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November 12, 2019

Making Bad Cholesterol Better

Avocados reduce the worst kind of bad cholesterol. Antioxidants appear to be the reason why.

Avocados are on the way to becoming the latest super food. Eating this luscious and satisfying fruit daily may be the key to lowering “bad” cholesterol, particularly the worst kind of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), according to a new study.

Avocados are a good source of B vitamins, vitamins C, E and K, magnesium and potassium. They also provide the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Most of the calories in avocados come from fat, but that’s no reason to avoid them because the fat they contain is healthy fat.

There are several types of LDL particles that circulate in the blood. The particles vary in size and density. Small, dense LDL particles are the most harmful, especially if they are oxidized. Oxidation in the body can be compared to what happens to an apple when you cut it and leave it sitting on the kitchen counter. The cut surface turns brown, or becomes damaged, as a result of the chemical process known as oxidation.

People who ate an avocado every day had lower levels of LDL cholesterol than they had before the study. They also had higher levels of lutein, an important antioxidant.

Researchers at Penn State wanted to see what affect eating avocados could have on LDL levels in the body, so they fed 45 overweight or obese adults three different diets for five weeks each. One diet was a low-fat diet; another was a moderate-fat diet without avocados; and the third was a moderate-fat diet that included an avocado every day. The second diet (moderate fat without avocado) included extra monounsaturated fats to match the amount that would be consumed by the people on the daily avocado diet.

Is Lutein the Key?

Not only did participants who ate an avocado every day have lower levels of LDL cholesterol than they had before the study or after eating the low- or moderate-fat diets for five weeks, they also had higher levels of lutein, an important antioxidant that may be the compound that prevents LDL, the bad cholesterol, from becoming oxidized in your body.

Puree avocados and make a spread for your toast or a salad dressing. Make avocado soup. Stir up a creamy sauce to top chicken enchiladas. Add them to a smoothie.

The dangerous, oxidized form of LDL was reduced in those on the avocado diet. Penny Kris-Etherton of Penn State explained in a statement: “A lot of research points to oxidation being the basis for conditions like cancer and heart disease. We know that when LDL particles become oxidized, that starts a chain reaction that can promote atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque in the artery wall. Oxidation is not good, so if you can help protect the body through the foods that you eat, that could be very beneficial.”

Avocados can be incorporated into your diet in a number of ways. Of course, you can use them to make guacamole, but you can also add avocado slices to sandwiches, salads or wraps. Season them with cumin, curry or garlic powder. Stuff them with eggs, chicken, tuna or other chopped fruits and vegetables. Puree them and make a spread for your toast or a salad dressing. Make avocado soup. Stir up a creamy sauce to top chicken enchiladas. Add them to a smoothie. They can be grilled, pickled or used as a pizza topping. Or just peel it, remove the seed and eat it for a snack.

The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition.

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