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New research suggests that eating avocado may help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in females but not males. Westend61/Getty Images
  • A large cross-sectional study has found that avocados may reduce diabetes risk in females, though no significant association was shown in males
  • Females who ate 30-38 grams of avocado had significantly lower odds of diabetes than those who did not consume avocados.
  • Experts say the combo of fiber and unsaturated fat found in avocados plays a role in diabetes risk reduction
  • You can include more avocado in your diet by using it as a spread or dressing or adding it to a smoothie

Avocado may be your first choice food at brunch thanks to its creamy texture and documented benefits on heart health. Now, new research has found that this popular food may lower your risk of diabetes.

A cross-sectional study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics investigated the relationship between avocado consumption and diabetes in adults.

This study examined a large sample of more than 28,000 adults of varying ages included in the Mexican National Health and Nutrition Survey.

The researchers found that compared to those who did not consume avocados, avocado-consuming females showed a lower risk of diabetes.

Females who ate avocados (30-38 grams/day) had significantly lower odds of diabetes, even after adjusting for various factors such as age, education level, body weight, physical activity, and more.

However, while the study revealed a lower risk of diabetes for females who ate avocados, no significant association was observed in males.

Registered dietitian and doctor of public health Wendy Bazilian, who was not involved in the study, said this study has important implications for the population included in it.

“Given what we know about the nutritional profile of avocados – they have good unsaturated fats, a good source of fiber, and a multitude of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, I’m not surprised to see these findings suggesting that eating avocados may play a role in lower diabetes risk,” she said.

When it comes to the exact mechanisms at play, Bazilian said avocados offer an “ideal trifecta” for diabetes risk reduction.

Firstly, they’re rich in fiber.

“Eating foods with fiber helps with blood sugar management and satiety,” Bazilian explained. “As fiber makes its way through the digestive system, it slows down digestion which does two things: it makes us feel fuller for longer and also prevents rapid rises in blood glucose after we eat a meal.”

Both are important for reducing your risk of diabetes.

Secondly, avocados are high in unsaturated fat.

“Like fiber, fat slows digestion which can help promote blood sugar management and satiety,” Bazilian noted.

Another important aspect of the duo of unsaturated fats and fiber is that both these nutrients support heart health.

“Diabetes and heart disease are closely linked because their risk factors are similar,” Bazilian explained. “Avocados are a heart-healthy food, and the unsaturated fat and fiber found in avocados can help to maintain healthy LDL cholesterol levels, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.”

According to Bazilian, “what’s good for the heart is good for diabetes risk, blood sugar, and metabolic function and control.”

Finally, you might be surprised to learn that avocados are actually fruits.

“A healthy eating pattern that is predominantly plant foods, including fruits and vegetables, is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and related CVD risk factors,” Bazilian pointed out.

“It’s also important to recognize that, unlike most other fruits, avocados contain no naturally occurring sugars and do not affect the glycemic response,” she added.”

Interestingly, while the study found that eating avocados seems to reduce the risk of diabetes for females, no significant observations were shown in males.

Why might that be?

“The researchers point out that the difference in findings in men vs women may be attributed to the different lifestyle factors between men and women,” Bazilian noted. “Specifically, more men in the study tended to be smokers (~38%) compared to women (~12%), and smoking can increase the risk of developing diabetes.”

Registered dietitian nutritionist Kristen White agreed that differing lifestyle factors could be at play. Additionally, she said it’s possible that hormonal differences between males and females could contribute to variations in how avocados affect metabolic health.

While this particular finding is intriguing — maybe even confusing — Bazilian said it’s important to remember that sometimes we can’t always explain the results we see in nutrition research.

“This is why it’s important to both continue doing research and looking at the body of evidence on a topic and what other studies have shown,” she said.

If the findings of this study have inspired you to eat more avocado, Bazilian said there are some swaps you can make that are “very doable.”

She believes that slightly less than one serving of avocado per day is a healthy amount that’s achievable for most people.

“One way to include more avocado in your diet is to swap mayo or butter on sandwiches with mashed avocado for a creamy, nutrient-rich spread,” White suggested. “You could also replace store-bought salad dressings with a homemade avocado dressing. Simply combine avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs.”

Another suggestion?

“Instead of using sour cream or cheese as toppings, use sliced avocado to add creaminess and flavor to tacos, burritos, or salads,” White advised.

Avocados are also a great addition to smoothies.

“Blend avocado into smoothies for a creamy texture and added nutrients, or use it as a base for desserts like avocado chocolate pudding,” White suggested.

Avocados have many proven health benefits, and new research suggests they can reduce your risk of diabetes, too.

The results suggest you don’t have to eat a lot of avocados to experience the benefits.

You can make simple swaps, like using it as a spread, dressing, or smoothie ingredient to increase the amount of avocados in your diet.