When most people think of cholesterol, they worry about their levels being too high. However, there are two different types of cholesterol. While one is excellent and essential for maintaining your health, the other increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Understanding the relationship between avocados and cholesterol can help you manage your lipid profile.
There are two types of cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and High-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL cholesterol is considered to be bad for your body because it carries cholesterol to your tissues such as arteries.
If there is too much cholesterol in your blood, the excess may get trapped in your artery walls. As this builds up it is called plaque and can narrow your blood vessels. This process can happen to blood vessels anywhere in your body. If it happens to the blood vessels bringing blood to the heart, which are called coronary arteries, it may prevent the blood from bringing enough oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Additionally, cholesterol may build up to become plaque, which can burst when unstable and then cause a blood clot to form, leading to a heart attack.
In contrast, HDL cholesterol moves freely through the bloodstream and doesn’t gather against the blood vessel walls. Instead, it tries to remove LDL cholesterol, brings structure to your cell walls, and reduces your risk of heart disease. Without HDL cholesterol, each cell in your body will struggle to function.
Often, cholesterol is associated with fat. And some assume that because a food contains fat, then there must be cholesterol in it. Before jumping to conclusions when making these assumptions, we should consider the whole picture.
Let’s use an avocado as an example. Avocados happen to be one of the only fruits that contributes monounsaturated fats, as well as nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, with 75% the fats in a avocado are “good fats”, making them a great substitute for foods high in saturated fat. Avocados actually contribute 8g of good fats per 50 g serving (or 1/3 of a medium avocado), but they don’t include any cholesterol.
This makes avocados a great substitute for fat-based ingredients in recipes, condiments to dip snacks in or spreads on your sandwiches. In the table below, you can see some nutritional information about avocados and other common dips and spreads.
|Fresh Avocado||Butter||Sour Cream||Margarine||Cheddar Cheese||Mayonnaise|
|Serving Size||1/3 of |
|1 Tbsp.||2 Tbsp.||1 Tbsp.||1 oz. (1 slice)||1 Tbsp.|
|Total Fat (g)||8||12||4.5||11||9||10|
|Sat Fat (g)||1||7||3||2||5||1.5|
Eating healthy foods as a part of a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can allow you to enjoy good heart health.
For example, dietary fat is a type of nutrient that can help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamins A, D, K and E. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a diet plan that substitutes good fats in place of bad, within moderation, to receive the nutrient benefits of dietary fat without raising LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. In this case, a serving of avocado, which contributes good fats and has no cholesterol, could be a heart-healthy option for aiding absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins in your diet. While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of this disease.
Similarly, avocados contribute 6% of the daily value for potassium. When eaten in the right amounts, potassium is a type of electrolyte that helps nerves to function and muscles to contract while also helping to regulate one’s heartbeat. A diet rich in potassium helps to offset some of the harmful effects of sodium on blood pressure. Healthy avocados contribute 254 mg of potassium per 50g serving (one-third of a medium avocado).
While avocados may not contain cholesterol, the nearly 20 vitamins and minerals they do feature make them a healthy nutrient-rich choice. By eating balanced diet with a variety of nutritious foods and maintaining an active lifestyle, you can enhance your health and reduce your risk of heart disease.