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For Lifelong Health, Don’t Skip Over this Superfood

avocado, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, superfood

They may not wear capes or leap tall buildings in single bounds, but avocados have been listed as a “superfood” and including them regularly in your diet may help improve some key health markers according to a new analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The NHANES survey, conducted from 2001 to 2008 and including information from more than 17,500 adults, found that those who eat avocados on a regular basis often had an overall better quality diet than those who do not eat the fruit. The participants had significantly higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, dietary fiber, vitamins E and K, and minerals magnesium and potassium. They also had lower intakes of added sugar and simple carbohydrate.

With this healthier diet, the NHANES survey participants had higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, and lower body weight (including lower BMI and smaller waist circumferences). Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of factors that raises a person’s risk for heart disease. These symptoms include high blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, a larger waist circumference, and dyslipidemia characterized by low HDL and high triglycerides.

Avocado eaters often weighed less; they were (on average) 8 pounds lighter than non-avocado eaters.

Other recent research has found that adding avocado to a salad of fresh vegetables increases the absorption of certain carotenoid antioxidants – lycopene and beta-carotene between 200 and 400%. Plant antioxidant nutrients are beneficial to preventing unwanted inflammation in the body which can lead to may health problems including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Avocados also contain omega-3 fatty acids, just recently found to be most beneficial in the prevention of breast cancer and long known to be a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that can reduce the risk of heart disease by an estimated 19%.

The nutrient balance in the avocado can also help promote blood sugar regulation. It is a relative low-carb, low-sugar food and falls very low on the glycemic index. One cup of avocado provides about 7 to 8 grams of dietary fiber, making it an important source of this blood sugar-regulating nutrient.

There are dozens of varieties of avocados available, but the rich and creamy Hass variety is the most popular in the United States. They are generally available throughout the year, but are most abundant and at their peak in the spring and summer in California and in October in Florida.

A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks. A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a few days. Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe.

The World’s Healthiest Foods website offers these tips for serving avocado:
• Use chopped avocados as a garnish for black bean soup.
• Add avocado to your favorite creamy tofu-based dressing recipe to give it extra richness and a beautiful green color.
• Mix chopped avocados, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and seasonings for a rich-tasting twist on traditional guacamole.
• Spread ripe avocados on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise when making a sandwich.
• For an exceptional salad, combine sliced avocado with fennel, oranges and fresh mint.
• For a beautiful accompaniment to your favorite Mexican dish, top quartered avocado slices with corn relish and serve with a wedge of lime.

A delicious recipe including Shrimp and Avocado can be found here.

Journal Reference:
Victor L Fulgoni, Mark Dreher, and Adrienne J Davenport. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:1 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1