting insulin and blood glucose levels and a significant reduction in inflammation.5

The fat and fiber in avocados slow digestion, which may help prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin after a meal. 

Though the evidence further demonstrates the health benefits of eating fresh avocados, this was a small study and more research is needed before claims can be made.

They’re Good For Your Skin

Your skin serves as a protective barrier against harmful external elements like the damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun.6 But life takes a toll on your skin, changing its tone, texture, and strength, leading to visible lines, wrinkles, and creases.

Skin aging is a complex process influenced by many factors, including genetics, age, and sun exposure.7 What you eat may also affect the strength and health of your skin. There’s some evidence that consuming foods rich in monounsaturated fat improves the skin’s elasticity while eating vegetables rich in carotenoids decreases the appearance of wrinkles.7

Avocados are rich in both monounsaturated fat and carotenoids. A clinical study published in 2022 in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology evaluated the effects of daily avocado consumption on skin elasticity and aging in a small group of healthy women (39 participants).7

The participants were randomly assigned to eat one avocado a day or their usual diet for eight weeks. The researchers measured the elasticity and firmness of the skin on the forehead and under the eyes at the start and end of the study and found a significant improvement in elasticity and firmness in the forehead skin in the avocado group.7

Though this was a small study and more research is needed, eating more avocados is a delicious way to improve the look of your skin. Plus, you get all the other health benefits too.

They Support Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is a complex process that involves multiple factors, including nutrition, exercise, sleep, and overall health. Though diet and exercise are only one piece of weight management, it’s one of the most challenging. 

No single food makes it easier to manage weight, but when part of a balanced diet, avocados may help. The fat and fiber in the creamy fruit may help with appetite control by keeping you feeling full for a longer period of time than low-fiber, low-fat foods. 

A randomized clinical trial published in Nutrients in 2019 evaluated the satiating effects of the fat and fiber in avocados when consumed at breakfast in place of carbohydrates.8 Scientists found that eating a whole avocado as part of a breakfast meal suppressed hunger and improved meal satisfaction better than a breakfast meal with no avocado. 

And it’s not just the slow down in digestion from fat and fiber in the avocado that keeps you feeling full. The researchers reported that there was an increase in hunger-suppressing hormone levels in the participants after consuming a whole avocado.8

More research is needed before claims can be made, but avocados make a healthy addition to a balanced eating plan, even one focused on weight loss. 

They Promote Gut Health

The city of microorganisms that live in your gut may have a significant influence over your health and risk of disease. What you eat can change the balance of microorganisms, tipping the scale in a positive or negative direction.9

Avocados are a good source of fiber and monounsaturated fats and may have the ability to change the composition of your gut’s microbiota, according to a 2021 clinical trial published in The Journal of Nutrition.10 Researchers found that eating one avocado a day for 12 weeks improved the diversity and metabolic function of the gut microbiome better than a diet that excluded avocados.

Though more research is needed, the findings from this study support other research that suggests avocados positively influence gut health and the makeup and function of the microbiome.

They Promote Better Nutrition For the Whole Family

Most Americans don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Plus, they tend to eat too many foods high in fat, sodium, and added sugar.11 Unfortunately, the “American diet” is crave-worthy with salty and sugary foods and evidence shows that the diet quality of immigrants from other countries (particularly those of Hispanic and Latino descent) declines as they integrate into American culture. Luckily, avocados are a staple plant food in the Hispanic and Latino diet.11

A 2021 clinical trial published in Nutrients evaluated the effects of avocado consumption on diet quality and nutritional health in a group of Hispanic-American families.11 The study included 72 families who received nutrition education and an allotment of 3 or 14 avocados a week.

Despite the extra weekly calories — 720 extra calories for 3 avocados and 3,360 extra calories for 14 avocados — there were no changes in body weight, body mass index (BMI), or waist circumference in the participants.11 And, nutritional status improved, especially for the families receiving 14 avocados a week, who consumed overall fewer calories and less saturated fat and sodium than the families receiving 3 avocados a week.11

Though it’s not possible to generalize the findings of this study to all, it shows that including avocados with culturally appropriate nutrition education benefits the nutritional health of Hispanic families.  

How to Add Avocados Into Your Diet

Avocados have a creamy texture and neutral flavor, making it a versatile food that goes with almost anything. There are many fun and creative ways to incorporate avocados into your daily diet, such as:

  • Spreading on toast
  • Mixing into a berry smoothie
  • Adding to your minestrone soup or grilled salmon salad
  • Folding into your spinach omelet
  • Making into a dip for chips
  • Using in place of mayonnaise for your chicken salad
  • Grilling or broiling to serve as a side dish with your burgers
  • Using in place of shortening or butter in your brownie recipe
  • Stuffing half an avocado with rice and beans and seasoning with chili pepper
  • Making avocado ice cream

For full references please use source link below.



By Jill Corleone, RD
/

Freelance Nutrition and Health Writer

Expertise

Nutrition, Health, Weight Loss, Wellness

Education

New York University

Expertise

Nutrition, Health, Weight Loss, Wellness

Education

New York University

(Source: verywellfit.com; September 27, 2023; https://tinyurl.com/yc4hew6j)