Are Avocados Useful for Weight Loss, or Fattening?
Avocados are a unique and delicious fruit.
Most people consider avocados to be healthy since they're rich in nutrients and healthy fats.
Some people also believe the healthy fats in them are perfect for weight loss.
However, others fear these fats may cause you to gain weight.
This article explores whether avocados are weight loss friendly or fattening.
Avocados are a great source of several vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. 3.5 ounces (100 grams), or about half an avocado, contain around 160 calories ().
This serving also contains:
- Vitamin K: 26% of the RDI.
- Folate: 20% of the RDI.
- Vitamin C: 17% of the RDI.
- Potassium: 14% of the RDI.
- Vitamin E: 10% of the RDI.
Avocados also contain a fair amount of niacin, riboflavin, copper, magnesium, manganese and antioxidants (, ).
Furthermore, avocados are low in carbs and a great source of fiber. Each serving contains only 9 grams of carbs, 7 of which come from fiber.
Unlike most other fruits, avocados are relatively high in fat — about 15% by weight.
Bottom Line: Avocados are packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats.
Although avocados are technically a fruit, nutritionally they are considered to be a source of fat.
Unlike other fruits, avocados are very high in fat. In fact, 77% of their calories come from fat ().
Avocados contain mostly monounsaturated fat, plus a small amount of saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
Most of that monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, the same fatty acid found in olives and olive oil. This type of fat is considered to be very healthy.
Numerous studies have linked oleic acid to health benefits, such as decreased inflammation and a lower risk of developing heart disease (, ).
Several studies have also shown that replacing some saturated fat in the diet with monounsaturated fat or polyunsaturated fat can lead to health benefits.
These benefits include increased insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar control and lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol ().
One review of 10 studies found that replacing some fats in the diet with avocado may decrease total cholesterol by an average of 18.8 mg/dl, the "bad" LDL cholesterol by 16.5 mg/dl and triglycerides by 27.2 mg/dl ().
Another study compared moderate-fat diets containing either avocados or oils high in oleic acid. The diet containing avocados improved blood lipid levels even more than a diet with oils that were high in oleic acid ().
The avocado diet also decreased "bad" LDL cholesterol by 10% and total cholesterol by 8%. It was also the only diet to decrease the number of LDL particles.
And, as if those benefits weren't enough, avocados contain almost 20 times more fat-soluble phytosterols than other fruits. Phytosterols are plant compounds believed to have positive effects on heart health ().
Bottom Line: Avocados contain a high amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats similar to those found in olive oil.
Foods that are high in fat or fiber can help you feel more full and satisfied after eating. This is partly because fat and fiber slow the release of food from your stomach (, ).
This causes you to feel full for longer and can mean you end up going longer between meals, potentially even eating fewer calories overall.
Avocados are high in both fat and fiber, meaning they should have a strong effect on feelings of fullness.
One study looked at how eating a meal that included avocado affected the appetite of overweight and obese people ().
People who ate half an avocado with their lunch had a decreased desire to eat for up to five hours afterward, although the effect was strongest within the first three hours.
Participants also felt 23% more satisfied after the meal that contained avocado, compared to when they ate the control meal without it.
These properties may make avocados a valuable tool when it comes to appetite regulation and weight loss.
Bottom Line: Because avocados are high in fat and fiber, they can help you feel more satisfied and keep you feeling full for longer.
Studies have shown that people who eat fruits and vegetables tend to have lower body weights ().
One large observational study examined the nutritional patterns of Americans. Those who ate avocados tended to have healthier diets, a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and a lower body weight than those who didn't eat avocados ().
Although this doesn't necessarily mean that avocados caused people to be healthier, it does show that avocados can fit well into a healthy diet.
There's also no reason to believe avocados should be avoided when losing weight.
In fact, one study found that when 30 grams of fat from avocados were substituted for 30 grams of any other type of fat, participants lost the same amount of weight ().
Although there is currently no evidence that avocados can improve weight loss, there are reasons to believe avocados could have a beneficial effect.
This is because in addition to improving heart health, the monounsaturated fats in avocados appear to have several other beneficial qualities ():
- They are burned at a higher rate than other types of fats.
- They may actually increase the rate at which fat is burned.
- They may cause your body to burn more calories after eating.
- They can reduce appetite and decrease the desire to eat after a meal.
However, it is important to note that these effects are not yet well researched.
Yet some preliminary evidence suggests avocados may help fight weight gain.
One study found that rats fed defatted avocado pulp ate less food and gained less weight than the control group ().
A second study also found that rats fed avocado extract on a high-fat diet gained less body fat ().
These studies are especially interesting because defatted avocado pulp and avocado extract do not contain fat. This means there may be other components in avocados that also help reduce appetite and weight gain.
Bottom Line: People who eat avocados tend to be healthier and weigh less than people who don't. Avocados may even help prevent weight gain.
Because avocados are relatively high in fat, they are also high in calories.
For example, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of strawberries contain 32 calories, compared to 160 calories in 3.5 ounces of avocado (, ).
While many different things can affect weight loss or weight gain, the biggest factor is the number of calories you eat.
Because avocados are relatively high in calories, it can be easy to eat too much without realizing it.
So if you're trying to lose weight, be sure to stick to reasonable portions. One portion is typically considered to be a quarter to a half of an avocado — not the whole thing.
Bottom Line: Although avocados are healthy, they are also high in calories. Make sure you pay attention to portion sizes if you are trying to lose weight.
There is no reason to fear that avocados will be fattening, as long as you eat them as part of a healthy diet based on whole foods.
On the contrary, avocados have many qualities of a weight loss friendly food.
And although there's currently no direct evidence that avocados cause weight loss, there are some reasons to believe they could help.
As long as you eat them in reasonable amounts, avocados can definitely be part of an effective weight loss diet.
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