Researchers have previously found that eating avocado regularly can lower cholesterol levels due to the plant sterols, soluble fibre and antioxidants they provide. It now seems that eating avocado may help to lower blood pressure, too, and are of benefit for people with metabolic syndrome – a common condition associated with any three factors out of high blood pressure, raised triglycerides, abnormal cholesterol balance, glucose intolerance and abdominal obesity (waist circumference greater than 103cm for men or 88cm for women).
Avocado lowers blood pressure
Avocados are low in sodium salts and provide potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamin E, all of which have beneficial effects on blood pressure control. Avocado is also a rich source of healthy oils, with as much as 30% of avocado pulp consisting of the same monounsaturated fats as are found in olive oil.
Other avocado benefits come from their soluble fibre, their antioxidant carotenoids and polyphenols, including a substance called acetogenin which helps to reduce unwanted blood clots.
Surprisingly, most of the research that shows eating avocado can lower blood pressure and improve other factors associated with metabolic syndrome comes from research involving rats.
Population based studies of the Mediterranean diet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet do show that higher intakes of monounsaturated fats, such as those found in avocado and olive oil, are associated with lower rates of hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
An international study involving 4680 men and women from China, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States, assessed dietary intakes of monounsaturated fat (from sources such as olive oil and avocado) and measured participants’ blood pressure eight times. They found that average monounsaturated fatty acid intakes ranged from 8.1% energy intake in China, to 12.2% energy in the US. Average systolic blood pressures ranged from 117.2mmHg (Japan) to 121.3 mmHg (China), while average diastolic blood pressures ranged from 73.2 mmHg (China) to 77.3 mmHg in the UK, so these were essentially healthy populations without untreated hypertension.
Even so, after taking other dietary factors into account, and adjusting for intakes of cholesterol, total saturated fats, and calcium, there was a clear inverse relationship between blood pressure and monounsaturated fat intakes – as monounsaturated fat intake increased, blood pressure readings came down.
As well as eating avocado, you can use avocado oil in the kitchen for drizzling, stir-frying, sautéing, baking, roasting and dipping. It is one of the healthiest oils you can eat when you have high blood pressure.
Avocados and avocado oil fit into healthy heart eating plans such as the DASH diet.
Avocado and weight loss
Although avocados are high in calories, they have one of the highest protein content of any fruit. Their soluble fibre and monounsaturated fats also have a satiating effect to curb hunger. Another weight loss benefit is that avocado contains a unique sugar, D-mannopheptulose, which satisfies sensations of hunger and supports improved blood glucose control and weight management.
A study involving 26 overweight people found that eating half an avocado with lunch significantly reduced desire to eat so they ate less for the rest of the day than those eating the same number of calories at lunchtime, but without avocado.
Studies consistently show that people who eat avocado tend to have a lower weight than those who don’t eat avocado (78kg versus 81kg), a lower body mass index (26.7 versus 28.4) and a smaller waist circumference (93cm versus 97cm). You don’t need to worry about including half an avocado per day into your Mediterranean-style diet.
Avocado leaf and blood pressure
It is not just avocado pulp that is a nutritional powerhouse for heart and circulatory health, however, Avocado leaf extracts and avocado seed extracts also have blood pressure lowering actions.
Avocado leaves are a traditional treatment for hypertension in African countries such as Nigeria and Togo, where avocado leaves are boiled in water to make an infusion used to lower blood pressure. The resulting tea tastes bitter, due to the polyphenols present, and has a diuretic effect. However, the safety of consuming avocado leaves and avocado this traditional treatment has not been fully investigated.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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