By Dr. Mercola
Eliminating grain carbs is one of the best and easiest ways to normalize your weight and support your health, but when you cut down on non-vegetable carbs, you need to increase your intake of healthy fats.
Avocados are an excellent source. They're especially rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that is easily burned for energy, which you need more of once you start to remove those carbs.
Improved weight management is in fact one of the health benefits of avocado consumption, according to recent research, and its high-fat, low-sugar content is part and parcel of this effect.
On most days, I will add a whole avocado to my salad, which I eat for lunch. This increases my healthy fat and calorie intake without seriously increasing my protein or carbohydrate intake. Since avocados are also high in potassium, they will also help balance your vitally important potassium to sodium ratio.
Avocado for Lunch May Help You Manage Your Weight
According to research published in the Nutrition Journal,1 eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you're overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later.2
The study also found that avocados appear helpful for regulating blood sugar levels, which is important for most people, considering that one in four American are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. As reported by the featured article in Medical News Today:3
"For their study, the researchers wanted to see how avocado consumption impacted a person's satiety, blood sugar and insulin response, and food consumption following a meal.
The investigators recruited 26 healthy, overweight adults. Over five sessions, participants were required to eat their normal breakfast followed by one of three lunch test meals. These were:
- A standard lunch with no avocado
- A lunch containing avocado (the avocado replaced other foods), or
- A standard lunch with half of a fresh avocado added"
Over the next five hours, the participants were asked to rate their appetite using a visual analog scale. Blood glucose and insulin were also measured before lunch and at specific intervals over three hours following their meal.
Those in the latter group, who ate half an avocado with their standard lunch, reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal, and 28 percent less hungry at the five-hour mark, compared to those who did not eat avocado for lunch. They also reported feeling 26 percent more satiated after their meal compared to those who didn't eat avocado.
Why Majority of People Could Benefit from Eating Avocado
This is not very surprising when you consider that frequent hunger is oftentimes a major clue that you're not eating correctly. As a general rule, most people likely need upwards of 50-85 percent healthy fat in their diet, along with high amounts of vegetable carbs, moderate-to-low amounts of high-quality protein, and very little, if any, non-vegetable or grain carbs.
Fat is far more satiating than carbs, so if you have cut down on carbs and feel ravenous, thinking you "can't do without the carbs," remember this is a sign that you haven't replaced them with sufficient amounts of fat. You do want to make sure you're adding the correct types of fat though. Sources of healthy fats include:
Olives and olive oil Coconuts and coconut oil, as well as other unheated organic nut oils Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw nuts, particularly macadamia nuts Organic pastured egg yolks Grass-fed and finished meats
The featured study also found that even though the addition of half an avocado increased the participants' calorie intake, it did not cause an increase in blood sugar levels, beyond what was observed in those eating the standard lunch. This is one of the major benefits of replacing non-vegetable carbs with healthy fats of all kinds, as fats in general do not negatively affect your blood sugar and insulin levels.
The Importance of Maintaining Optimal Sodium-Potassium Ratio
As mentioned earlier, avocados are also high in potassium, and may in fact be ideal for helping you balance your potassium to sodium ratio, which is critical for optimal health and disease prevention. Imbalance in this ratio can not only lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) but also contribute to a number of other diseases, including:
Heart disease and stroke Memory decline Osteoporosis Ulcers and stomach cancer Kidney stones Cataracts Erectile dysfunction Rheumatoid arthritis
Heart disease, which is the second leading killer of Americans, is perhaps of particular concern. According to a 2011 federal study into sodium and potassium intake, those at greatest risk of cardiovascular disease were those who got a combination of too much sodium along with too little potassium.
According to Dr. Elena Kuklina, one of the lead authors of the study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), potassium may actually neutralize the heart-damaging effects of salt. Tellingly, those who ate a lot of salt and very little potassium were more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those who ate about equal amounts of both nutrients.
According to a 1985 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, titled "Paleolithic Nutrition," our ancient ancestors got about 11,000 mg of potassium a day, and about 700 mg of sodium. This equates to nearly 16 times more potassium than sodium. Compare that to the Standard American Diet where daily potassium consumption averages about 2,500 mg (the RDA is 4,700 mg/day), along with 3,600 mg of sodium.
The easiest way to achieve this imbalance is by consuming a diet of processed foods, which are notoriously low in potassium, while being high in both sodium and fructose—another dietary factor that is clearly associated with chronic disease, including heart disease. Bananas are typically recommended for their high potassium content. But with twice the potassium of a banana, and a minimal amount of fructose, avocados are an obviously better choice. When you add in the heart-healthy fats found in avocado, it stands out as a near-perfect food all around.
Avocado May Also Help Preserve Your Heart Health
Previous research also suggests avocado may be among the healthiest foods you can eat to protect your heart and cardiovascular health. One such study, published in November, 2012,4 found that eating one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado with a hamburger (made with 90 percent lean beef) significantly inhibited the production of the inflammatory compound Interleukin-6 (IL-6), compared to eating a burger without fresh avocado.
Also, just like avocado does not raise your blood sugar levels, fresh avocado did not increase triglyceride levels beyond what was observed when eating the burger alone, despite the avocado supplying extra fat and calories. According to lead author David Heber, MD, PhD, the findings offer "promising clues" about avocado's ability to benefit vascular function and heart health.
Researchers have also concluded that avocado can help improve lipid profiles in both healthy individuals and those with mild hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol levels). In one such study,5 healthy individuals saw a 16 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol level following a one-week long diet high in monounsaturated fat from avocados. In those with elevated cholesterol levels, the avocado diet resulted in a 17 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol, and a 22 percent decrease of both LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, along with an 11 percent increase of the so-called "good" HDL cholesterol.
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Avocado—A Powerhouse of Good Nutrition
According to the California Avocado Commission, a medium Hass avocado contains about:
- 22.5 grams of fat, two-thirds of which is monounsaturated
- 3 grams of total carbohydrate
- Less than one gram of fructose per one ounce serving
The fact that avocados are so low in fructose is another great boon of this fruit. They also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including:
- Fiber (approximately eight percent of your daily recommended fiber intake)
- Potassium (more than twice the amount found in a banana)
- Vitamin E
- Folic acid
Due to its beneficial raw fat content, avocado also enables your body to more efficiently absorb fat-soluble nutrients (such as alpha- and beta-carotene, and lutein) from any other food eaten in conjunction with it. One 2005 study,6 found that adding avocado to salad allowed the volunteers to absorb three to five times more carotenoids antioxidant molecules, which help protect your body against free radical damage!
New Avocado Research
Dave Kekich is one of my good friends and he recently told me about an exciting phytonutrient called mannaheptulose, found in UNRIPENED avocados. It seems to have many benefits that are ascribed to calorie restriction, but also seems to be really useful for increasing strength and endurance. What I really like about it is that it's not a supplement. What I have recently started doing is cutting up an unripe avocado into about 20 parts and freezing them. Then once a day I take out a piece and chew it.
How Avocados are Made
This short documentary reveals the integral role of bees and butterflies in the production of avocados, as well as the importance of other complex ecosystems in the fruiting process.
Good News: Even Conventionally-Grown Avocados Are Free of Harmful Chemicals
Avocados are also one of the safest fruits in terms of chemical contamination,7 which means there's virtually no need to spend extra money on organic varieties. I even sent out more than six dozen samples of organic and conventionally-grown avocados for independent toxicology testing,8 and the results showed no detectable presence of herbicides or phenoxy herbicides in or on either variety .The avocados I sent in were from a variety of growers in different countries, sold in several major grocery stores, including Whole Foods, and they all tested free and clear of harmful chemicals. Moreover, should they have been exposed to some form pesticide, the thick skin will protect the inner fruit of the avocado from the chemicals. Either way, the extremely low risk of toxic contamination makes avocados a clear winner, and I strongly recommend making them a key part of your diet.
The Best Way to Peel an Avocado
Speaking of the skin, how you de-skin your avocado can affect how much of its valuable phytonutrients you get out of it. UCLA research has shown that the greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids, for example, is located in the dark green fruit closest to the inside of the peel. In 2010, the California Avocado Commission issued guidelines for getting the most out of your avocado by peeling it the right way,9 To preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants, you're best off peeling the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana:
- First, cut the avocado length-wise, around the seed
- Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed
- Remove the seed
- Cut each half, lengthwise
- Next, using your thumb and index finger, simply peel the skin off each piece
Avocado Is a Great Staple Food
I typically have an avocado every day and harvest many of them from my avocado tree. The easiest way to eat an avocado is raw, either added to your salad, which is what I typically do, or you can eat them alone. A dash of Himalayan salt and some ground pepper will spice up the flavor, if you like. But there are many other ways to include avocado in your diet as well. For example, you can:
- Use avocado as a fat replacement in baking. Simply replace the fat called for (such as oil, butter or shortening) with an equal amount of avocado
- Use it as a first food for babies, in lieu of processed baby food
- Add it to soups
For hundreds of unique recipes that include avocado—from salads to dessert whip and everything in between—check out the California Avocado Commission's Website.10 If optimal health and weight is your goal, there's no getting around your diet. And contrary to popular belief, it's the sugar and fructose in your diet that is packing on unwanted pounds—not the fat! So, if you want to lose weight, you really need to pay careful attention to avoid sugars, and that includes all grains, even organic ones, as all grains quickly break down into sugar in your body.
Replace them instead with healthful fats such as avocado, and you'll be off to a good start. Avocados also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, and enable your body to more efficiently absorb fat-soluble nutrients in other foods eaten in conjunction with it, so it's an excellent choice as a fat replacement or addition to virtually any dish. All in all, avocado may be one of the most beneficial superfoods out there, and may be particularly valuable if you're struggling with insulin and leptin resistance, diabetes, or any other risk factors for heart disease.