Is avocado on your shopping list? Maybe it should be! Avocados are a trendy fruit, although most people think they’re a vegetable. Whatever you call it, the avocado’s creamy texture has captured the hearts of Americans and people worldwide. Once called “alligator pears” because of their bumpy outer skin, the avocado didn’t take off until it was renamed and rebranded as avocado. Then, people realized just how tasty this fruit is!
Unlike many of the culinary treats people enjoy but regret eating afterward, avocados are healthy. Although high in fat, the fat you get when you add avocado to a salad or wrap is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, a type linked with heart health. In fact, monounsaturated fats are the healthy fats in olive oil too. When you add avocado to your salad, these healthy fats help you absorb more of the fat-soluble nutrients from the raw veggies.
Now, researchers find that avocados contain a unique compound that may fight obesity and improve metabolic health. One problem that people with type 2 diabetes and obesity have is that their skeletal cells can’t completely break down fat. The medical term for breaking down fat is fatty acid oxidation. When cells have a hard time using fat as fuel, they’re more dependent on glucose as a fuel source. So, the liver produces more glucose to accommodate the cells’ needs and this worsens insulin resistance. Incomplete fatty acid oxidation also makes it easier to accumulate body fat in areas you don’t want it, such as around the waistline and tummy.
If you can get the cells that have a reduced ability to oxidize fat back on track, insulin sensitivity improves and it is easier to lose weight. According to a new study, avocado contains a fat that helps cells do just that. This fat molecule is called avocation B (AvoB) and you only find it in avocados.
Avocados and Metabolic Health
In a study, researchers fed mice a high-fat diet for eight weeks to make them obese and to cause them to become insulin resistant. After five weeks on this obesity-inducing diet, they gave half of the mice AvoB and reassessed. What did they find? The mice that got the AvoB while eating the high-fat diet gained less weight and their insulin sensitivity improved. We know that results in rats and mice don’t always hold up in human studies, but when researchers gave humans AvoB, they too lost weight, although the amount of weight they lost wasn’t statistically significant.
Still, researchers believe this unique fat in avocado may be of benefit to humans trying to lose weight or who are battling insulin resistance. However, it’s not clear how many avocados you’d have to eat to get enough AvoB to make a difference. That’s why they hope to make the fat molecule available as a supplement.
Independent of the impact of AvoB, people who eat avocados are less likely to fall into the obese category, based on some studies. An additional reason may be the satiety benefits of an avocado. This fruit, because of its fat and fiber content, is filling and satisfying, so you eat less. A salad by itself isn’t always satiating but add a few slices of avocado and you’ll fill up faster.
Why Avocado is a Healthy Addition to Your Diet
How many avocados you’d need to eat to get the potential benefits of AvoB is uncertain but there are still lots of reasons to put this creamy, green fruit on your plate. For one, avocados are a good source of anti-inflammatory compounds called carotenoids. These compounds with an orange pigment are especially important for eye health. Plus, when you add avocado to a salad, it boosts carotenoid absorption from other vegetables by up to five times! The fat in avocado also enhances the absorption of other fat-soluble nutrients and vitamins.
Avocados are high in fat. In fact, each cup of chopped avocado has around 22 grams of fat. However, the fat in avocado is monounsaturated, a type of fat linked with cardiovascular health. Studies show that these fats help lower LDL-cholesterol, the kind of fat linked with cardiovascular disease. Combine that with the anti-inflammatory activity of the carotenoids and antioxidants in avocado and it’s clear that avocados are a heart-healthy addition to dinner time.
Studies also show that the risk of developing insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome is lower in people who eat avocados regularly. They’re also a good source of other heart and blood vessel friendly nutrients, including magnesium, B-vitamins, and potassium. Plus, avocado is high in fiber with a cup supplying over 35% of the recommended daily intake of fiber, another dietary component that may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
Plus, the healthy fats in avocado are the same ones you find in olive oil, a component of the Mediterranean diet. The medical community acknowledges that the Mediterranean diet is one of the heart healthiest diets you can eat. In fact, a study found that people who eat the fats in avocado enjoy a 30% reduction in the risk of developing heart attacks and stroke.
The Bottom Line
Avocados may fight obesity in several ways. As one study showed AvoB in avocado may alter fatty oxidation in a way that makes it easier to lose weight and avoid weight gain. However, you might have to eat a lot of avocados to get this perk. But avocados also rank high on the satiety scale and they lower the risk of metabolic issues that go with obesity, such as insulin resistance. Enjoy them in salads, wraps, and as a substitute for mayo. Creamy avocado is a delicious and nutrient-rich substitute for processed mayo.
- Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2019; 1900688 DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201900688.
- The Atlantic Magazine. “The Selling of the Avocado”
- World’s Healthiest Foods. “Avocado”
- Nutr J. 2013 Nov 27;12:155.