When researchers at Penn State University tested three cholesterol-lowering diets, the one featuring avocados had the best results. Overweight and obese individuals can improve bad cholesterol levels by eating one avocado a day.
The research involved 45 healthy, overweight or obese patients (27 males and 18 females) between the ages of 21 and 70. Prior to testing the cholesterol-lowering diets, the participants ate an average American diet for two weeks (34% of calories from fat, 51% from carbohydrates, and 16% from protein). They then ate from one of three diets (random assignment) for five weeks:
- A lower fat diet (24%, half from monounsaturated fatty acids) without avocado
- A moderate-fat diet (34%, half from MFAs) without avocado, and
- A moderate-fat diet (34%, half from MFAs) with one avocado per day
What did the researchers find?
- Participants eating one avocado a day saw their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – what we have dubbed ‘bad cholesterol’ – drop 13.5 mg/dL lower compared with the baseline data.
- Participants on the moderate fat diet without avocado saw an 8.3 mg/dl drop.
- Participants on the lower fat diet without avocado saw an 7.4 mg/dL drop.
For this research study, participants ate Hass avocados, the ones with bumpy green skin. One Hass avocado (136 g, without skin and the seed) contains ≈13 g of oleic acid, which is similar to the amount of oleic acid in 1.5 oz (42 g) almonds or 2 tablespoons (23 g) of olive oil. One avocado contains, on average, five servings. In addition to being a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), avocados are an excellent source of potassium.
If you want to add avocados to your diet, do so without the normal accompaniment of corn chips! The California Avocado Association has lots of recipes. I’ve been eating mine with a bit of salsa and scrambled egg in the morning.
“This was a controlled feeding study, but that is not the real-world – so it is a proof-of-concept investigation. We need to focus on getting people to eat a heart-healthy diet that includes avocados and other nutrient-rich food sources of better fats,” commented Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., senior study author and chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania.