5 Powerhouse Benefits of Avocado You Didn’t Know About

Avocados have a bad rep for being fatty, but the fats are healthy and the flesh is full of vitamins and minerals. See how else it benefits your body.

By Alyssa Jung adapted from Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal (Reader's Digest Association)
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    Avocado lowers cholesterol.

    Avocados are rich in plant sterols, compounds shown to lower cholesterol by blocking the its absorption into the bloodstream. A randomized trial published in JAMA followed a small group of adults with hypertension over a period of two years, and found that replacing a carbohydrate-heavy diet with one rich in monounsaturated fats resulted in lower blood pressure and improved lipid levels. Dutch researchers analyzed 60 trials to explore the effects of various fats on cholesterol levels, and also found that replacing carbohydrates with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lead to a decrease in "bad cholesterol" and an increase in "good cholesterol."

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    Avocado reduces risk of heart disease.

    Studies have shown that substituting saturated fat with unsaturated fat—avocado's calling card—can reduce heart disease risk better than merely lowering overall fat intake. An analysis of 50 studies and clinical trials showed that a Mediterranean diet, which is high in monounsaturated fat, was effective at preventing metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that increase the likelihood of heart problems like stroke or coronary artery disease. Another 20-year study followed more than 74,000 women 38 to 63 years old and found that women who adhered to a Mediterranean-style diet had a lower risk of stroke.

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    Avocado lowers cancer risk.

    Healthy monounsaturated fats have been shown to help your body better absorb anticancer antioxidants such as lycopene (found in tomatoes) and beta-carotene (carrots and sweet potatoes).

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    Avocado keeps blood sugar steady.

    Add avocado to your sandwich to keep blood sugar levels in check; its fat slows digestion, making it easier on your blood sugar, and its soluble fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar levels to help fight insulin resistance. A new study by researchers from Loma Linda University and published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half an avocado with lunch reported feeling satisfied longer with less of a desire to eat more afterward. It also showed that eating avocado resulted in no rise in blood sugar levels, which researchers believe might mean the fruit could be beneficial in the maintenance of weight and diabetes, though further research needs to be done.

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    Avocado helps maintain hair health.

    Moisturizing your hair with avocado makes strands stronger by loading them with protein. Mix a ripe, peeled avocado with a teaspoon of wheat germ oil and a teaspoon of jojoba oil. Apply to freshly washed hair and spread all the way to the ends, then cover your scalp with a shower cap or plastic bag. Wait 15 to 30 minutes, and rinse thoroughly.

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