Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among American adults, with the CDC sharing that one person dies from heart disease roughly every 36 seconds. More than 82.6 million men and women in the U.S. have some sort of cardiovascular disease (e.g. stroke, coronary heart disease, hypertension, congestive heart failure). A new study found that eating at least two servings of avocado a week reduced the risk of having a heart attack by 21% when compared to avoiding or rarely eating avocados.
The study followed more than 68,000 women and 41,000 men who were enrolled in two long-term government studies on risk factors for chronic disease: the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All participants were free of cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke at the start of the studies and completed dietary questionnaires every four years over a 30-year period.
In addition to looking at the overall impact of eating avocados, data from the study showed that consuming half a serving of avocado (¼ cup) a day instead of the same amount of eggs, yogurt, cheese, margarine, butter or processed meats (such as bacon) lowered the risk of heart attacks by 16% to 22%.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, often referred to as “healthy fats“, which can help manage cholesterol. Avocados are also a high fiber fruit; a high-fiber diet supports your digestive health, can help regulate blood sugar levels, can keep you feeling fuller for longer, and has even been found to help prevent certain types of cancer. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams a day for women and 35 grams for men. Avocado contains roughly 1 gram per tablespoon, around 10 grams in an entire fruit.
We’ve all heard time and time again that including more whole foods– vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes- as well as healthy fats (often found in fish, avocados, nuts, Chia seeds, etc) support our overall health. Knowing how to incorporate these healthy elements can be difficult, especially if you’re not already comfortable in the kitchen or feel stuck in a rut. We’ll start with the basics- how to select avocados.
How to select an avocado
Isn’t this the truth of it? Learning to pick an avocado is a work in progress for all of us, it seems. Lisa Bryant of the blog Downshiftology shared these tips to keep in mind when selecting avocados to guarantee you pick some winners.
Skin pigmentation: Avocado colors will shift depending on how ripe they are. Those that are a vibrant green have been picked early and are under ripe. And those that are completely brown are overly ripe. Avocado with a forest green color are at the height of ripeness.
Inspect the naval: To test the ripeness, place your thumb on the “belly button” of the fruit. If you can flick the naval off, the avocado is officially ripe. If the naval is tightly intact, it’s not ready to eat just yet. And if the naval is completely missing, skip that avocado as that end may be slightly brown on the inside.
The pressure test: Give the avocado a gentle (very gentle) squeeze with the palm of your hand. If the fruit is ripe, it will feel just a smidge soft. Otherwise, avocados that are extremely ripe will feel like mush. Inspect the overall integrity of the avocado- feel any divots or overly soft spots in comparison to the rest of the avocado? Skip that avocado- it’s been bruised.
A few recipes to include into your meal plans
Avocado can be used in so many ways- as a dip, a salad ingredient, spread, baking substitute, in smoothies, and more. Here are a few recipes to help incorporate avocado into your daily routine.
Easy as can be, this salsa includes just a few ingredients and can be made quickly. Use it as a topping on chicken, over a salad, as a topping over scrambled eggs, and more.
Avocado chicken rollups
These chicken avocado rollups are an ideal food for when you’re on-the-go. Not only do the avocados provide you vitamins, minerals, fiber, and more to help get you through the day, but the protein in the chicken will help tie you over until your next healthy snack or meal. You can also use rice paper to make healthy spring rolls with this as the filling!
Avocado chocolate oat cookies
The study that revealed the health benefits of avocados specifically spoke of the significant decrease for heart attack (16-22%!) when using avocado as a substitute for butter or margarine. Avocado as a baking substitute isn’t a new concept (read about other useful, healthy substitutes here). People that eat a vegan diet, or anybody who has ever found themselves short of a few ingredients have likely tried this swap and found the results to be just as tasty. When using avocado instead of butter, use a 1:1 ratio for best results. This recipe also includes oats which will provide additional fiber as well as a delicious texture.
Avocado toast is one of those great foods that can be made hundreds of ways, making it so you never get tired of the concept. Use bread made with whole grains (check the label that it’s not loaded with sugar and ideally, is made of sprouted grains), smash an avocado with some seasoning and then layer on your chosen toppings. A few ideas include:
- arugula, sea salt and lemon
- smoked salmon, cucumbers, soy sauce, sesame seeds
- “everything but the bagel” seasoning, turkey, tomatoes
Follow the link below for more great ideas!
These are just a few easy ways to incorporate avocados into your diet. Do you have a favorite recipe that includes avocados? Share in the comments below!