An avocado a day is great for gut health

By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)

Avocados are amazing! They are nutrient-dense and a great source of fibre. They contain beneficial fats including oleic acid and alpha-linolenic (an omega 3 fatty acid), and contain over twenty vitamins, minerals and vital nutrients including vitamins B, C and E. They are also a great source of the mineral’s magnesium and potassium. Avocado also contains many phytonutrients including carotenoids, flavonoids and phytosterols. Avocados are actually berries but are often called fruits and are also known as ‘alligator pears’ due to the texture of the skin and being shaped like a pear!

Why are they so good for our health?

Aiding blood sugar regulation – contain small amounts of carbohydrates so have little impact on blood sugar. They are thought to improve insulin sensitivity due to the monounsaturated fats which they contain. This is important re fertility as erratic blood sugar levels can impact on hormone levels in an adverse way.

Cardiovascular health benefits – blood fat and cholesterol levels are lowered it seems after avocado consumption and so can help with weight management too. They are a uniquely high source of plant sterols, which is the part of the plant that corresponds to cholesterol in people. Eating plant sterols has been proven to lower cholesterol and increase heart health in several research studies by lowering the blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing the HDL levels.

Lowering blood pressure – due to the potassium levels in avocados.

Helps to block oestrogen absorption -they contain key plant sterols that can reduce excess oestrogen. This allows increased progesterone to be present in women and testosterone in men. Increased oestrogen levels can lead to weight gain, tiredness, headaches, water retention, breast tenderness and insomnia.

Avocados may also help to lower homocysteine levels (an amino acid produced when proteins are broken down) due to the B vitamins that they contain. High homocysteine levels have been linked to blood clots and damaged arteries. Avocados also provide oleic acid and omega 3 which help to keep our heart healthy.

Anti inflammatory properties – Avocados contain an array of nutrients with reduce inflammation such as: phytosterols, omega 3 fatty acids and carotenoid antioxidants.

Help to balance hormones – Avocados also contain beta-sitosterol, a compound that balances stress hormones such as cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. The monounsaturated fat also provides the building blocks the body needs to make both oestrogen and progesterone.

Avocados and Gut Health

In a very recent study conducted at the University of Illinois and published in the Journal of Nutrition, it has been found that “Avocado consumption alters gastrointestinal bacteria abundance and microbial metabolite concentrations among adults with overweight or obesity: a randomized controlled trial”. While the high dietary fibre content of avocado and the associated gut health benefits of eating fibre have been well known, understanding how daily avocado consumption might influence the microbiome was still something of a mystery. The researchers set out to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fibre in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota.

The researchers found that people who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fibre and produce metabolites that support gut health. They also had greater microbial diversity compared to people who did not receive the avocado meals in the study. The study found that eating one avocado every day for 12 weeks had a positive effect on the diversity of the gut microbiome. This was only a small study but I am sure that there will be plenty of research to follow.

And in relation to fertility

Avocados are a great source of antioxidant Vitamin E which in studies has been shown to be beneficial to improving the lining of the womb. They are also a great source of vitamin K, potassium and folate- all fertility friendly nutrients.

Recipe ideas

Why not make your own guacamole using ripe avocados, a squeeze of lemon and some chopped garlic -much nicer than bought!
Smashed avocado on wholemeal toast with a poached egg and chilli flakes for breakfast
Add to salads and soups.
Substitute mayonnaise with avocado in sandwiches
Avocado pancakes
Avocado and tomato salsa
Avocado and chocolate mousse

 Pomegranate Guacamole

Mashup 3 ripe avocados and combine with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a finely chopped chilli (optional). Sprinkle with the seeds of fresh pomegranate and combine! Enjoy as a dip or in wraps.

Want to read more?

Sharon V Thompson, Melisa A Bailey, Andrew M Taylor, Jennifer L Kaczmarek, Annemarie R Mysonhimer, Caitlyn G Edwards, Ginger E Reeser, Nicholas A Burd, Naiman A Khan, Hannah D Holscher. Avocado Consumption Alters Gastrointestinal Bacteria Abundance and Microbial Metabolite Concentrations among Adults with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, 2020; DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxaa219

Mohd Mutalip SS, Ab-Rahim S, Rajikin MH. Vitamin E as an Antioxidant in Female Reproductive Health. Antioxidants (Basel). 2018;7(2):22. Published 2018 Jan 26. doi:10.3390/antiox7020022

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