June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. With summer starting and lots of fresh, colorful produce coming into season, it’s a great time to focus on all the delicious ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your meals, snacks, and even desserts!
This blog post is written by Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Director, Women's Heart Health, Heart and Vascular Institute, Lenox Hill Hospital
Did you know eating more fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest ways to eat less sodium? It works because you’re replacing some of the salty, highly processed foods with naturally sodium-free ones. All plain fruits and vegetables are good for you. But avocados are one of my favorites because they also provide “good” fats.
Our bodies need fats to absorb certain fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E and K. But saturated fat can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increase your risk for developing heart disease and stroke. So we don’t want to eat too much of it.
Most of the fat in avocados (about 75%) is unsaturated good fat (primarily monounsaturated and some polyunsaturated). This makes them a great substitute for foods higher in saturated fat. In one research study, half of an avocado replaced cookies and some of the Italian dressing in a lunch meal.
Diners reported more satisfaction and less desire to eat up to three hours after eating the lunch that included the avocado, compared to the one without avocado. And, despite the additional calories and carbohydrates provided by the avocado, they experienced no spike in blood sugar levels.
The Nutrition Facts
- Avocados provide about 20 essential nutrients.
- They’re a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin K and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).
- They provide potassium, which can help lessen the effects of sodium on your body.
- They do not contain any sodium, sugar, cholesterol or trans fat.
- One serving (about one-third of a medium avocado) provides 6 grams of unsaturated fats but just 1 gram of saturated fat, and 80 calories.
- Avocados fit into a variety of healthy eating patterns such as those recommended by the American Heart Association and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Now that’s a smart food choice! In fact, a recent research analysis concluded that eating avocados is associated with better diet quality, lower body weight and BMI (body mass index), and other positive health indicators.
Specifically, avocado eaters get more dietary fiber, unsaturated fats and certain key nutrients, and less carbohydrates, added sugars and sodium than non-eaters. They tend to weigh less and have smaller waist size, and are less likely to be overweight or obese.
When avocados are the go-to choice for a snack, the chance for picking other poor choices goes down. A patient who often snacked on whatever was in the office tried eating 1⁄3 of an avocado for a snack, instead of the chips or candy usually available. She started losing weight, and with that had a decrease in her blood pressure.
How do you do avocado?
Another reason I love avocados is how versatile they are. You can eat them “as is,” right out of the peel or add them to meals and snacks in lots of ways:
- Looking for a quick snack? A third of an avocado is a delicious option to replace higher-calorie, less nutritious snack foods.
- Watching your calories? Avocados can be a satisfying addition to a reduced-calorie diet when eaten in place of other fat sources.
- Like to cook? Add avocado to all kinds of recipes like soups, salads, sandwiches, dips, spreads, smoothies, baked goods and more. One of my favorites is Avo-Fredo Zoodles. This fun and colorful dish pairs zucchini “noodles” (naturally lower-carb and gluten-free) with a creamy, dairy-free avocado Alfredo sauce. It’s a more nutritious, less salty, kid-friendly swap for spaghetti and meatballs. Check out the Healthy For Good™ recipe center for more great ideas.
We all need to be enjoying more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a heart-healthy diet, but avocados are special. Avocados are an easy and delicious way to eat more fruit, but they are also filled with good fats, vitamins and minerals, and less sodium. When making choices about what is best to keep your heart healthy, add avocados to the list. You can Love One Today® and every day!
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Director, Women's Heart Health, Heart and Vascular Institute, Lenox Hill Hospital