Do you like avocados? One a week may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Avocados have creamy, pale green flesh that is packed with nutrients that are linked to heart health. Long-term study shows that people who eat at least two servings of this fruit a week are less likely to get heart disease.
Dr. Frank Hu, the co-author of the study and Frederick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), puts the findings in context. "This study adds to the evidence that healthy fat sources such as avocados can help avoid cardiovascular disease," he says. He adds that substituting avocados for less-healthy foods like butter, cheese, and processed meats is a significant take-home lesson.
Who was in the research group?
More than 110,000 people were included in the study, which was based on two long-running Harvard studies: the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The majority of the participants were Caucasian, with ages ranging from 30 to 75, and no history of heart disease or cancer at the start of the trial.
The diets of the participants were examined by researchers using questionnaires given at the start of the trial and again every four years. In one question, people were asked how much and how often they ate avocados. Half an avocado or one-half cup diced was considered a serving.
What were the findings?
Researchers discovered 9,185 heart attacks and 5,290 strokes among the patients during the course of the 30-year study. Those who consumed at least two avocados per week had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of having a heart attack or other coronary artery disease-related condition than those who never or rarely consumed avocados. (Coronary artery disease is the most frequent type of cardiovascular disease, and it refers to a narrowing or blockage in the blood vessels that supply the heart.)
What makes avocados such a good choice for your heart?
Hass avocados are the most common kind in the United States, with dark green, nubbly skin. They're high in good fats, fiber, and a number of micronutrients linked to heart health:
Oleic acid. Olives contain a lot of this monounsaturated fat. A half avocado has roughly 6.5 grams of oleic acid, which is about the same as a tablespoon of olive oil. According to research, replacing saturated fat-rich meals (such as butter, cheese, and meat) with unsaturated fat-rich foods (such as avocados, nuts, and seeds) helps lower blood levels of bad LDL cholesterol, a major cause of coronary artery disease.
Fiber. Avocados contain up to 20% of the daily necessary dietary fiber consumption, a nutrient that is commonly deficient in the typical American diet. Having a lot of fiber in your diet may cut your risk of heart disease by as much as 30% because fiber can lower not only cholesterol but also blood pressure and body weight.
Vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are included. Half an avocado contains 15% of the daily necessary folate (vitamin B9), 10% potassium, and 5% magnesium, as well as phytochemicals, which are plant-based components. All of these nutrients, as well as oleic acid and fiber, have been linked to improved heart health.
According to Dr. Hu, "the good news is that there are so many tasty ways to incorporate avocado into your meals." Dr. Hu says, "I make avocado toast in the morning, use avocado as a sandwich spread, and add avocado to salads." Avocado is sometimes added to smoothies, and there's always guacamole (try this recipe from the HSPH's Nutrition Source).