Study confirms why avocados reduce LDL cholesterol, prevent heart disease
Avocados are the richest fruit source of phytosterols or cholesterol-lowering nutrients and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, says Dr Eileen Canday, Head of Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai
Avocado is a fruit that has gained popularity in recent years due to its potential health benefits. It is a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, various vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, folate, potassium, vitamin C and E for tissue growth and repair.
Now a recent research, published in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics, has found that the consumption of avocado may reduce total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) or what we call the bad cholesterol. The researchers have also found no negative impact of avocado consumption on body weight.
HOW AVOCADO LOWERS CHOLESTEROL
Cholesterol is an integral component for the human body which is produced by the liver. Healthy levels of blood cholesterol are essential for maintaining healthy cell membranes, producing hormones like estrogen and testosterone and synthesis of vitamin D.
LDL is the main source of artery-clogging plaque whereas High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), or the “good cholesterol”, absorbs the LDL and carries it back to the liver to flush out from the body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can lower your risk of heart disease.
Elevated blood cholesterol levels can put you at a greater risk for events such as heart attack and stroke. Animal products like dairy, eggs, poultry and meat are high in cholesterol and saturated fats. Trans-fatty acids can also contribute to raising LDL cholesterol, which is mostly found in highly processed food items.
The human body requires an ideal ratio of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids to prevent cardiovascular diseases and maintain a healthy heart.
One of the most studied benefits of avocado consumption is its impact on cholesterol levels. According to various studies, consuming avocados can regulate levels of HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol as they are naturally high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Since they contain vitamins like C and K, they are a good source of fibre. They are the richest fruit source of phytosterols or cholesterol-lowering nutrients. In 2019, a research by the University of Penn State had also suggested that eating one avocado a day may help keep “bad cholesterol” at bay. In a randomised, controlled feeding study, the researchers found that eating one avocado a day was associated with lower levels of LDL (specifically small, dense LDL particles) and oxidised LDL in obese adults. Overall, daily avocado consumption resulted in total cholesterol decreasing 2.9 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and LDL cholesterol decreasing 2.5 mg/dL among the study participants.
Specifically, the study found that avocadoes helped reduce LDL particles that had been oxidised. These particles start a chain reaction that can cause atherosclerosis. Similar to the way oxygen can damage food — like a cut apple turning brown — the researchers said oxidation is also bad for the human body. After five weeks on the avocado diet, participants had significantly lower levels of oxidised LDL cholesterol than before the study began or after completing the low- and moderate-fat diets. Participants also had higher levels of lutein, an antioxidant, after the avocado diet. All LDL is bad, but small, dense LDL is worse, which avocados can tackle.
A NOTE OF CAUTION
However, it is important to note that avocados are high in calories and fat. Even though the fat in avocados is mostly monounsaturated, consuming excessive amounts may contribute to weight gain. Therefore, it is advisable to consume avocados in recommended amounts as part of a healthy diet.
EASY TO INCLUDE IN YOUR DAILY DIET
Avocado is a versatile fruit which need not be difficult to incorporate into your meals. Though the flavour and texture can be an acquired taste for some people, you can consider making a fresh guacamole and serving it with baked nacho chips, whole grain crackers, vegetable crudités or pan seared fish. It can also be used as a dressing, topping or spread on whole grain toast or salads. If you are someone who has a sweet tooth, you should definitely try chocolate avocado mousse for a healthy twist to your regular desserts. If you simply enjoy the taste of avocados, slice one in half, top with black pepper, and use a spoon to eat it right out of the skin.
However, it is important to note that a healthy lifestyle consisting of a balanced diet, regular physical activity, adequate hydration, getting enough sleep and managing stress is important to maintain a healthy heart health.