Another Health Benefit of Avocado? Better Gut Health
- According to a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition, eating an avocado daily can improve your gut health.
- This is because avocados contain fibre and unsaturated fatty acids, which prompt greater microbial diversity and produce metabolites that support your gut bacteria.
The associations between gut microbiomes and better health have been highlighted in numerous studies in the past few years—for example, beneficial bacteria in the digestive system has been singled out for improved mood, lower cardiovascular disease risk, and stronger immune system function.
In terms of how to boost your gut health, fruits and vegetables are often touted for their gut-pleasing effects, and a new study in the Journal of Nutrition suggests avocados may be especially effective.
Researchers looked at 163 adults between 25 and 45 years old who were either overweight or had obesity, but were otherwise healthy. Half of participants had an avocado every day with one meal, while the other half had a similar meal without the avocado.
After 12 weeks, those in the group who ate an avocado a day had significantly more microbial diversity in their guts compared with the group that didn’t. The avocado-eating group also had considerably lower concentrations of certain bile acids that tend to have a negative effect on gut health.
Why the difference with just one avocado per day? The fruit is rich in fibre and unsaturated fatty acids, said senior author Hannah Holscher, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois.
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She told Bicycling that this is a powerful combination for your gut bacteria, because it prompts greater microbial diversity and produces metabolites that support gut health.
That means if you’re not an avocado fan, eating other foods with that combination could give you similar results.
“We had previously shown that walnuts and almonds, another good source of fibre and unsaturated fatty acids, helps support gut health,” she said. “Less than five percent of Americans eat enough fibre, but it’s very important for your microbiome. Eating foods like avocados can help you get closer to meeting your daily fibre recommendation of 28 to 34 grams per day.”
Getting a ton of fibre without proper gut health is not a great strategy, though. The body doesn’t do well at breaking down dietary fibre, but certain gut microbes are very adept at the process, said Holscher, and they use that fibre for their own health.
“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.
While the study didn’t include athletes specifically, Holscher said that given the properties of avocados, they would likely make a strong choice for regular consumption.
“Avocados are a nutrient-dense food that provides nutrients like B vitamins that help support energy metabolism,” she said. “They also provide potassium, which helps support muscle health and hydration.”