It's time to make avocado our spread of choice. Here’s why.
Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.
The humble avocado is often smashed for the wrong reasons.
It’s hard to forget the media coverage and many memes generated a few years back when an Australian millionaire famously claimed young Australians couldn’t afford to buy property because they were splurging on excessively priced avocado toast in hip cafés.
In some health circles, avocados have also been given a bad rap, labelled as a food to be avoided, particularly if you’re targeting weight-loss, as they’re calorie-dense and high in the F word: fat.
But new research – and the ever-increasing availability and affordability of avocados – means it’s time to reconsider their inclusion in our diets.
1. Avocados can reduce your risk of heart disease
New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association earlier this year confirmed that including higher servings of avocado in our diets – at least two per week – can significantly lower the risk of long-term cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD).
The study also found replacing specific fat-containing foods like margarine and butter with avocado was associated with a lower incidence of CVD events.
In fact, the risk of CVD was 16% lower for those consuming two or more servings of avocado each week, and the risk of experiencing a heart attack or a health problem related to CHD was lowered by an incredible 21%.
The research, which considered the diets of more than 68,780 women and 41,700 men over a 30-year period, also suggested participants who ate more avocado had adopted a healthier diet overall, containing more fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, yoghurt, and cheese.
Although the research didn’t directly explore why eating avocados is good for your heart, we know that most of the fat in avocados is heart-healthy monounsaturated fats in the form of oleic acid. The average avocado contains around 13 grams of oleic acid – the equivalent of two tablespoons of olive oil.
Numerous other studies have found that monounsaturated fats have cardio-protective properties and support healthy cholesterol levels. Consuming beneficial fats also slows the breakdown of carbohydrates, which keeps blood sugar levels at a stable level.
Although avocados alone are not the solution for a heart-healthy diet, this recent research makes a strong case for making avocado our spread of choice. It also supports incorporating it into our diets in other ways to promote better heart health, particularly as avocados are now more accessible and affordable thanks to good growing seasons.
2. Avocados offer many other health benefits
Along with being abundant in the good fats associated with good heart health, avocados are a great source of fibre and other vitamins and minerals that promote better health – think of them as a giant green vitamin pill.
Just half an avocado provides around 20% of the daily recommended intake for fibre.
Avocadoes in all their many varieties also boost your intake of potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C, E and K. Combined, these vitamins and minerals have been credited with helping improve digestion and supporting your overall immune system.
Avocados are also a good source of niacin (vitamin B3) and folate (vitamin B9), which have an established reputation as mood boosters.
They also count as one of your five servings of vegetables each day. A quarter of an avocado (around 50g) counts as one serve, even though it’s technically a fruit!
3. Avocados can help you lose weight
Foods high in fibre or fat slow food release from your stomach, making you feel fuller and more satisfied after eating a meal. Avocados are high in both, making them important in weight-loss diets.
A US study undertaken in 2019 confirmed that overweight and obese participants who ate a breakfast incorporating avocado felt more satisfied and less hungry than participants who ate a meal containing the same calories but with lower fat and fibre content.
This benefit comes with an important caveat – don’t go overboard! While switching your butter or margarine for avocado on your toast is much better for you, it’s possible to gain weight doing this if you’re not mindful of serving sizes.
While avocados are nutritious, they contain some saturated fat (about 13%) and are still quite calorie-dense – an average-sized avocado can have more than 300 calories.
One teaspoon of margarine or butter is equivalent to one-eighth of an avocado, so a quarter will be more than enough to spread on your toast.
The take-home message
Avocados are a versatile ingredient that can make healthy eating varied and delicious. While it’s easy and beneficial to use them as a spread, they can also be incorporated into savoury and sweet recipes – like smoothies and desserts – or just enjoyed on their own.
However you enjoy them, the good news is some of the myths around avocados have been well and truly smashed!