Are avocados bad for you? 4 avocado myths to stop believing
Are avocados bad for you or are they as nutritious as they are delicious? Let’s address the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding avocados, including: “Are avocados fattening?” “Do avocados cause constipation?” … and more!
This post was created in partnership with Fresh Avocados – Love One Today, a science-based resource that makes it easy for consumers and health professionals to learn more about the nutritional benefits of fresh avocados and ways to include them in everyday menus.
Avocado nutrition facts
But first, a look at the nutrition facts of the mighty avocado. One serving of avocado (50 grams or approximately ⅓ medium avocado) contains:
- 80 calories
- 3 grams fiber
- 0 grams sugar
- 5 grams monounsaturated fat
- 1 gram polyunsaturated fat
- 1 gram saturated fat
- 0 milligrams of sodium
Are avocados a fruit or a vegetable?
Botanically speaking, fresh avocados are a fruit. However, the USDA MyPlate categorizes fresh avocados as a member of the Vegetable Group based on their taste and how they are typically eaten.
MyPlate recommends adults consume 2 to 4 cups of vegetables per day. One avocado counts as one cup. Regardless of the category, avocados are a nutrient-dense, delicious way to help you make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
Read on for an evidence-based dive into the top avocado myths!
Do avocados cause constipation?
Constipation is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder, with a prevalence in the general population of nearly 20% (and an even greater prevalence in older adults). The risk of constipation is affected by genetic predisposition and dietary factors, especially low fiber intake.
An analysis of the 2001 – 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data comparing avocado consumers (average consumption of a little more than half of a medium Hass avocado per day) to non-consumers found that avocado consumers had higher intakes of dietary fiber—averaging about 36% more fiber than non-consumers.*
It may surprise you that avocados are a good source of fiber, providing 3 g of fiber per serving or 10 grams per whole, medium avocado. The fiber in avocados is mostly insoluble—with 65% being insoluble. Soluble fiber prevents your digestive tract from absorbing cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease whereas insoluble fiber can’t absorb water and instead acts as nature’s broom, helping move things along in the digestive system and increasing stool bulk. Both fiber types play a role in supporting bowel health and keeping you regular.
So, this misconception that avocados cause constipation is simply untrue. On the contrary, diets rich in nutritious foods containing fiber, such as avocados, may help prevent constipation.
Are avocados fattening?
Avocados have been accused of being fattening and promoting weight gain. However, evidence suggests that fat quality has a stronger correlation to weight gain than fat quantity, and the good, primarily monounsaturated fats in avocados have not been associated with increases in weight gain or waist circumference. Fresh avocados are essentially the only fruit with good fats. Avocados contain 5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat per one-third of a medium avocado.
A recent multi-center, randomized, controlled trial*—titled the Habitual Diet and Avocado Trial (HAT Trial)—comparing the effects of incorporating one avocado into the diet per day for six months to a habitual diet devoid of avocados on visceral (aka belly) fat found that although daily consumption of a whole avocado did not reduce visceral fat, it didn’t lead to an increase in it, either.
Ultimately, despite their higher calorie and overall fat content, avocados have not been shown to be fattening.
So, are avocados good for weight loss then?
The NHANES analysis* mentioned previously reported that regular avocado consumers weighed less (−3.4kg) and had smaller waist circumferences (−1.2cm) than non-consumers. This may be due, in part, to the fact that avocados are a good source of fiber, which plays a significant role in appetite regulation and satiety. Although the findings cannot be considered causal, and more studies are needed to confirm these findings, the data suggests a role for avocados in weight management.
In a small, randomized crossover study*, adding one-half of an avocado to a lunch meal led to a greater increase in post-meal satiety and decrease in desire to eat compared to eating a meal with no avocado.
Is avocado bad for cholesterol?
Despite their fat content, avocados are not bad for cholesterol levels in the body. In fact, research suggests they can help support healthy cholesterol levels, thanks to their fiber, unsaturated fat, and phytosterol content. Eating one avocado per day for 5 weeks as part of a typical American diet was shown to decrease* oxidized LDL cholesterol—and this effect was correlated with a decrease in the number of small, dense LDL particles, which are particularly atherogenic—and lower total and LDL cholesterol levels significantly more than diets without avocado.
Additionally, in the HAT Trial*, modest but significant reductions in total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were observed in the avocado-supplement group when compared with the habitual diet group, which the authors mention aligns with the observed dietary fiber differences between groups.
Soluble fiber, which makes up 35% of the total fiber content of avocados, helps prevent your digestive tract from absorbing cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease. Other factors may also contribute to the improvements in cholesterol levels observed in these studies, such as the phytosterol content of the avocados. Plant sterols, like phytosterols, can help to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, and avocados are the richest known fruit source of phytosterols, providing 38 mg of beta-sitosterol per serving.
Can you eat avocado every day?
Absolutely! Many studies supporting the health benefits of consuming fresh avocados are based on the consumption of eating up to one whole avocado per day. Avocados are easy to incorporate into your everyday diet—use them as a spread, in a salad, on sandwiches or burger, and more! Be sure to check out Love One Today for more ways to enjoy avocados.
Bottom line: are avocados bad for you?
As you can see, the answer is a resounding no. Avocados are not bad for you. Quite the opposite, actually—avocados are good for you!
Avocados have a lot to offer and can be incorporated into your everyday diet to support optimal health. They contribute nearly 20 nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients, which can support digestive health and regularity, healthy cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular health.
And, despite their calorie and total fat content, avocados are not fattening and can be incorporated into a diet that supports weight management.
What’s more, there’s still so much to learn about the benefits of avocados for health. The research I shared today was supported by the Avocado Nutrition Center (ANC), the world’s only independent resource for comprehensive avocado nutrition research, who is working to deepen the world’s scientific understanding of this fruit. Without the ANC, the vast majority of research into the avocado as a whole food wouldn’t exist.
To check out more research from the ANC and stay-up-to-date on avocados go to Fresh Avocados – Love One Today, a free resource that offers access to a database of recipes and tips for using avocados, among many other things. For health professionals, there are also free educational materials, and nutrition articles to use and guide your patients through healthy eating habits like this downloadable handout that discusses research related to the effects of avocado on LDL-cholesterol.
For nutrition research, including the studies I shared in this post, click here.
For resources like accredited podcast episodes and webinars, handouts and nutrition guides click here.
*As with all research, there are study limitations, including drawbacks of all validated food frequency questionnaires, and this prevents the generalization of the findings. Despite the limitations of these studies, avocados may have a role in promoting overall good nutrition and diet quality.