AvoCardio- Heart Health Benefits of the Avocado
Avocado or Avocardio? Eat this SUPERfood often for Heart Health
People ask us all the time the best foods for heart health. Fortunately, there are many different options to satisfy every palate.
But this article is about one of my personal favorites, the avocado. I call it the Avo-Cardio. This green orb packs loads of vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats. Improves blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Skip the banana for potassium. It pales in comparison to the avocado. Need magnesium? Eat avocados.
I try to eat 3-4 per week. The avocado is easy to travel with and is perfect for airplane food. More on how to get this into your diet later.
The National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) studies found that the Hass avocado (the post popular avocado sold on the market) is loaded with healthy fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, choline, antioxidants and more (Dreher et al., 2013).
There are several preliminary clinical trials that are revealing the ability of avocado consumption to aid in maintaining overall cardiovascular health (Dreher et al., 2013). One reason for its protective benefits is that the oil of avocados is full of “healthy” fats. This means that the avocado has a higher combined ratio of monounsaturated fats (71%) and polyunsaturated fats (13%) as compared to saturated fats (16%), which helps to stimulate healthy blood lipid profiles and also make the nutrients within the avocado more available to the body (Dreher et al., 2013). The Drs. Wolfson are from the school of common sense and do not see saturated fat as a problem, when from a quality source. Any oil can be problematic when modified from its original form, especially when processed through dangerous chemical means.
Furthermore, the consumption of the avocado is linked with a lowered risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome (Met S), a known risk factor for cardiovascular pathologies such as heart disease and stroke (Fulgoni et al., 2013). Metabolic syndrome is defined by the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATP III) panel as a cluster of physiological risk factors for a patient that must include at least three of the following: low HDL cholesterol, a large waistline (abdominal adiposity), high blood pressure (hypertension), high triglycerides, and high fasting blood sugar (glucose) (Grundy et al., 2004). These risk factor conditions all share common physiological pathways and biochemical mechanisms, revealing their inter-relatedness and ability to cause chronic disease (Huang, 2009).
Metabolic syndrome has been found to be a preliminary indicator of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Diabetes development in both females and males (Wilson et al., 2005). Interestingly, Met S was found to be significantly associated with one third of CVD cases in men (Wilson et al., 2005).
This is where the star player, the avocado, steps in. Avocados can help to attenuate the risk for Met S and therefore cardiovascular disease-related conditions. In fact, a slew of studies have indicated that the avocados are a beneficial food that protects against Met S and CVD due to their anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, anti-hypertensive, anti-thrombotic, and cardioprotective properties (Tabeshpour et al., 2017).
Here are the top reasons why you should think of the avocado as an AvoCardio (or otherwise known as protective superfood for your heart):
- Avocados are anti-inflammatory due to their unique bio-active compounds (Lu et al., 2005)
- One study even found that when avocados were consumed in conjunction with a hamburger the results indicated a decrease in the activation of inflammatory pathways and triglyceride levels therefore elucidating the avocado’s potential for anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular-protective effects (Li et al., 2013).
- Avocados can help to lower blood pressure (Tabeshpour et al., 2017)
- Persea americana Mill (Lauraceae) leaf extract (PAE), a bio-active compound found in avocados, is responsible for its cardioprotective effects as it is a hypotensive (can lower blood pressure) agent due to its vasorelaxing effects (Ojewole et al., 2007)
- Avocados have anti-obesity effects due to its regulation of satiety, glucose levels and insulin levels post-ingestion (Wien et al., 2013)
- PAE, the potent avocado fruit extract, is able to assist in weight reduction through its modulation of leptin, the satiety hormone that is secreted by adipose cells to regulate energy balance within the body (Monika et al., 2015). Avocados were also found to regulate fatty acid synthesis and adiponectin, another hormone secreted by fat cells that modulates fatty acid and glucose metabolism (Monika et al., 2015). Lastly, the avocado was found to decrease the adiposity index in rats that were fed a diet that included the PAE extract (Monika et al., 2015).
- Avocados help to balance lipid profiles (Peou et al., 2016)
- An interesting controlled feeding clinical trial administered various diets to overweight or obese patients (Wang et al., 2015). The results from this study revealed that including one avocado per day in the moderate-fat diet was associated with a decrease in LDL, especially small, dense LDL particle, concentrations as well as non-lowering outcomes on HDL levels (Wang et al., 2015).
- Avocados aid in reducing insulin-resistance (Del Toro-Equihua et al., 2016)
- One study found that by giving sucrose-induced insulin-resistant rats dietary avocado oil (10% and 20%) they were found to exhibit lower levels of insulin resistance (Del Toro-Equihua et al., 2016). The results also revealed an improvement in insulin sensitivity in the group of rats that were administered avocado oil in their diet (Del Toro-Equihua et al., 2016).
- Avocados are protective against Atherosclerosis (Brai et al., 2007)
- One study investigated the anti-atherogenic effects of corn oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and olive oil fed to rabbits (Kritchevsky et al., 2003). The results of the study indicated that of all the oils, avocado oil was found to be most protective against atheroma (a degeneration of the arterial walls that can impact circulation) (Kritchevsky et al., 2003).
- Avocados have antioxidant and neuroprotective properties (Oboh et al., 2016)
- PAE extracts were analyzed for antioxidant mechanisms and their effects on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) protection (Oboh et al., 2016). It was found that PAE inhibited two key enzymes, acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase (Oboh et al., 2016), indicating neuroprotective capabilities. Chronic increases in both of these enzymes are associated with increased neurodegeneration because cholinergic deficits including a degeneration of neurons are an early and continuous finding in AD (Roger et al., 2004). PAE was also found to aid in reducing free radicals, therefore further elucidating its protective, antioxidant properties (Oboh et al., 2016).
Overall, avocados help to protect against Met S and CVD, further elucidating their cohesive cardio-protective effects (Dreher, 2013).
Avocados should be thought of an avocardio superfood meaning it is protective for the heart. Along with its cardiovascular benefits, there are a many other health benefits to be obtained from this fruit as denoted above. When you want health, think Avo-Cardio.
Tips for incorporating the Avo-Cardio into your diet:
- Snack with some sea salt or dulse/kelp
- Add to homemade salad dressing recipe.
- Garnish on a salad
- Chocolate pudding
- Avocado soup