People often avoid avocados because they're high in calories, but a new study reveals an avocado a day can actually help you shrink belly fat and lose weight.  The high level of avocado calories – about 240 for an average-sized fruit – come mostly from the fat content or 24 grams of fat, but in contrast to processed foods that are high in saturated fat, these natural "good" fats in avocado help you lose weight, feel fuller longer, and keep your heart healthy.

Study finds avocados can shift and shrink belly fat

Eating an avocado a day can help reabsorb belly fat in women, according to a new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The study examined the effects of avocado consumption on abdominal fat and blood sugar in a group of 105 obese or overweight men and women.

Participants were randomly assigned to either the control group or the treatment group and received a calorie-controlled meal a day for 12 weeks, but half the group received fresh avocado with their meal, while the other half were given an identical meal, in terms of calories and macronutrients, but without any avocado.

"The goal wasn't weight loss”, explained lead researcher Naiman Khan; “We were interested in understanding what eating an avocado does to the way individuals store their body fat. The location of fat in the body plays an important role in health.”

Two types of belly fat, one more dangerous than the other

Abdominal fat can be divided into two types: fat that accumulates directly underneath the skin, called subcutaneous fat, and the harder-to-mobilize fat that accumulates deep in the abdominal cavity, wrapping around internal organs, known as visceral fat. Visceral fat is more dangerous, according to studies, putting anyone who has it at a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, certain cancers, high blood pressure, and stroke.

“Individuals with a higher proportion of that deeper visceral fat tend to be at a higher risk of developing diabetes," said Khan. "So we were interested in determining whether the ratio of subcutaneous to visceral fat changed with avocado consumption."

Researchers measured the participants' abdominal fat and glucose tolerance at the beginning and end of the study, and all participants were asked to refrain from changes in their physical activity levels throughout the four-month period.

The results revealed that women in the avocado group saw a reduction in visceral fat and an improvement in the ratio between visceral and subcutaneous belly fat. There were no changes in glucose tolerance in either group, and none of the male participants saw any change in their abdominal fat distribution. The study was partly paid for by the Hass Avocado Board.

Commenting on the results, Khan said “It's important to demonstrate that dietary interventions can modulate fat distribution. Learning that the benefits were only evident in females tells us a little bit about the potential for [gender] playing a role in dietary intervention responses."

Many women are put off from eating avocado while trying to lose weight, fearing that the calorie and fat content will add to their belly fat, but this is one diet myth that can be put to rest.

Not all fats are created equal

The problem with avoiding fats and eating low-fat diet foods is that not all fats are bad.  We need fats for energy (fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient, providing 9cal per gram compared to only 4cal per gram for carbs and protein) and for the healthy functioning of every single cell in the body.  Without enough fat in our diets, we can’t absorb fat-soluble nutrients and risk developing fatigue, brain fog, skin issues, and all kinds of hormone problems.

There are 3 types of fat found in natural foods, in varying amounts:

  • Saturated fat: Solid at room temperature, saturated fat is predominant in coconut oil, palm oil, butter, ghee, and meat.  It is stable at high temperatures, making it ideal for roasting and baking.
  • Monounsaturated fat: Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, along with olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fat: The most temperature-sensitive of all the fats, oils rich in polyunsaturated fats are best used for dressings or drizzling onto cooked foods.  Find them in flaxseed oil, hemp oil, pumpkin seed oil, and sunflower oil.

Shifting the balance of fat in your diet to include more mono and polyunsaturated, and less saturated fat is the way to go if you want to lose weight, feel energized, and protect your heart. Numerous organizations, including the World Health Organisation, American Heart Association, and 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommend replacing saturated fat with mono- and polyunsaturated fat to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Avocado and the gut microbiome

This recent study isn’t the first to highlight the weight-loss-inducing effects of eating avocado.  A small-scale study from 2019 examining the effects of avocado consumption on weight loss and gut bacteria levels in obese men and women concluded that “daily Hass avocado consumption as part of a hypocaloric diet supported weight loss”.

The participants in the avocado group saw positive changes in the abundance of gut microflora and reduced levels of inflammatory markers. Imbalances in microbial diversity are associated with obesity and metabolic disorders, and eating a range of colorful fruits and vegetables in a Mediterranean-style diet is known to support levels of beneficial gut bacteria and reduce the risk of disease.

Avocado is a weight loss superfood

So, what makes avocado such a weight-loss superfood? Alongside the high levels of healthy fats, avocados are packed with fiber that keeps you feeling fuller for longer.  This magic combination of good fats and fiber has been shown to increase appetite-suppressing hormones for up to six hours after eating avocado, making it the perfect food to include at lunch to avoid afternoon snacking.

A multivitamin in food form

The vitamin and mineral profile of avocado makes it a multivitamin in food form. Packed with more potassium than bananas, avocados are known to support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol balance, as well as providing nutrients like folate, magnesium, vitamin C, and pantothenic acid for energy production and hormone health.

Here's how avocado stacks up nutritionally:

Avocado - 150g serving

  • Saturated Fat 3.2g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 14.7g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 2.7g
  • Carbohydrates 12.8g
  • Protein 3.0g
  • Fiber 12.1g
  • Vitamin K 39%
  • Folate 122 mcg
  • Vitamin E 3.1 mg
  • Vitamin C 15.0 mg

(Source: Nutrition Data)

Sick of avocado toast? Try these avocado recipes

Avocados are so incredibly versatile there’s no need to stick to mashing them on toast every day.  Try these inspiring recipes to get your avocado fix in new and interesting ways!

The Bottom line: Don't be scared of adding avocados into your diet to help manage weight

The high calorie and fat content of avocado mean dieters have long been avoiding this natural superfood but as the latest research shows, regularly eating avocado can help reshape belly fat, increase appetite-suppressing hormones, and kick-start weight loss.

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