A recent study found that feeding people a moderate-fat diet that included a daily avocado lowered cholesterol more than either a low-fat diet or a moderate-fat diet without the avocado.
It will probably not surprise you to hear that the study was funded by a grant from the Hass Avocado Board, “an agriculture promotion group established in 2002 to promote the consumption of Hass Avocados in the United States.” They assure you that the board had nothing to do with designing the study, collecting or interpreting the data, and they didn’t have any veto power over the study’s publication. However, the paper also discloses that one of the scientists, Dr Kris‐Etherton, is a member of the Avocado Nutrition Science Advisory. (That sounds like something that’s probably a subsidiary of the Hass Avocado Board, but I couldn’t find any information on the Avocado Nutrition Science Advisory, who they are, or who funds them.)
In the study, they told all participants what to eat for about six months. They started off with an “average American diet,” in which 34% of the calories came from fat, 51% from carbohydrates, and 16% from protein. Participants ate this for two weeks. They then rotated through each diet studied for five weeks each, with two weeks off between diets. The low-fat diet substituted calories from carbohydrates for 6-7% of the calories from saturated fat; the moderate-fat-non-avocado diet substituted calories from unsaturated fats (such as olive oil) for some of the saturated fat; the avocado diet substituted calories from an avocado for some of the saturated fats. They have a one-day sample menu online if you’re thinking, “you know, it makes a really big difference whether carbohydrates are coming in the form of sugar, or pasta, or whole grain wheat berries…” (The low-fat diet people got whole wheat bread instead of unspecified crackers, but everyone gets an English muffin and in general I would describe it more of a “pasta” diet than a “whole grain wheat berries” sort of diet.)
So, here’s why nothing about this study should have been surprising. We already know that a high-fiber diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables will lower your cholesterol. So any diet that feeds you a fruit or vegetable to replace calories that would otherwise come from something that was not a fruit or vegetable? That will probably improve your cholesterol levels.
That said, avocados are legitimately good for you. If you like avocados, by all means eat them! Especially if you’re choosing homemade guacamole over something like French Onion dip from the refrigerator case at the store. If you dislike avocados, then eat other fruits and vegetables. (For super-high-fiber options, apparently artichokes and raspberries are the dietary winners. Pears and peas are also terrific.) This study did not actually find any evidence that avocados are vastly superior to other fruits and vegetables. It found evidence that avocados are vastly superior to grains, or to carefully-chosen oils that match the fat profile found in avocados (but don’t have any of the fiber or other avocado-y goodness).
Since any article about food needs a recipe, here’s my recipe for guacamole, because why not.
To pick avocados, I recommend gently squeezing them, and choosing avocados with a bit of give but that do not collapse under your fingertips at gentle prodding. If they are rock hard, save them for another day. If they are perfect, but you’re not planning to make your guacamole until tomorrow, refrigerate them. If you live in Texas and have an avocado tree in your back yard, you probably already have your own recipe so why are you still reading this? Go forth and eat avocados, secure in the knowledge that the Hass Avocado Board has found that they are Mother Nature’s Miracle Food will probably cure all your ills.
1 or more avocados
Fresh lime (s) — I usually want a little less than half a lime per avocado
Minced fresh cilantro (optional)
Scoop out the avocados and mash them up with a potato masher or a fork or whatever you’ve got handy that will work to mash stuff. Add lime juice and salt to taste. Try not to taste it so many times that no one else gets any guacamole. Add some minced fresh cilantro unless you hate cilantro, in which case leave it out. Eat with tortilla chips, on a sandwich, or with a spoon. If you’re making it in advance, well, don’t, because it’ll turn brown, but if you absolutely must, press plastic wrap down onto the surface to keep out the air (it’s what makes it discolor) and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat it.