The avocado boom of recent years has seen the fruit adorn toast, whizzed into smoothies and even mixed into coffee. Yep, avocado iced coffee is a thing. It’s safe to say that avocados are a favourite for many people and are consumed most days, which according to new research, is doing wonders for their gut health.
Researchers from the University of Illinois looked at how eating avocado on daily basis impacted gut health and were pleasantly surprised with what they found. Avocados are a well-known source of healthy monounsaturated fat and dietary fibre, so it makes sense that it does good things for your gut’s microbiome.
“We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce,” says Sharon Thompson, a graduate student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at U of I and lead author on the paper.
The study included 163 adults between 25 and 45 years old who were given one meal per day to consume as a replacement to their usual breakfast, lunch or dinner. One group ate an avocado with each meal, while a control group ate something similar sans avocado. Throughout the 12-week study, the participants provided blood, urine and fecal samples, while also reporting what they ate outside of their avo-filled meal.
While many previous studies on avocado have focused on weight loss, this purpose of this research was to explore the effects of avocado consumption on the gastrointestinal microbiota, says Hannah Holscher, assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at U of I and senior author of the study.
“Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fibre in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota. We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes,” Holscher said.
The researchers found that avocado was a winner when it came to gut-friendly foods, thanks to its high amount of monounsaturated fats, potassium and dietary fibre, which is particularly great for the gut.
“Less than 5% of Americans eat enough fibre,” Holscher said. “Most people consume around 12 to 16 grams of fibre per day. Thus, incorporating avocados in your diet can help get you closer to meeting the fibre recommendation. We can’t break down dietary fibres, but certain gut microbes can. When we consume dietary fibre, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and for us.”
While it’s important to note that yes, avocado is an energy-dense food, it’s also nutrient-dense and that’s why researchers love it so much.
“Just like we think about heart-healthy meals, we need to also be thinking about gut healthy meals and how to feed the microbiota,” she said. “It’s just a really nicely packaged fruit that contains nutrients that are important for health. Our work shows we can add benefits to gut health to that list.”