Photo: Halved Avocados

by Sabra Leomo, RD

It is only fitting that February is American Heart Month. With Valentine’s Day being celebrated in February, hearts receive a lot of attention. The most important heart, the one beating in our chest, definitely deserves some extra attention. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. The great news is that a healthy lifestyle and eating habits protect against and also reverse heart disease.

Fat often gets a bad rap, which is justified in some cases, but our bodies need healthy fats to properly function. Knowing the difference between the types of fats that can harm versus help our health will assist you in making healthy choices that are good for your heart. 

Two types of fats, saturated and trans fat, have negative effects on overall heart health and should be limited or avoided.

Monounsaturated fats are healthier fats and a better choice to add to your diet. This type of fat, which is found in avocados, can help decrease your risk of heart disease.

Let’s take a moment to look at the amazing heart healthy fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit) that is packed with heart-healthy fat.

Avocados are a healthy source of monounsaturated fat and also contain anti-inflammatory properties which are beneficial for heart health. Most people think of bananas when they look for sources of potassium but avocados are a better source of potassium than bananas. A diet rich in potassium can help lower blood pressure.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet that included avocados increased HDL cholesterol which is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. Think of HDL cholesterol as a scavenger that removes LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, from your bloodstream.

 Beyond guacamole you can use avocados in many savory and sweet dishes:

  • Eat it plain or season it with herbs and spices like smoked paprika or cayenne pepper, hot sauce, or balsamic vinegar
  • Add avocado to your smoothie for a creamy base
  • Use avocado as a replacement for mayonnaise or sour cream
  • Top soups and salads with diced avocado
  • Use as a base for salad dressing
  • Spread smashed avocado on your toast or sandwich
  • Use avocado as a base for chocolate pudding, mousse, or other dark chocolate desserts (the color of the chocolate hides the color of the avocado)
  • Add to hummus recipes for an extra creamy spread

For an avocado that you are ready to enjoy now; pick an avocado that is firm but yields to gentle pressure in the palm of your hand.

If you have avocados that aren’t quite ripe yet put them in a brown paper bag and leave the avocado for 2-3 days. To speed up the process you can add an apple or kiwi to ripen the avocado faster. The more fruits you add, the faster the avocado will ripen.

Always be sure to wash avocados before you cut them, bacteria from the peel can get inside the fruit from the knife.

Store cut avocado in the refrigerator tightly wrapped or add a small amount of lemon, lime or white vinegar to keep it from browning.

Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats are an important part of a healthy diet and help protect against heart disease. However, because fat is higher in calories you still want to enjoy it in moderation as part of a healthy and active lifestyle.

Footnotes: 

References:

Avocado consumption and risk factors for heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/107/4/523/4964644. Accessed 15 January 2018.