Nutritious Avocados: Consuming Healthy Fats for Weight Loss

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on July 7, 2021
Last updated on July 10, 2021

Avocados are considered a unique superfood (1)(2). Apart from the many benefits that it has, avocados are now recognized for their contribution to weight loss – earning them the top spot on the list of superfoods (2). If you’re an avocado lover, adding this lush green fruit into your diet would be favorable.

Nutritious Avocados: Consuming Healthy Fats for Weight Loss

Introducing the Avocado

Before we get into any more detail, it’s best to set some facts straight. First, if you’re still wondering if an avocado is either a fruit or vegetable, it’s actually a fruit – specifically a single-seeded berry that is said to be native in Mexico (2). The California Avocado website states that the avocado is considered a berry due to its fleshy and buttery pulp and large single seed. Moreover, it is also a product of a tree (3).

In line with this, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) points out that the Central American Avocado tree came from Southern Mexico and Colombia around 7,000 years ago. After which, around the 16th century, the Incas and Aztecs shared the avocado with Spanish conquistadors, who gave the name “aguacate (3).”

Due to their green, scale-like skin and pear shape, the English colonists later on nicknamed the fruit “alligator pears.” To this date, avocados have been incorporated into the North American culture – with 80 Californian varieties, the most popular of which being the Hass avocados (3).

Avocado Nutrition Facts

Avocados are great sources of multiple vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats (4). As per the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), about a half (or 68 grams) of avocado contains 114 grams of calories. The same serving also contains the following (3):

  • Vitamin A: 43 μg
  • Vitamin E: 1.3 mg
  • Vitamin B-6: 0.2 mg
  • Vitamin K: 14 μg
  • Dietary Fiber: 6 g
  • Monosaturated fatty acids: 6.7 g
  • Total Sugar: 0.2 g
  • Sodium: 5.5 mg
  • Magnesium: 19.5 mg
  • Potassium: 345 mg

Other than that, avocados also contain a fair amount of antioxidants, manganese, copper, riboflavin, and niacin. Each serving of avocados are low in carbs – specifically only 9 grams of carbs (7 of which coming from fiber) (4).

Eating Fat to Burn Fat

Also known as “butter fruits,” avocados are high in fat. In fact, most people see avocado as fat more than it is fruit, as most of its calories – specifically about three-quarters (75 percent) – comes from fats. This idea sparks concerns among many individuals, as they associate weight gain with fats (2)(4). However, this should not be the case.

It is very easy to disregard the avocado’s weight loss properties because of its high-fat content. Although they contain a very small amount of saturated (4 grams) and polyunsaturated fats (3 grams), avocados are mostly made up of monounsaturated fat (20 grams). These healthy fats significantly promote its weight loss benefits (2)(4).

It is known that a gram of fat contains 9 calories, which is considerably greater than that of one gram of protein or carbohydrates (2). Nonetheless, you’ll be happy to know that not all fat is unhealthy for you, as researchers support the idea that its monounsaturated fat content is what makes avocados a popular healthy food choice for weight loss. (2)(5).

Most fruits would be high in carbohydrates; however, avocados are filled with healthy fats – particularly monounsaturated oleic acid, which is a similar fat found in olive oil (1). Unlike what most people think, these are considered as good fats, which you can add easily to many diets – including either a low-calorie or high-calorie diet, and the like (2).

Despite being mostly fat, avocados possess a lot of other important elements that help in weight loss, such as fiber and water. Moreover, studies found that their fat content can improve carotenoid antioxidant absorption from vegetables, making them great additions to your vegetables salads (1).

With its proven ability to lower cholesterol and even reduce belly fat in particular areas, the avocado is arguably one of the most noteworthy foods for weight loss (5).

Weight Loss Benefits

If you’re still not convinced with how avocados can aid in weight loss, below are some of its proven benefits and contributions to help you lose those extra pounds.

1. Lowers Cholesterol and Triglycerides

It is found that avocados can help you reduce bad cholesterol (or LDL cholesterol) as well as plasma triglycerides. LDL cholesterol leads to stroke and heart attack one they get deposited on arterial walls, while too high levels of plasma triglycerides can possibly lead to atherosclerosis, leading you to develop diabetes and insulin resistance. In addition, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology confirms that consuming avocado can help reduce LDL cholesterol and serum triglycerides while also improving good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) levels in the blood (6).

2. Decreases Belly Fat

Researchers say that changing your cooking and finishing oils to other varieties that are rich in oleic and monounsaturated fatty acids like avocado oils can spot-reduce abdominal fat and reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a mixture of negative health markers associated with weight gain (more on this on the next point) (5).

More specifically, a tablespoon of mild avocado oil with a faint nutty taste is around 120 calories and 10 grams of monounsaturated fat, which is similar to the extra virgin olive oil. Compared to the latter, avocado oil possesses a very high smoke point which makes it ideal for stir-frys and sautés without the risk of forming free radicals that can harm your health (5).

There are numerous studies that support this. For one, a study from Penn State showed that people who consumed about 3 tablespoons (or 40 grams) of high-oleic oils daily for four weeks had 1.6 percent less belly fat compared to those who consumed a combination of safflower/flax oil – a blend that is high in polyunsaturated fat (5).

To support this fact, a study published in the Diabetes Care journal found that a monounsaturated fat-rich diet can potentially prevent body fat distribution around the belly by downregulating the manifestation of certain fat genes (5).

3. Reduces Risk for Metabolic Syndrome

As pointed out by Mayo Clinic, an evident sign that you may suffer from metabolic syndrome is a large waist circumference. Metabolic syndrome is a name for a group of health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. As previously stated, it is directly linked to having an inactive lifestyle and weight gain (6).

On that note, Hass avocados, which are rich in monounsaturated fats and dietary fibers, can increase the intake of fruits, vegetable, dietary fiber, and healthy fats that invariably improves your nutrition quality, decreases your waist circumference, limits your sugary food consumption, and lessens your risk of metabolism syndrome (6).

4. Increases Satiety

Since avocados are high in fat and fiber, it can help you feel fuller and more satisfied after eating – thus reducing your appetite. This is partially due to the fact that fat and fiber slows the release of food in your stomach, causing you to feel full longer and go longer between meals. This may potentially lead you to consume fewer calories overall (4)(6).

Concerning this, results from study from Loma Linda University, USA, found that adding avocado to your diet can make you feel less frequently hungry due to satiation. Ultimately, this prevents your consumption of foods that are high in sugar and salt (6).

Since avocados are high in fat and fiber, they have a strong effect on feeling full. That said, it was also found that people who ate half an avocado with their meal had decreased desire to eat after five hours – with the effect being more evident within the first three hours. These properties make avocados essential in appetite regulation and weight loss (4).

5. Weight Maintenance

It is known that people who consume avocados tend to be healthier and gain less weight than those who don’t. Furthermore, it is found that avocados can possiGenerally, studies have shown that people who eat fruits and vegetables tend to have lower body weights. One of these studies examined the nutritional patterns of Americans and found that those who consumed avocados tend to have healthier diets, lesser risk for metabolic syndrome, and reduced body weight compared to those who did not eat the fruit (4).

However, this does not necessarily mean that avocados made people healthier, but it proves that avocados can fit well into a healthy diet. Furthermore, you don’t have to avoid eating avocados when losing weight. In fact, a study found that substituting 30 grams of any type of fat with 30 grams of fat from avocados allows the same amount of weight lost (4).

Although there is no present evidence that the fruit can improve weight loss, there are good reasons to believe that avocados – particularly their monounsaturated fat – can have beneficial effects, which includes:

  • They improve heart health (4).
  • They can increase the rate of fat burning (4).
  • They are burned at higher rates than other kinds of fat (4).
  • They aid in appetite reduction and decrease the desire to eat more after a meal (4).

However, note that these effects are not yet well-researched. Still, there is preliminary proof which suggests that avocados can possibly fight weight gain. A study found that rats that ate defatted avocado pulp consumed less food and gained less weight compared to the control group. Another study found that rats who ate avocado extract on a high-fat diet gained less body fat (4).

These studies have sparked interest given that avocado extract and defatted avocado pulp do not contain fat. That said, it may be possible that the other components in the avocados can also help reduce appetite and weight gain (4).

6. Improved Nutrient Absorption

When it comes to achieving weight loss, vegetables are your best friend. Thus, a low-calorie, vitamin-enriched, and nutritious avocado can indeed shrink your waist. However, researchers say that you won’t get much benefit from a garden salad without incorporating a little fat (5).

In a study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, researchers gave participants who consumed salads that are topped with saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat-based dressings, and tested the blood for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids-disease-fighting compounds that are associated with improved weight and fat loss. The results showed that vegetables topped with monounsaturated fat required the least amount (3 grams) to achieve the most carotenoid absorption compared to the other two types of fats (20 grams) (5).

One study in the Journal of Nutrition found that adding avocado to their salad led to the absorption of three to five more carotenoids. To get the best nutrient boost, try a salad with a bit of flavorful guacamole, a few slices of fresh-cut avocado, or a tablespoon of an avocado oil-based vinaigrette (5).

7. Lowered Bad Cholesterol Levels

The basis for classifying fat as either good or bad depends on how it affects your blood cholesterol levels. That said, avocados can also help you lose weight by lowering your levels of bad cholesterol – or LDL cholesterol – which increases your risks for obesity, inflammation, and cardiovascular conditions (2).

On that note, a meta-analysis explored how avocados also help you improve cardiovascular health by lowering serum LDL cholesterol. The results showed that eating avocados can help lessen the levels of total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides remarkably (2).

8. High in Calories

An important note is that since avocados are relatively high in fat, they are also high in calories.  That said, the biggest factor that can affect weight loss and weight gain is the number of calories you eat (4).

Although they can help you reduce weight, it’s important to find a good balance of consuming avocados. Since avocados are high in calories, it can be easy to eat too much than you should. When eaten in large amounts, avocados can make you gain weight rather than lose it. Thus, try to not overdo or under-do it, and stick to reasonable portions – that is, about a quarter to a half of an avocado, instead of the entire thing (2)(4).

9. Free Radical Antioxidants

Free radicals – which are destructive rogue oxygen molecules – trigger various chain reactions in the body that destroys  DNA and cells, leading to various kinds of health problems (5).

Although antioxidants found in most fruits and vegetables can help you reduce free radicals, they can’t reach the powerhouse of the cell – the mitochondria. If the mitochondria does not work properly, your metabolism will operate less efficiently. However, this is not the case with avocados (5).

Avocados can help reduce oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress results from an increase in the levels of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are caused by environmental stress, normal cell functions, mental stress, bad food habits, UV exposure, and diseases (6).

That said, avocados contain antioxidants and oleic acids that help reduce oxidative stress and prevent DNA damage, while also reducing the risk for heart diseases, inflammation-related obesity, and renal failure. It also protects your lipids and protein from being altered by reactive oxygen species. Plus, it has been found that avocado oil, seeds, and peel have been found to contain antioxidant properties that aids in maintaining proper metabolism and cell function (6).

Overall, avocado peel, seed, and flesh are packed with nutrients that can help you reduce weight (6).

10. Boosts Metabolism and Exercise Endurance

According to researchers, eating avocado can naturally give you the same energy boost found in pre-workout supplements (5).

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that physical activity was higher by 13.5 percent in a high oleic acid diet while post-meal metabolism was also higher by 4.5 percent compared to that of palmitic acid (a saturated fat) (5).

This shows that interchanging baked goods, fried foods,  and butter with foods and oils that are high in monounsaturated fat – such as fresh avocados and avocado oil gives you a clean energy boost to fire up your metabolism function and lose weight, even after you left the gym (5).

A Note on Diabetes

What makes it even more interesting as part of your diet is that avocados, unlike most fruits, have low sugar, which makes these “butter fruits” a suitable choice for diabetic people.

Avocados reduce the risk of diabetes not only because of their low sugar content, but also because of their 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which includes 14 grams of satiating fiber and 60 micrograms of vitamin K – a vitamin that aids in sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity regulation (5).

That said, a study was conducted to explore whether the two dietary forms of vitamin K – vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone) intake is related to the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. The results revealed that the vitamin K1 and K2 are both associated with a reduced risk of getting diabetes. Thus, the high vitamin K content found in avocado can also help you reduce the risk for getting type 2 diabetes (2).

The Takeaway

Despite the association that most of us have when it comes to fats in general, avocados contain good healthy fats – as well as other important nutrients and fiber – that can help you lose weight.

There’s no reason to fear avocados as fattening, as long as you regulate your consumption and make them part of a healthy diet that is based on whole foods. Adding the creamy avocado to your side also gives you a feeling of fullness and satisfaction with a stabilized blood sugar (5).

Although there is no direct evidence showing avocados aiding in weight loss, avocados do have a lot of qualities that make up a healthy weight loss food (4).

References

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