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Blog posts tagged with 'The Mediterranean Diet'

Is an Avocado a Day a Secret to Better Health?

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Is an Avocado a Day a Secret to Better Health?Almost everyone knows the famous food-related piece of advice: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." But it may be time to rephrase that saying. Recent studies have shown that replacing bad fats (saturated fatty acids) with good fats (unsaturated fatty acids) can benefit cholesterol and help support both heart health and weight management. These studies point to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet as one pathway to better eating habits. One particular study focuses on the benefits of avocados as a novel way of introducing healthier fats into your diet.

Out with the Bad Fats and in with the Good!

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study sought to test the effect avocados had on traditional cardiovascular risk-factors by substituting the saturated fatty acids in the average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids found in avocados. Risk factors included: total cholesterol, triglycerides, small dense LDL, and non-HDL cholesterol.

Forty-five healthy, overweight, or obese patients ranging in age from 21 to 70 were selected. Placed on three different cholesterol-lowering diets, participants consumed an average American diet—consisting of 34% calories from fat, 51% carbohydrates, and 16% protein—for two weeks prior to starting one of the following cholesterol-lowering diets: a lower-fat diet without the consumption of avocado, a moderate-fat diet without avocado, and a moderate-fat diet that included eating one avocado per day.

An Avocado a Day...

When compared to the average American diet, LDL, commonly known as "bad choelsterol, was lower after consuming the moderate-fat diet that included an avocado. LDL was also lower for the moderate-fat diet without the avocado, but not as much; it was 8.3 mg/dL lower when compared to the avocado-a-day diet, which was 13.5 mg/dL lower.

"In the United States, avocados are not a mainstream food yet, and they can be expensive, especially at certain times of the year," said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D, R.D., senior study author, Chair of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee, and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. "Also, most people do not really know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole. But guacamole is typically eaten with corn chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Avacados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods (like chicken or fish) or even whole," she said.

Taking the First Steps to Better Heart Health

The focus behind many heart-healthy diets has been to change the types of fats consumed rather than eliminate them. The Mediterranean diet seeks to do this by going heavy on the vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids. Research on avocados now puts them in the same group and presents an easy way to start replacing bad fats with good ones. Although it can be tough always sticking to a particular way of eating, integrating an avocado into your daily eating habits can be a great starting point to support good heart-health and weight management. Start your avocado-a-day routine today!

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Recent Studies Reveal Powerful Heart Health Benefits

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Recent Studies Reveal Powerful Heart Health BenefitsCertain diets, like the Mediterranean diet, have shown many benefits for heart health, cholesterol levels, and even weight management. Part of the Mediterranean diet focuses on replacing saturated fats with different types of vegetable oils or oils that contain unsaturated fats. One particular type of vegetable oil, linoleic acid, has been identified as being able to provide many different types of health benefits when utilized in your daily diet.

Data for a Different Kind of Oil

Linoleic acid is the main type of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid found in many vegetables oils, nuts, and seeds. Recently, it was studied as part of a comprehensive review by Harvard Public Health School researchers. Compiling data from 13 published and unpublished cohort studies involving a total of 310,602 individuals, Harvard researchers noticed a connection between the use of linoleic acid and reductions in heart-related concerns.

Lead author, Maryam Farvid, a visiting scientist and Takemi fellow in the Department of Nutrition, explained at length why linoleic acid can be an important component of a daily diet.

"Replacing either saturated fat or carbohydrates with vegetable oils and seeing significant benefits indicates that reduction in saturated fat or carbohydrates is not the only reason for the beneficial effects of linoleic acid. Instead, linoleic acid itself plays a special role in support of heart health. Randomized clinical trials have shown that replacing saturated fat with linoleic acid reduces total and LDL cholesterol. There is also some evidence that linoleic acid improves insulin sensitivity and blood pressure."

Other studies done by the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) found that women, specifically, can derive benefits from linoleic acid. Research found that women who consumed 1.5 grams of alpha-linoleic acid per day lowered their cardiac health risks by 46% compared to those who consumed less than 0.5 grams per day. Alpha-linoleic acid was also shown help to increase healthy HDL cholesterol levels, and decrease unhealthy LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Integrating Linoleic Acid Into Your Daily Diet

Various cooking oils—such as soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, and corn oils—all contain linoleic acid and can replace creams, butters, lards, and other animal-based fats as your primary source of healthy fats that are crucial to supporting daily heart health. Soybean and canola oils contain the highest yield of linoleic acid. For a healthy snack, walnuts are also rich in this fatty acid. Linoleic acid can also be taken in supplement form in vegetable-based omega formulas containing flaxseed oil.

Prioritizing Heart Health

Heart health continues to be one of the top priorities in today’s society. While the focus on how to utilize fats for good health is still being researched, studies have shown that nature can provide a variety of nutritious fat substitutes from vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. With the growing popularity of the Mediterranean diet, the prevalence of healthy oils like linoleic acid will play a crucial role in carrying good heart health into the future.

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