Avocado-a-day for 12 weeks reduces belly fat

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Despite their relatively high calorie and fat content – especially when compared with other fruits (yes, they’re a fruit, not a vegetable) – a study this month revealed that women who ate avocado every day for 12 weeks lost ‘visceral’ belly fat. Visceral fat is the hidden type that surrounds our internal organs and it’s more harmful to health than the fat we can see. Compared to people who avoid avocados, other research found avocado eaters typically weigh less, have smaller waists and gain less weight as they get older.

In one study, healthy weight adults were 15 percent less likely to become overweight if they ate one and a half medium-sized avocados a week.

It’s the monounsaturated fats and fibre that most likely explain this.

Several studies suggest diets rich in monounsaturates help prevent weight gain and aid weight loss, while fibre fills us up so we eat less.

One trial found women were 26 percent more satisfied three hours after eating a lunch containing half an avocado. Better still, they compensated for most of the extra calories from the avocado by eating less at their evening meal.

Waistlines aside, avocados have many other health benefits.

Heroes for heart health

An avo a day may keep the heart doctor away. Avocados have been shown to increase HDL or good cholesterol – the type that protects our heart and blood vessels.

Some studies also show a link to lower levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, which is good news as raised levels of these increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

The heart-friendly benefits are probably thanks to a combo of monounsaturated fats, fibre and naturally occurring plant compounds called phytosterols, such as beta-sitosterol, which help to block the absorption of cholesterol from the intestine, thereby lowering levels.

Blood pressure benefits

Together with reducing salt, eating more potassium-rich foods will help to keep your blood pressure within healthy limits.

Bananas are often considered the potassium champion, but avocados are equally good.

One medium-sized banana and half a medium avocado provide around 330mg potassium, though some varieties contain even more than that.

Gem avocados, for example, are larger and richer in potassium with half a gem providing 695mg ­potassium – which is 35 percent of the recommended daily intake.

Valuable for vision

Avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been linked to a lower risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Diets rich in monounsaturated fats have also been found to protect against age-related eye problems.

Super for skin

Avocados contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to protect cells, including the skin cells, from damage which often comes from the sun’s UV rays. Plus, good intakes of monounsaturated fats have been linked to having fewer wrinkles.

B for brains

Avocados provide folate and vitamins B5 and B6. Low intakes of these B vitamins have been linked to depression, anxiety and stress while lower intakes of folate and vitamin B6 have been linked to cognitive decline in older people.

Nutrient boosters

People who enjoy avocados tend to have better diets overall. In one study, avocado eaters consumed more fruit, veg, unsaturated fats, fibre, potassium, magnesium and vitamins E and K than avo avoiders, and they also ate less sugar.

The fat in avocados also helps our bodies absorb nutrients such as beta-carotene (which the body harnesses to produce vitamin A), lycopene and lutein.

One study found adding half an avocado to a salad of lettuce, carrot and spinach meant adults absorbed almost 14 times more beta-carotene and four times more lutein.

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