In a nation crazy about avocados, and for retailers keen on leveraging their many benefits, this should be good news.
Eating avocado as part of a daily diet can help improve gastrointestinal system health, a new study from the University of Illinois, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences in the United States shows.
It is well known that avocados are a healthy food that is high in dietary fibre and monounsaturated fat, which is a heart-healthy fat. However, it was unclear how avocados impact the microbes in the gut.
Researchers found that people who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fibre and produce metabolites that support gut health.
They also had greater microbial diversity compared to people who did not receive the avocado meals in the study, according to the paper. Avocado is an energy-dense food, but it is also nutrient-dense, and it contains important micronutrients that many people don’t eat enough of, such as potassium and fibre.
“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 Sharon Thompson, a graduate student in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at University of Illinois.
“Microbial metabolites are compounds the microbes produce that influence health,” Thompson said. “Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short-chain fatty acids. These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes.”
The avocado has soared in popularity in the UK since 2000, with consumption up nearly seven times over that stretch.
While other research on avocado consumption has focused on weight loss, participants in this study were not advised to restrict or change what they ate. Instead, they consumed their normal diets with the exception of replacing one meal per day with the meal the researchers provided.
The purpose of the study was to explore the effects of avocado consumption on the gastrointestinal microbiota, said Hannah Holscher, assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at U of I.
“Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fibre in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota,” she said. Soluble fibre content is important and a medium avocado provides around 12 grams of fibre, which goes a long way toward meeting the recommended amount of 28 to 34 grams of fibre per day.
“We can’t break down dietary fibres, but certain gut microbes can. When we consume dietary fiber, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and us,” Holscher said.
The paper is published in the Journal of Nutrition.