A recent trend has me worried...
For the past few years, it's become a common part of everyday life. And you've probably noticed, too...
Avocados are everywhere.
You might think that the current obsession with avocados is just by millennials. But the pastel-green fruit has cropped up on menus across the country, from ever-popular avocado toast, soups, and salads, to avocado brownies and ice cream. It seems now that avocados have invaded every meal.
In fact, the U.S. per capita avocado consumption has tripled since the early 2000s... And the average American eats seven pounds of avocados in a single year. Ugh.
Here's the problem...
While avocadoes are packed with healthy nutrients like potassium and magnesium, they're extremely dense because they're high in fat and calories. Yet too many people think of avocados as a health food that's safe to gorge on.
I've seen people eat an entire avocado on a couple pieces of toast every day. According to the California Avocado Commission, a serving size is just one-third of a medium-size avocado, and only one-quarter of a large one. (A whole, large fruit is about the size of a small baseball.)
Guacamole that comes with those tacos at your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant can have one to two whole avocados mashed in there... But like many foods (and other things), you need to enjoy them in moderation.
A study from the University of Cambridge discovered that avocados can actually harm people with a certain genetic mutation. It exists in one in 1,700 people and elevates the normally "good" lipoprotein called HDL. The high HDL mutation makes them 80% more likely to get heart disease. Eating foods high in HDL – like avocados – is something they probably need to limit.
Note that for most folks with elevated HDL, this is a good thing. They still have a lower risk of heart disease. However, this small genetic mutation discovered in the mentioned study actually does the opposite, which is pretty alarming.
Avocados contain high levels of other fats, some of which are the healthier monounsaturated fatty acids ("MUFAs") we have recommended before. Everyone needs dietary fats to be healthy.
Some studies do support the idea of a diet rich in healthy fats to lower the risk of heart disease. However, as we like to say here at Health & Wealth Bulletin, everything in moderation... Chances are slim, but you could be someone who has this rare mutation. (A simple blood test can tell you if your HDL is unusually high.) And even if you aren't, calorie- and fat-dense foods need to be reasonably eaten.
Need more proof that "good fats" aren't always good? A study from Australia concluded that people who ate high-fat diets were 78% more likely to suffer from daytime sleepiness. The participants who reported daytime sluggishness and fatigue consumed 135 grams of fat per day, versus the control group who ate just 58 grams per day.
Another point to consider: calorie-dense foods also contribute to that sluggish feeling. An entire avocado packs 322 calories... If you mix avocados with a meal, that bumps up your calorie intake significantly.
Now, some fats might be more likely than others to cause sleep issues. Saturated fats and trans fats are thought to have an inflammatory effect, and chronic inflammation is associated with sleep apnea. As I've written before, you should avoid trans fats altogether. Our bodies can't break them down easily... They upset our immune systems and trigger inflammation. You should also limit saturated fats. We're most concerned with saturated fats from processed foods.
The bottom line is that naturally occurring saturated fats, like those found in avocados, are fine in small amounts.
Look, I get it... They are creamy and delicious. And as high-fat foods go, there are worse things you can indulge in than MUFA-rich avocados.
Do what I do and eat just a small portion several times a month. I like mine stirred up with chunked tomatoes, chopped onions, cilantro, a little kosher salt and a squeeze of lime – guacamole. Of course, I'm sipping a tequila with fresh squeezed lime juice on the rocks as I sit down to a Mexican dinner.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: Listen to "Weird Al" Yankovic pay homage to the avocado.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
October 25, 2018