Avocado: Weight-Loss Friendly or Fattening?

What a unique and delicious fruit!  I grew up with an avocado tree in our yard in California , so it was easy to grab one at will and enjoy it. The trouble was that I didn’t really like avocados.

Now, however, with my diet more refined than it’s ever been, avocados are staples in my kitchen and a favorite food. Stay with me here, and you’ll understand why.

It’s true that most people consider avocados to be healthy, since they are rich in nutrients, fiber, and healthy fats. Further, some say that the fats in them are perfect for enhancing weight loss. Others fear that the same fats may actually cause weight gain. So which is it?

There are several factors to consider.

First, avocados are a great source of several vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber.

Approximately ½ an avocado contains about 160 calories. The same serving also contains generous portions of vitamins K, C, and E, folate, and potassium. They also contain a fair amount of niacin, riboflavin, copper, magnesium, manganese, and antioxidants. They are low in carbohydrates and a great source of fiber, the importance of which cannot be overstated. Each ½ cup serving of avocado contains only 9 grams of carbs, 7 of which come from fiber, so the net carb load is 2 – remarkably low for a fruit.

Second, avocados are very high in heart-healthy fats, about 77% of their calories.

Most of the fat is oleic acid, the same fatty acid found in olives and is considered to be very healthy. Several studies have linked oleic acid to health benefits, such as inflammation and a lower risk of developing heart disease. Others have shown that replacing some saturated fat in the diet with monounsaturated fat or polyunsaturated fat can lead to health benefits, which include increased insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar control and lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. And, as a bonus, avocados contain almost 20 times more fat-soluble phytosterols than other fruits.  These are plant compounds believed to have positive effects on heart health.

Third, foods high in fat and/fiber can help us feel more full and satisfied after eating.

This is partly because fat and fiber slow the release of food from your stomach. Feeling more full and satisfied adds the benefit of going longer between meals, (see intermittent fasting here and again here), and the possibility of eating fewer calories overall.

One study, for example, explored how eating a meal that included avocado affected the appetite of overweight and obese people. Those who ate half an avocado with their lunch had a decreased desire to eat for up to five hours afterward, although the effect was strongest within the first three hours. Participants also felt 23% more satisfied after the meal that contained avocado, compared to when they ate the control meal without it. These properties may make avocados a valuable tool when it comes to appetite control and weight loss.

Fourth, avocados may help with weight maintenance.

This is not news, but many studies have sown that people who eat fruits and vegetables tend to have lower body weights. One study showed that people who ate avocados tended to have healthier diets, a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and a lower body weight than those who didn’t eat avocados. While this doesn’t mean that avocados case people to be healthier, it does show that avocados can fit well into a healthy diet.

There is something special about the monosaturated fats in avocados that make them beneficial, all having to do with burning at a higher rate than other types of fat, and actually increasing the rate at which fat is burned, and reducing the appetite and the desire to eat after a meal.

Fifth, avocados are relatively high in calories.

There is no question about it – higher fat content means higher calories, and when all is said and done, weight management is largely dependent on calorie consumption. 3.5 ounces of strawberries contains 32 calories, compared to 160 calories in 3.5 ounces of avocado.

It can be easy to eat too many delicious avocados than are beneficial to good health and/or weight management.

So, back to the original question.  Are avocados weight-loss friendly or fattening?

There is no reason to fear that avocados will be fattening, as long as they are a reasonable part of a healthy diet based on whole foods, mostly plants. On the contrary, they have many qualities of a weight loss friendly food.

I typically have 1/2-2/3 avocado on most days either in a green smoothie or in a salad. At parties, I try to refrain from eating the entire bowl of guacamole. You’ve heard it before: moderation in all things. But avocados are a fine source of many nutrients and fats that we need. Enjoy!

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