When you start a heart healthy eating plan, you might think that you need to cut out fat. However, recent studies have shown that including heart healthy unsaturated fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, fatty fish, olive oil, and avocado, can actually help improve health measures like your cholesterol levels. A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that an avocado a day can lower cholesterol levels, even when eaten as part of the average American meal plan.
Three groups of study subjects were given a daily meal plan with:
- over one-half of the calories from carbohydrates,
- nearly one-fifth of the calories from protein,
- over one-third calories from fat without avocado,
- one-third calories from fat with one avocado, or
- about one-fourth calories from fat without avocado,
The study found that those on the avocado meal plan improved their “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, by nearly 14 points. People who did not have the avocadoes improved their levels by only half of that. Total cholesterol and triglycerides were also improved on the avocado meal plans.
Researchers in this study suggest that these improvements in cholesterol could be even higher if people also included other heart-healthy foods every day. One problem with this approach is that the main source of avocado for Americans is guacamole, which is usually eaten with salty snacks like tortilla chips. So when you add heart healthy fats to your meal plan, try to make sure your salt intake doesn’t go up, too. A dietitian can help you with this.
How can I add avocado to my meal plan?
Besides guacamole, there are many ways you can add avocado to your eating plan in a heart healthy way:
- As a sandwich topping. The creamy texture of avocado can replace mayo as a flavorful spread on many types of sandwiches, or as a base for chicken or tuna salad.
- As a base for dressings, sauces, or salads. Blend avocado with your favorite herbs and spices, chopped veggies, and unprocessed dairy products to create creamy dressings and sauces for your salads, sandwiches, and whole-grain crackers.
- Slice it for a quick snack. Throw an avocado into your lunch bag for a healthy in-between meal snack. Scoop out some flavorful avocado a portable, heart healthy snack that can be enjoyed any time of the day with just a pinch of salt.
- As a base for smoothies. If you have trouble digesting dairy, are allergic to milk, or just want an alternative to yogurt for your smoothie base, use avocado to add creamy texture to your shakes. And don’t worry: when you blend them up with other ingredients, you won’t taste the avocados at all.