An avocado a day day keeps gut microbes happy

December 16, 2020 in Gastrointestinal Health, Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News

An avocado a day day keeps gut microbes happy

Eating avocado as part of your daily diet can help improve gut health, a new study from the University of Illinois has found. Avocados, a nutritious fruit, are high in fibre, healthy monounsaturated fats, folate and potassium. However, it wasn’t clear exactly how avocados impact the microbes in the gut.

People who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fibre and, during this process, produce by-products that support gut health. Participants also had greater microbial diversity compared to people who did not receive the avocado meals in the study.

About the study

The researchers sought to explore the effect of eating avocado on the community of microbes that reside in the large intestine, collectively called the gut microbiota. The goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fibre in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota.

The study included 163 adults, ages 25 to 45 years of age, with overweight or obesity, but otherwise healthy. Participants received one meal per day to consume as a replacement for either breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

One group consumed an avocado with each meal, while the control group consumed a similar meal but without the avocado. Participants provided blood, urine, and fecal samples throughout the 12-week study.

They also reported how much of the provided meals they consumed. And every four weeks, participants recorded everything they ate. 

Past research on avocado consumption has focused on weight loss, but 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. 

Study findings

Avocados are rich in fat, but the researchers found that while the avocado group consumed slightly more calories than the control group, avocado-eaters excreted more fat in their stool. 

Greater fat excretion means that the participants were absorbing fewer calories from the foods that they were eating. This was likely because of a reduction in bile acids, compounds produced by the liver that help us breakdown and absorb dietary fat.

The researchers found that the amount of bile acids in stool was lower, while fat content was higher, in the stool of participants in the avocado group.

Different types of fats have different effects on the gut microbiome. The fats in avocados are monounsaturated, which are heart-healthy fats. 

Beneficial fibre in avocado

One medium avocado provides 13 grams of fibre, which goes a long way toward meeting the recommended amount of 21 to 38 grams of fibre per day. 

Eating fibre is important for our gut microbiome. While we can’t break down dietary fibres in our small intestine, certain gut microbes can. When gut microbes break down or ferment fibre, compounds called short chain fatty acids are formed, which are a source of energy for colon cells and promote gut health.

Avocado nutrition

Avocados are a very nutritious food. While 84 percent of the calories (325) in an avocado come from fat, avocados contain mainly “good” monounsaturated fats (the same type of fat found in olive oil). Two-thirds of the fat in an avocado comes from these anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fat.

Avocados are also an exceptional source of fibre. One avocado has 13.5 grams of fibre – half a day’s worth for women (and one-third of a day’s worth for men)! And they’re packed with potassium and deliver lutein/zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that guard against cataract and macular degeneration.

There’s more. Avocados are an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin that keeps the DNA of our cells in good repair.  One-half of an avocado provides one-quarter of a day’s worth of folate (the recommended daily intake of folate is 400 micrograms).

Tips to add avocado to your diet

  • Spread whole grain toast with ripe avocado instead of butter or margarine
  • Add chopped avocado to black bean soup or tacos.
  • Mix diced avocado with chopped red onion, tomatoes, cilantro and fresh lime juice to make a salsa to serve with grilled fish or chicken.
  • Add slices of avocado to a sandwich instead of cheese.
  • Combine sliced avocado, sliced fennel, orange segments and fresh mint for a refreshing salad. Top with fresh chopped parsley and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil

Source: Journal of Nutrition, August 17, 2020

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.