When you think about your heart health and keeping your cholesterol in check, high-fat foods aren’t exactly the first thing you’re planning to put on your plate. Certain high-fat foods are also loaded with cholesterol – but not all are actually bad for your cardiovascular well-being. In fact, there’s one high-fat (and highly beloved) fruit that’s surprisingly great for high cholesterol. It’s the avocado.
Avocados may be particularly fat-rich, but they’re full of good-for-you monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These “good” fats are a must-have in any healthy diet, and according to research, they just may be what makes avocados such a helpful food for high cholesterol.
Here’s what science has to say about the potential link between eating avocados and lower cholesterol levels.
Just one avocado per day can offer benefits for high cholesterol
It turns out that an avocado a day may be a heart-healthy addition to anyone’s diet. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University conducted a randomized, controlled study in which 45 adult participants, all of whom were clinically diagnosed as overweight or obese, followed a series of changing diets.
For the first two weeks of the study, all of the participants followed the same “average American” diet, which was designed to put them all on similar nutritional footing. At the end of this initial period, the participants then followed three different diets in a randomized order over five weeks. They tried a low-fat diet, a moderate-fat diet and a moderate-fat diet that included one avocado per day. Researchers then tracked changes in key health metrics as the participants tried out each diet.
At the study’s conclusion, researchers found that participants had significantly lower levels of cholesterol when following the one-avocado-per-day diet. Specifically, their “bad” cholesterol levels – or LDL cholesterol – decreased. The avocado diet results in lower cholesterol levels in comparison to both the low- and moderate-fat diets.
There was one more bonus to eating an avocado each day. Researchers noted that when participants added in a daily avocado, they also saw higher lutein levels. Lutein is an antioxidant that plays a role in eye health.
Why avocados had a bigger impact than “good” fats alone
One of the interesting findings of this study was that getting plenty of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats alone wasn’t enough to significantly impact participants’ cholesterol levels.
Those on the moderate-fat diet didn’t see the same benefits as those who ate a moderate-fat diet plus one avocado per day. Researchers noticed that the difference appeared to be in how, exactly, adding in an avocado affected the LDL cholesterol and its ability to build up in the body.
Participants who ate an avocado daily had fewer small, dense LDL cholesterol particles within the body. Those particles, researchers say, are particularly bad for your heart health and overall cholesterol – especially when it comes to promoting plaque buildup in your arteries.
Additionally, adding a daily avocado into your diet can help reduce oxidized LDL particles, another key factor in high cholesterol and heart health woes. Researchers noted that those who ate one avocado per day on a moderate-fat diet reduced the oxidized particles that can contribute to atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in artery walls) and plays a role in other heart conditions.
But why are avocados able to make such a positive impact? The study’s researchers hypothesized that it isn’t the monounsaturated fats present in avocados alone. Rather, it’s more likely that there are some additional bioactive compounds that may contribute the extra benefits that come from this particular fruit.
And this isn’t the first study that suggests there’s something about avocados that influences LDL cholesterol. Prior research has also shown that this creamy green fruit can lower overall LDL levels, leading to better cholesterol as a whole. So, if you’re hoping to have a positive impact on your high LDL cholesterol levels, grabbing an avocado each day just might be able to make a difference.
To get more avocados into your daily diet, try these recipes: