Avocado: The Hot New Superfood for Heart Health (Plus Other Vital Nutrients!)
Eat an Avocado a Day to Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk
We’re all well-aware of the heart healthy benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but now one new study on avocados is shifting the understanding of how these monounsaturated fatty acids actually lower cardiovascular disease risk.
Researchers replaced the saturated fatty acids in 45 subjects’ diets with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados. For two weeks before the study, participants ate a standard American diet composed of 34% calories from fat, 51% carbohydrates, and 16% protein.
The study found that including one avocado per day in a moderate-fat diet lowered unhealthy cholesterol levels, especially for small, dense LDL molecules (large HDL molecules are the good guys) by 13.5 mg/dL. Simply consuming a low-fat diet without adding avocado only lowered cholesterol levels by 7.4 mg/dL. Additionally, the avocado diet decreased the ratio of LDL/HDL by 6.6%!
Fast Facts: Ancient folklore deemed the avocado an aphrodisiac because of its resemblance to the male family jewels, so to speak.
Researchers suggest that it’s not just the omega-3 healthy fats in avocados that are responsible for the heart healthy benefits observed. Other nutrients in avocados, including beta sitosterol, pantothenic acid, vitamin K, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin E, and fiber are all thought to improve cardiovascular outcomes as well.
So don’t be shy – dig into that guacamole or load up that salad with a hefty helping of fresh avocado!
The Limits of Eating Like Our Ancestors
Fast Facts: Hardcore Paleo followers can’t eat avocados since they technically weren’t around during the Paleolithic era. They do come relatively close to making the cut: the earliest evidence of avocado consumption comes from around 10,000 BC in Mexico, but if you’re a strict Paleo follower, the amazing benefits of avocados are just out of reach.
Mediterranean Diet Found to Reduce CVD Events By 70%!
Then there’s the Mediterranean diet, which is probably the most thoroughly researched of them all. At the heart of the diet are vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, olive oil, nuts, and moderate fish and poultry consumption.
The main differences from Paleo? Red meat consumption is restricted, while whole grains are allowed. The Lyon Diet Heart Study, a four-year randomized controlled trial monitored patients with cardiovascular disease who were placed on either a Mediterranean diet or not restricted. After 27 months, the Mediterranean diet group experienced a 70% drop in death and negative events, even those total fat intake was the same (31%) in both groups.
The takeaway? Limit your red meat intake, and be sure to bulk up on plenty of healthy fats!
Fast Facts: Among people aged 70 to 90 years, adherence to a Mediterranean diet combined with adequate exercise is associated with a 50% lower rate of all-cause mortality.
Insulin Resistance Breeds Heart Disease
Did you know that insulin resistance is often at the root of cardiovascular disease risk? Insulin is a hormone that makes glucose usable by the cells for countless biological processes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is an imbalance of both insulin secretion and absorption at the cellular level. Over time, tissues become less and less responsive to insulin, so the pancreas responds by excreting more and more insulin. The result? Sugar-soaked cells drowning in insulin the body simply can’t use.
As the tissues become less responsive, blood sugar rises, triglyceride levels skyrocket, HDL cholesterol decreases while LDL cholesterol increases, and blood pressure shoots up. Does this list look familiar? It should – these are the very risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Breakthrough Nutrients for Warding Off CVD Risk Factors
At the recent Scripps Natural Supplements Conference in San Diego, CA, Mimi Guarneri, a leading integrative cardiologist, recommended the following supplements for decreasing insulin resistance and other factors associated with increased CVD risk.
- PROBIOTICS – In 2010, British researchers tested a hypothesis that probiotics would improve insulin sensitivity by reducing chronic inflammation in the body. They took 45 males with type 2 diabetes and gave them either probiotics or placebo for four weeks. At the end of the trial, insulin sensitivity was preserved in the probiotic group, while it decreased in the placebo group. Typical dosage ranges from 10 to 20 billion CFUs, or about two pills per day. Aha! Another win for gut-centric healing.
- MAGNESIUM – Magnesium is a “miracle mineral” for everything from reducing muscle spasms and encouraging healthy sleep to ditching weight gain by actually altering the biology of fat cells. As one study published in Diabetes Care demonstrated, magnesium also appears to improve glucose and insulin activity in the body. Mean insulin levels for overweight women in the lowest quartile of magnesium intake was 53.5 compared with 41.5pmol/l among those in the highest quartile. These findings suggest that magnesium may have a supportive role in reducing type 2 diabetes risk, especially in overweight women. Many cardiologists suggest taking between 400 and 700mg/day.
- COQ10 – Energy starvation of the myocardium is a key reason why many people experience heart failure. CoQ10 has been studied extensively for its ability to stabilize myocardial metabolism and help maintain adequate energy stores. Here’s another study to add to the list: Researchers studied 420 patients with heart failure who were either given CoQ10 100mg three times daily or placebo. At two years, the CoQ10 group experienced significantly fewer cardiovascular events (14%) than those in the placebo group (25%), fewer deaths (9%) than the placebo group (17%), and fewer heart-related hospitalizations. The recommended dose is between 90 and 600mg daily. This was the first ever study to show that CoQ10 has a positive effect on survival in heart failure patients!
- TURMERIC CURCUMIN – A 2012 randomized, double-blind controlled trial followed 240 prediabetic subjects for 9 months. At the end of the trial, 16.4% of subjects in the placebo group were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, while none of the subjects in the turmeric curcumin group progressed past their starting prediabetic state. The turmeric group also showed better overall beta cell function, lower insulin resistance, and lower markers of inflammation. Cardiologists recommend 1-3 grams of turmeric root powder per day, or 400-600mg of standardized curcumin extract three times daily.