Harvard Heart Letter

An avocado a day may keep cholesterol at bay

Adding an avocado a day to a healthy diet may lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels, according to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Forty-five overweight or obese volunteers followed three different cholesterol-lowering diets, each for five weeks. One diet had 24% of calories from fat; the other two were 34% fat, one of which included an avocado per day. While participants were on the avocado diet, their LDL levels dropped an average of 13.5 points—nearly twice as much as when they were on the other two diets.

Hass avocados (the type used in the study) have bumpy, greenish-black skin. The creamy flesh is rich in monounsaturated fats, which help lower LDL cholesterol when swapped for saturated fat. But other compounds in avocados, such as fiber and plant sterols, may also contribute to their healthful benefits, say the authors. Avocados can be sliced into salads, spread on sandwiches, or mashed to make guacamole. Just be sure to go easy on the high-calorie, salty corn chips often served with the latter.

Image: Thinkstock

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