New Study Finds Subbing Avocado for Refined Carbs Aids in Weight Loss
When you think of "diet food" you may often think of bowls of cabbage soup, juice cleanses or diet shakes, but what if we told you one of your favorite foods could work even better? A new study from the Center for Nutrition Research at Illinois Institute of Technology found avocados are helpful in filling us up-and keeping us full-making them a powerful weight-loss aid.
It's important to note this study was supported by the Hass Avocado Board, which funds much of the most popular avocado-related research out there. However, other unaffiliated studies have similarly found the oleic fatty acids in avocados can significantly improve satiety and fullness. Keeping that in mind, let's begin!
Researchers from IIT sought to determine the effects of replacing some refined carbs (such as white bread or pasta) in a meal with the fats and fibers of avocado. Thirty-one overweight or obese adult participants were served three different breakfasts and then monitored for satiety and appetite hormone response, insulin spikes and blood glucose levels for six hours after eating. The researchers also used a visual analog scale to assess subjective satiety over the six-hour period.
The participants were first given the control meal-a low-fat meal estimated at 640 calories, which was comprised of 76 percent carbohydrates, 14 percent fat and 5 grams fiber. Then, some of the carbohydrates in the meal were replaced with half an avocado, making it 51 percent carbohydrates, 40 percent fat and 8.6 grams fiber. Finally, participants received a whole avocado in their meal, making it 50 percent carbs, 43 percent fat and 13 grams fiber. Both meals with varying amounts of avocado were calorically similar to the control meal.
On average, participants experienced less hunger and more fullness after eating the avocado-laden meals. The researchers tracked this effect to the satiating quality of the healthy fats and fiber in the avocado, via mechanisms that altered production of and responses to insulin, ghrelin and peptide YY. Often referred to as the "hunger hormone," ghrelin is responsible for appetite stimulation. Insulin is a body hormone that's crucial in regulating blood sugar. PYY is a peptide, stimulated by fat intake, that increases feelings of satiety. Fiber slows down fat absorption, which can extend the satisfied feeling.
Pictured recipe: Salmon-Stuffed Avocados
Find more: Stuffed Avocado Recipes
Participants showed lower insulin levels and increased satiety after consuming the meals that included avocado. From this data, the study authors concluded that besides promoting fullness and satiety, eating avocados can limit insulin and blood glucose spikes-which could reduce one's risk for both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is a huge deal, considering that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with diabetes not far behind.
"There is no 'one size fits all' solution when it comes to optimal meal composition for managing appetite," Britt Burton-Freeman, Ph.D., lead study author, said in a press release. "However, understanding the relationship between food chemistry and its physiological effects in different populations can reveal opportunities for addressing appetite control and reducing rates of obesity, putting us a step closer to personalized dietary recommendations."
Related: 14-Day Clean Eating Meal Plan
Bottom Line: While this is great news for us avocado-lovers out there, it's important to note the researchers were using refined carbs-which are more highly processed and lower in fiber-instead of whole grains, which pack a more satisfying protein-fiber combo, are good for maintaining gut health, and can even help with weight loss.
We already knew this superfood was healthy: besides keeping you full, avocados pack healthy fats, gut-healthy fiber and some heart-healthy magnesium. Just remember, a suggested serving size for avocados is only one-third of the fruit, so be sure to keep that in mind. Other than that, we hope you feel even better about enjoying our Avocado-Bun Turkey Sliders (pictured above), Avocado Pesto, Ceviche-Stuffed Avocados and the dozens of other healthy avocado recipes on our site.
Related: 4 Healthy Reasons to Eat Avocados