The New Year has passed and 2021 has started but if you are still looking for resolutions to add to your list, consider adding an avocado a day to your diet. That’s because researchers from the University of Illinois found study participants who ate an avocado a day improved their gut health by increasing the amount and the diversity of healthy gut microbes in their digestive tract.
Researchers wanted to know how avocado consumption affected the gut and if it could improve health markers for overweight individuals and published their findings in The Journal of Nutrition.
"Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fiber in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota,” said senior study author Hannah Holscher. “We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes."
The 12-week study included 163 obese or overweight adults between the ages of 25 and 45 who were otherwise categorized as healthy. The group was given one replacement meal per day (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and half of them had an avocado in that daily meal. All had their blood, urine and stool samples tested throughout the duration of the study.
"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," said researcher Sharon Thompson. "Microbial metabolites are compounds the microbes produce that influence health. Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short chain fatty acids. These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes."
While avocados are rich in fat and increased the calorie intake of the study participants, they excreted more fat in their stool than the control group.
"Greater fat excretion means the research participants were absorbing less energy from the foods that they were eating,” Holscher said. “This was likely because of reductions in bile acids, which are molecules our digestion system secretes that allow us to absorb fat. We found that the amount of bile acids in stool was lower and the amount of fat in the stool was higher in the avocado group."
Another benefit of eating avocados is the amount of fiber they contain. A medium avocado has 12 grams of fiber, which is about a third of the recommended daily amount.
"Less than 5% of Americans eat enough fiber,” Holscher said. Most people consume around 12 to 16 grams of fiber per day. Thus, incorporating avocados in your diet can help get you closer to meeting the fiber recommendation. We can't break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can. When we consume dietary fiber it's a win-win for gut microbes and for us."