Health: true or false?

Avocados - high fats and calories are no reason to avoid eating them

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 January, 2015, 5:50pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 April, 2015, 1:03pm

Myth: Avoid eating avocados because they are high in fat and calories.

The straight answer: false

The facts: the figures don't lie - avocados contain a relatively high amount of fat and calories for their size, packing 250 calories and 22.5 grams of fat per medium fruit, according to the California Avocado Commission. But more than three-quarters of this content is "good" fats: 2.5 grams polyunsaturated and 15 grams monounsaturated fats.

The American Heart Association suggests that mono and polyunsaturated fats, when consumed in moderation and eaten in place of saturated or trans fats, can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.

A study published last week in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating one avocado a day as part of a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering moderate-fat diet can help limit bad cholesterol levels in the obese.

In the study, subjects replaced saturated fatty acids from an average American diet - of which a third of calories come from fat - with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados.

Compared to two other cholesterol-lowering diets that contained no avocados, the avocado diet showed more favourable blood measurements such as lower LDL (or "bad") cholesterol and lower total cholesterol.

Along with monounsaturated fatty acids, avocados also provided other bioactive components that could have contributed to the findings, such as fibre, phytosterols and other compounds.

Avocados are nutrient-dense, providing nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, including fibre, vitamin K and folate.

Senior study author Penny M. Kris-Etherton says most people do not really know how to incorporate avocados in their diet except for making guacamole.

"But guacamole is typically eaten with corn chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Avocados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods (like chicken or fish) or even whole," she says.

In fact, adding just half a fresh avocado to your lunch may help you eat less, according to a study published in 2013 in Nutrition Journal.

Among 26 healthy, overweight adult participants, those who had half an avocado as part of lunch reported a significantly decreased desire to eat by 40 per cent over a three-hour period, and by 28 per cent over a five-hour period after the meal, compared to their desire to eat after a standard lunch without avocado.

In addition, they reported increased feelings of satisfaction by 26 per cent over the three hours following the meal.

"Satiety is an important factor in weight management, because people who feel satisfied are less likely to snack between meals," says Dr Joan Sabaté, who led the research team at Loma Linda University.