Avocado is one of those foods that almost every dietary ideology agrees is good for you. Vegans, vegetarians, paleos, Mediterranean diet espousers, and keto diet fans all promote avocados as a “good fat.” Even the USDA dietary committee wants people eating avocados. But most avocado discussion stops there. It’s “good for you” and that’s about all you hear about the avocado. I’m as guilty as the next man, seeing as how my main focus is on avocado oilused as the basis of most Primal Kitchen products.
But the human research convincingly shows that avocados—the whole fruit—are incredibly healthy and nutrient-dense additions to anyone’s diet. Unless you have a specific reason for not eating them, you should be eating avocados on a regular basis. Here are some evidence-based reasons why this is the case:
1. Avocados improve cholesterol
What constitutes a healthy lipid profile is a subject of debate, but we can generally agree on a few principles:
Higher HDL is usually better.
Lower triglycerides are better.
A lower LDL:HDL ratio is usually better.
Increased LDL particle size is usually better.
Less LDL oxidation is better.
Eating avocados achieves all these improvements. In one human study, subjects were randomized to eat either an American diet, a standard “healthy” low-fat diet, a moderate-fat diet with most of the fat coming from sunflower and canola oil, or a moderate-fat diet with most of the extra fat coming from one large avocado a day.1 Only the avocado diet improved LDL:HDL ratio, increased LDL particle size, and reduced oxidized LDL. It was the clear winner over both the American, the seed oil diet, and the low-fat diet.
Another similar study pitted avocado eaters against seed oil eaters. The fatty acid composition was identical in both diets, but only the avocado eaters saw reductions in oxidized LDL particles.2
In another study, Hispanic adults with high cholesterol were randomized to a high-carb vegetarian diet enriched with soybean and safflower oil or a high-carb vegetarian diet enriched with avocado (30% of total calories from avocado).3 The avocado group saw much better improvements in LDL, triglycerides, and HDL.
2. Avocados make meat healthier
Some studies find that eating a hamburger patty by itself increases postprandial lipid oxidation and reduces endothelial function, while eating the same patty with a half avocado almost abolishes these effects and also reduces systemic inflammation. There are other issues at hand here, so don’t freak out about a hamburger patty just yet, but it’s probably is a good idea to have a few slices of avocado with your meat. Other herbs, spices, and phytonutrient-rich plant foods can also help here.
3. Avocados make meals more filling and satisfying
Adding avocados to meals makes said meal both more filling and satisfying.4 This effect occurs whether the avocado adds calories or not. Even isocaloric meals, some with avocados, some without, show the effect. A meal with avocado is simply more satisfying and keeps a person fuller for longer. You aren’t full because you’re getting stuffed. You’re full because you’re satisfied—the meal was nutrient-dense and inherently filling. You’re full because avocados have powerful effects on gut satiety hormones.
4. Avocados improve cognitive function
In older adults given a battery of mental tests, eating avocados increased lutein (a carotenoid linked to ocular and cognitive health) levels by 25%, boosting executive functional capacity, sustained attention, and problem solving ability compared to eating chickpeas.5
Avocado is a unique blend of water and oleic acid that enhances the absorption of carotenoids not just from the avocado itself, but also from any accompanying foods that contain carotenoids.
5. Avocados improve gut health
Dietary avocado increases the diversity of the gut biome, increases “shedding” of fat in the stool of obese and overweight (who don’t “need” the additional caloric energy), and reduces bile acid excretion in the stool. It also tends to increase short chain fatty acid production by gut bacteria, a good indicator of improved metabolic health.6
6. Avocados reduce oxidative stress and inflammation
In general, avocado consumption lowers markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. As mentioned earlier, they can reduce LDL oxidation—the process by which LDL particles are subjected to oxidative stress and damaged, thereby increasing the risk of atherosclerosis. They also have been shown to lower C-reactive protein and other markers associated with endothelial damage and function.7
7. Avocados improve eye health
Older adults who eat avocados see increases in their macular pigment density (MPD).8
8. Avocados are micronutrient-rich.
When most people talk about the nutrients found in avocados, they talk about potassium and monounsaturated fat. These are good components of the avocado, to be sure, but there’s a lot more to it. A single avocado gives you:
30% of daily folate
40% of vitamin B5
15% of riboflavin
23% of vitamin B6
17% of vitamin E
28% of vitamin K
26% of copper
9% of magnesium
15% of potassium
That’s not bad for 200 calories of healthy fat and prebiotic fiber that also has all the beneficial effects mentioned above. Avocados are delicious, nutritious, and improve many aspects of your health. There’s no reason not to eat them on a regular basis.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.