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Avocado a Day for A Healthy Gut

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Avocadoes aren’t just trendy; this superfood provides multiple health benefits and the right amount of healthy fats.  As we recently learned, eating an avocado a day provides you not only with the heart benefits of its monounsaturated fat content but also improves the health of your gut bacteria all in one tasty move.

               Last summer, the Journal of Nutrition recruited overweight and obese adults into a control group and a group who were instructed to eat one Hass avocado per day for 12 weeks without reducing their total calories.  Men and women in the study followed standard American diets which were identical in calories, but men received 175 g of fresh avocado and women received 140g of fresh avocado.  An average Hass avocado weights about 170 grams. The researchers focused on trying to keep the macronutrient profile of all the meals, regardless of gender, as close to each other as possible (with the only exception being that female participants ate meals with 20% less total calories than the males).

               The main focus of this investigation was to illustrate how the avocado changes and enhances the populations of beneficial bacteria.  Through analysis of stool samples, researchers discovered that the unique composition of avocado (due to its soluble dietary fiber, insoluble dietary fiber, pectin, and monounsaturated fatty acids), diversified the gut’s microbiome.

               A secondary effect of avocado consumption was in the amount of fat excreted.  Though it was assumed that eating foods higher in fat would contribute to general fat absorption, it was found that the group who ate the avocadoes were actually eliminating more fat in their stool.  In particular, their bile acids were being excreted more efficiently.  Some of this occurred because of the insoluble fiber content in the avocado, but some of this was due to certain strains of bacteria which were thriving and thus exerted enzymatic actions that modified bile acids.  In addition, eating more total fat and saturated fats increases bile acids in stools, and eating soluble dietary fiber increases fat content excreted in stools.

               In everyday terms, this study found that the gut microbiome benefits from eating avocado and can help the body eliminate excess fats more easily.  It’s the soluble fiber content of the avocado which drew my attention to this study because soluble fiber is considered a prebiotic agent, feeding the good bacteria. Prebiotics (in supplements, onions, garlic, etc. or in soluble fibers) promote gut health because the good bacteria is able to digest this fiber.  Only certain strains can make use of prebiotics which encourage the good bacteria to flourish.  This is the main reason behind fiber supplements being labeled as prebiotics.

               Avocadoes are delicious additions to our everyday diets; but they are rich in fat and calorically dense, so proper portions are going to be key to enjoying all the benefits avocadoes can offer.

References

Sharon V Thompson, Melisa A Bailey, Andrew M Taylor, et. al. Avocado Consumption Alters Gastrointestinal Bacteria Abundance and Microbial Metabolite Concentrations among Adults with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial, The Journal of Nutrition, , nxaa219, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa219

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