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Are Avocados Good for Your Heart?

By Michele Turcotte, MS, RD

You may think that because avocados are high in total fat, they should be avoided on a heart-healthy diet. On the contrary, avocados are truly a heart-healthy fruit that offer a creamy consistency and slightly nutty, buttery flavor. Though high in total fat, the majority of the fat is in the form of monounsaturated fat, the same type of fat present in olive oil. In addition, avocados are rich in dietary fiber and offer substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals known to offer cardiovascular benefits.

Monounsaturated Fats

Most of the fat in an avocado is a type of heart-healthy unsaturated fat known as monounsaturated fat. A 100 gram serving of a Hass California avocado offers 15.4 grams of total fat, 9.8 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2 grams of saturated fat. The same serving size of a Florida avocado provides 10 grams of total fat, 5.5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1.9 grams of saturated fat. When eaten in place of unhealthy saturated and trans fats, monounsaturated fats lower total cholesterol and LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, levels. In addition, they tend to slightly increase HDL, or "good" cholesterol, levels, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

B-Vitamins

Avocados, particularly Hass California varieties, are rich in vitamin B6 and folate, meeting 14 and 22 percent of the recommended daily value, or DV, for each, respectively. Vitamin B6 and folate serve many important functions in the human body such as aiding in energy metabolism and forming DNA and new cells. They both also support heart health. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the bloodstream that is normally converted into other amino acids for use by the body. If circulating homocysteine levels in the bloodstream become too high, your risk for stroke and heart attack increases. Eating foods rich in folate and vitamins B6 and B12 helps lower homocysteine levels.

Potassium

All avocados contain the major mineral potassium. A 100 gram portion of a Florida avocado offers 351 milligrams, or 10 percent of the DV, while a 100 gram serving of a California Hass offers 507 milligrams, or 14.4 percent of the DV. According to the American Heart Association, many factors affect blood pressure, such as salt intake, amount and type of dietary fat consumed and exercise frequency. However, following the dietary approaches to stop hypertension, or DASH, diet, is effective in lowering blood pressure. This diet emphasizes foods rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, as these minerals play a role in muscle relaxation. Potassium, specifically, helps blunt the effects of sodium.

Vitamin E

While many research studies have shown that taking vitamin E in supplement form does not benefit, and may even harm, heart health, the same is not true for consuming foods rich in this nutrient, such as avocados. A 100 gram serving meets 10 percent of the DV for vitamin E. Choosing a diet rich in vitamin E may help prevent or delay the onset of coronary heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin E inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL contributes to plaque "sticking" to arterial walls, leading to a narrowing of arteries or atherosclerosis.

Dietary Fiber

Any food or beverage that offers at least 5 grams of dietary fiber per serving is high in dietary fiber. A 100 gram serving of raw, fresh Hass California avocado provides 6.8 grams of dietary fiber and the same amount of a Florida avocado offers slightly less with 5.8 grams. Six to 7 grams of dietary fiber meets almost one-third of the minimum daily requirement for dietary fiber for an adult woman, about 21 grams, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Eating fiber-rich foods lowers blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL cholesterol levels.

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