July 22, 2024

Avocados are high in fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants, and are generally seen as a healthy addition to people’s diets. But can avocados still be good for you if you eat them regularly?

Because of their high fat content and calories, some people shy away from eating avocados over fears that they could lead to weight gain, high cholesterol, or other health concerns.

However, new research found that these concerns are likely unfounded.

A study published in Current Developments in Nutrition in January found that when people with abdominal obesity ate one avocado per day for 26 weeks, they developed a higher-quality diet. After their six months of avocado-eating, subjects’ diets fell more in line with healthy eating patterns, such as those outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“By improving people’s adherence to dietary guidelines, we can help to reduce their risk of developing…chronic conditions and prolong healthy life expectancy,” lead study author Kristina Petersen, PhD, associate professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University, said in a press release.

Here’s what experts had to say about the new research and why an avocado a day might be a good choice for creating a healthier diet.

To design their study, Petersen and her colleagues at Penn State University divided 1,008 adults with abdominal obesity into two groups. One group was instructed to eat an entire avocado every day and continue their normal diet. The other group maintained their usual diet but were told to eat less than two avocados per month.

No dietary counseling was provided, but researchers gave the first group avocado-based recipes and serving ideas.

Originally, researchers weren’t necessarily focused on avocados’ effects on diet quality. In fact, “the original study was conducted to examine the effect of daily avocado intake on central obesity,” Petersen told Health.

Intriguingly, though, after 26 weeks, the number on subjects’ scales didn’t significantly budge. “We saw no effect of avocado intake on belly fat or weight,” Petersen said. “This means avocado intake [does] not increase or decrease weight or belly fat.”

Though eating an avocado every day didn’t appear to impact weight, a secondary analysis revealed that the practice did affect another important metric: diet quality.

At four different points throughout the study period, participants were asked to recall what they’d eaten in the past 24 hours. Researchers used this information to determine how closely each person’s diet was aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines are written by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) and are meant to help people meet nutrient goals and avoid disease.

By the end of the 26 weeks, Petersen and her team found that those who ate avocados every day were more likely to have diets in line with these parameters for healthy eating. This group also had increased consumption of vegetables, an improved ratio of healthy to unhealthy fats, and lower intake of refined grains, sodium, and added sugars.

Simply increasing avocado intake doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will change their diet in other ways. Why, then, did researchers find a link between eating more avocados and more nutritious eating patterns?

For starters, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans classify avocados as vegetables, so it’s no surprise that eating one per day significantly increased participants’ veggie consumption from baseline. Additionally, avocados’ high monounsaturated fat content naturally improved subjects’ ratio of healthy unsaturated fats to saturated fats, Petersen said.

Digging deeper, however, Petersen suspects that this better diet quality was largely a matter of avocados taking the place of less nutritious foods.

“We saw reductions in intake of salt and refined grains,” she explained. “This suggests people partially replaced high-salt foods and refined grain products with avocados or ate avocado instead of these foods some of the time.”

Rather than topping a burger with high-sodium ketchup, for example, it’s possible that subjects opted for fresh avocado instead. Or, perhaps they chose an avocado smoothie for breakfast over a bowl of refined-grain cereal.

These findings highlight the impact of adding more whole foods—whether avocados or others—to your diet, said Wendy Bazilian, DrPh, RDN, an author, exercise physiologist, and registered dietician based in San Diego.

“We know that different plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, grains, and others, have complementary and also different nutrients, which impact the overall quality of our diet,” she told Health.

Eating a whole avocado every day might not be for everyone—taste preferences, cost concerns, and other factors could affect how much avocado you consume. However, if they’re enjoyable and accessible to you, Bazilian said there are no health drawbacks to eating an avocado every day.

“Avocados have fats—good fats, primarily monounsaturated ones—and are a good source of fiber,” she explained. “This fat and fiber combination plays a role in satiety and steady blood sugar, so it may help manage appetite, satisfaction, [attend] to hunger cues and cravings, and more.”

And since the research shows no relationship between weight gain and avocado consumption, “those who have concerns about the calories and fat content of avocados need not worry,” said Bazilian.

There are a number of easy ways to add avocado to your diet. According to Bazilian, avocados can be:

  • Mashed as a sandwich spread
  • Added to creamy salad dressings
  • Blended into a smoothie with yogurt, citrus, and honey
  • Infused into chocolate mousse or other chocolate desserts
  • Used as a topping for tacos, green salads, toast, and more

Eating seven avocados over the course of the week may sound like a lot, but Bazilian said the fruit’s variety of applications make it a natural addition to innumerable mealtimes and snacks.

“Of course, it depends on the person, but I do think it’s possible,” she said. “This research trial speaks to the possibility.”

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