Foods that Lower Cholesterol: Avocados

Believe or not, avocados are among the group of foods that lower cholesterol. So, if you are one of those individuals who avoid eating avocados for fear of their fat content, relax: they are not as fattening as you may believe. In addition, the main fat in avocados is unsaturated. A typical avocado contains 30 grams of fat, but 20 grams are unsaturated, mainly oleic acid, the main component of olive oil.

Avocados contain oleic acid, the same fat found in olive oil; this type of fat can help you lower cholesterol. In one study of people with moderately high cholesterol levels, the participants followed a diet rich in avocados during seven days. At the end of the study they had significant decreases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, the “bad” one, along with an 11% increase in HDL, the “good” cholesterol.

Avocados are a fruit, although you probably keep them in your refrigerator’s vegetable compartment because they are not sweet. Avocados are used in salads, creams, cold soups and well known sauces as guacamole but not as desserts. They have a mild flavor and a very characteristic soft texture that combine with many recipes. Unfortunately, most often than not, they are absent from our table due to their bad press of being high in calories.

How many calories are in avocados?

It is true that avocados are richer in fat than any other fruits, 16.7 for each 100 grams (3.5 ounces). However, this number is still low when you compare it to other foods that you may eat on a regular basis and that do not contribute the same benefits to your body as avocados do.

Big benefits of Avocados

When eating this fruit keep in mind that you are providing your body with a food that has many beneficial properties. Among them we find the following:

Avocados are high in Vitamin E

100 grams or 3.5 ounces of avocados contribute with 25 per cent of vitamin E daily need. Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants and helps maintain healthy arteries by neutralizing the effects of free radicals. Damage to the lining of our arteries by free radicals is implicated in the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and the beginning of plaque, which in turn can lead to a heart attack.

B vitamins and folic acid

Avocados have substantial amounts of B vitamins; one cup of avocado has 23 percent of the Daily Value for folate. These vitamins are essential in protecting our arteries and our heart because of their effect on homocysteine.

A high level of homocysteine may cause a heart attack

Homocysteine is a substance our body needs to produce certain compounds vital for our organs to function properly. To produce these compounds, our body needs adequate amounts of vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid. When any of these vitamins are not present, homocysteine is not converted into the necessary compounds and spills into the blood.

Many studies have shown than when homocysteine accumulates in our system, it becomes toxic even in small amounts, increasing the risk of heart disease. High levels of homocysteine concentrations in our blood may cause a heart attack or a stroke even among people who have normal cholesterol levels.

To determine the relationship between folate intake and heart disease, researchers followed over 80,000 women for 14 years using dietary  questionnaires. They found that women who had higher intakes of dietary folate had a 55 percent lower risk of having heart attacks or fatal heart disease. Another study showed that individuals who consume folate-rich diets have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke than those who do not consume as much of this vital nutrient.

Avocados lower high blood pressure

Avocados are rich in minerals such as potassium and magnesium while they are low in sodium. This characteristic makes them good diuretics and they are recommended for people who have hypertension.  In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Association has authorized a health claim that states: “Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.”

Additional benefits of avocados

Studies at the University of California, USA, showed that avocados are a substantial source of lutein, a yellow pigment found also in green peas and leaks. Lutein protects these plants from solar radiation. This same property helps protect our retina and prevent diseases like cataracts o macular degeneration. According to a recent investigation by the University of Ohio, USA, the nutrients in avocados can prevent oral cancer and probably any other types of tumors.

How to tell when they are ripe

A ripe, ready to eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks. If the avocado has a slight neck, rather than being rounded on top, it was probably tree ripened and will have better flavor.

A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a few days. As the fruit ripens, the skin will turn darker. Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe. Once ripe, they can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.

How to prevent avocados from getting dark

Once you open an avocado eat it immediately since its meat gets dark very fast. If you consume only part of the avocado, keep the seed with the remaining portion and store in the refrigerator. Store in a plastic bag, wrap with plastic wrap, or place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Sprinkling the exposed surface with lemon juice will help to prevent the browning that can occur when the flesh comes in contact with oxygen in the air.

Do not cook avocados because they become bitter; however, you can warm them up a little. When part of a dish, do not season avocados with salt until the very last moment, otherwise they will get dark immediately.

Final thoughts on foods that lower cholesterol

I hope after reading this article you are well convinced of the many benefits of including avocados in your list of healthy foods when visiting the supermarket. Discarding this wonderful fruit from your salads based on its fat content while including baked goods for dessert is not considered healthy eating and your health may resent it in the long run.

Scientific studies have associated the Mediterranean diet with a healthy heart. To learn the ins-and-outs of the Authentic Mediterranean Diet and the Mediterranean Cuisine, check out my book; I wrote it explicitly to help you apply these Mediterranean principles into your life and those of your loved ones. And keep in mind that avocados are among the foods that lower cholesterol.

Have a great day while looking after your heart; after all, it is the one that keeps you going!