Avocados are one of the best foods to eat for a healthy heart. For many years people were often advised by doctors and nutritionists to avoid avocado as a high-fat food. Now we know that advice was wrong. Avocados are not fattening and are in fact an excellent addition to your diet for maintaining cardiovascular health.
Here are 6 reasons why eating avocados can help to keep your heart healthy.
1. Monounsaturated Fats
The majority of the fat in avocado comes from healthy oleic acid. The same type of fat found in olive oil and the source of most of its health benefits (extra virgin olive oil is very good for you but see the page on avocado oil and cooking to read why you should never use it in the frying pan).
While oleic acid is not considered an essential fat as our bodies can produce small amounts of it, most people eating a modern diet would do well to replace ‘essential’ omega-6 polyunsaturated fats with monounsaturated omega-9 fats where ever they can.
Too much omega-6 fats in the diet, particularly from heated and chemically processed vegetable oil, has been linked to a variety of diseases of inflammation, including heart disease. Switching to avocado oil for cooking is an easy way to do this.
Diets high in monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce dangerous LDL cholesterol levels at the same time as raising beneficial HDL cholesterol. Eating avocado has also been specifically linked to a lower risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases.
Avocado is an excellent source of potassium, generally measured as having around three times that of bananas, a far more well known source.
Potassium is vital for regulating blood pressure and good levels in your diet have been associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
People deficient in potassium can develop an irregular heartbeat and may experience muscle weakness and cramps as this mineral is needed for proper for muscular contraction and relaxation.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant, particularly relevant for protecting against heart disease because of the way it helps reduce cholesterol oxidization. When free radicals oxidize cholesterol it can accumulate in the arteries, blocking blood flow over time and potentially leading to strokes and other serious cardiovascular problems.
Unless you’re taking a broad spectrum vitamin E supplement from natural sources, with both tocopherols and tocotrienols, it’s better getting lots of vitamin E from foods like avocados, almonds and leafy greens like spinach and kale.
Avocados are particularly high in folate, a B vitamin which, amongst other things, helps regulate homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is a dangerous byproduct of protein metabolism and high levels of it circulating in the bloodstream are a strong risk factor for heart disease.
Studies have shown that people with the highest intake of folate in the diet have a significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease versus those with low folic acid levels.
Many people are believed to be deficient in folate. If you’d like to get more into your diet see the page on the best folate foods at the Global Healing Center website.
Avocado is also a good source of phytosterols like beta-sitosterol that are believe to help reduce cholesterol absorption when present in a meal containing cholesterol.
If you’re concerned about high cholesterol levels it could be worth looking into beta-sitosterol for cholesterol reduction. It may also help with DHT based hair loss and prostate problems for men. Consult a healthcare professional before using supplemental levels of phytosterols if you are currently taking cholesterol reducing medication.
Along with the healthy fats and protein, one of the reasons avocados fill you up so well is their generous serving of fiber, both soluble and insoluble.
Getting adequate fiber in your diet helps control blood sugar levels and improve digestion and elimination. And I personally think avocados are much tastier way to get it than bran.
So there’s six good reasons for eating avocados for a healthier heart. There’s actually even more in the nutritional properties of avocado, but I hope these are enough to look a bit closer at the big green health pill the next time you’re out shopping.