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The Benefits and Risks of Avocados for People with Diabetes

Overview

Fast facts

  1. One half of an avocado contains about 5.9 grams of carbohydrate and 4.6 grams of fiber.
  2. Avocados can be used as a substitute for oils and unhealthy fats.
  3. Avocados are high in calories, so keep serving size in mind. The recommended serving size is one-fifth of an avocado.

Avocados are growing in popularity. The creamy green fruit is packed with vitamins, nutrients, and heart-healthy fats. While they are high in fat, it’s the good kind of fat that benefits people with type 2 diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes, adding avocado to your diet may help you lose weight, lower cholesterol, and increase insulin sensitivity. Read on to learn more about the benefits of avocados for people with diabetes.

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Benefits

Benefits of avocado for people with type 2 diabetes

1. It won’t cause spikes in blood sugar

Avocados are low in carbohydrates, which means they have little effect on blood sugar levels. A recent study published in Nutrition Journal evaluated the effects of adding half an avocado to the standard lunch of healthy, overweight people. They discovered that avocados do not significantly impact blood sugar levels.

Part of what makes avocados a good choice for people with diabetes is that, although they are low in carbs, they are high in fiber. Many other high-fiber foods may still spike blood sugar levels.

2. It’s a good source of fiber

One half of a small avocado, which is the standard amount people eat, contains about 5.9 grams of carbohydrate and 4.6 grams of fiber.

According to the National Academies, the minimum recommended daily fiber intake for adults is:

  • women 50 years and younger: 25 grams
  • women over 50: 21 grams
  • men 50 years and younger: 38 grams
  • men over 50: 30 grams

A 2012 review published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine looked at the results of 15 studies involving fiber supplements (around 40 grams of fiber) for people with type 2 diabetes. They found that fiber supplements for type 2 diabetes can reduce fasting blood sugar levels and A1c levels.

You don’t need to take supplements to achieve these results. Instead, try eating a high-fiber diet. You can easily increase your fiber intake by eating more low-carb fruits, vegetables and plants, like avocados, leafy greens, berries, chia seeds, and nuts. Here are 16 ways you can add more fiber to your diet.

3. It may help with weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity

Losing weight — even a little — can increase your insulin sensitivity and reduce the likelihood that you will develop serious complications.

The healthy fats found in avocado can help you feel full for longer. In one study, after adding half an avocado to their lunches, participants had a 26 percent increase in meal satisfaction and a 40 percent decrease in desire to eat more.

When you feel full longer after meals, you are less likely to snack and consume extra calories. The healthy fat in avocados, called monounsaturated fat, can also help your body use insulin more effectively.

A 2007 study evaluated different weight loss plans in people with decreased insulin sensitivity. The researchers found that a weight loss diet high in monounsaturated fats improves insulin sensitivity in a way not seen in a comparable high-carb diet. A weight loss diet is a diet with restricted calories.

4. It’s loaded with healthy fats

There are several different types of fat, generally categorized as heathy fats and unhealthy fats. Consuming excessive amounts of saturated fat, and any amount of trans fat, raises your bad (LDL) blood cholesterol levels. Trans fats at the same time lower your HDL (healthy) levels. High LDL and low HDL cholesterol levels are associated with a higher risk of heart disease in people both with and without diabetes.

The good fats, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, raise your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. The good cholesterol in your blood helps clear out bad cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Good sources of healthy fats include:

  • avocado
  • nuts, like almonds, cashews, and peanuts
  • olive oil
  • olive, avocado, and flaxseed oil
  • seeds, like sesame or pumpkin seeds
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Risks

Avocado risks

An entire Hass avocado has about 250–300 calories. Although avocados have the good kind of fat, these calories can still lead to weight gain if consumed in excess of your calorie needs. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s essential that you practice portion control. Instead of adding avocado to your current diet, use it as a substitution for foods that are high in saturated fat, like cheese and butter.

For example, you can mash up an avocado and spread it on toast instead of using butter.

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How to

How to eat an avocado

The FDA’s recommended serving size for a medium avocado is one-fifth of the fruit, which has about 50 calories. However, an analysis of data from the National Nutrition and Health Examination Survey (2001–2008) found that people typically eat one half of the fruit in a single sitting. Among these avocado consumers, the researchers found:

  • better overall nutrition
  • lower body weight
  • decreased risk of metabolic syndrome

Picking out an avocado

Avocados take several days to ripen. Most avocados you find at the grocery store will not be ripe yet. Typically, people buy an avocado a few days before they plan to eat it.

An unripe avocado will have a solid green color, a few shades darker than a cucumber. When an avocado is ripe, it turns a deeper, almost black, shade of green.

Turn an avocado around in your hand before you buy it to check for any bruises or mushy spots. If the avocado feels really squishy, it might be overripe. An unripe avocado feels hard, like an apple. Leave it on the kitchen counter for a few days until it softens. You should be able to squeeze it like a tomato to test the ripeness.

Opening an avocado

Using a knife:

  1. Cut the avocado lengthwise, top to bottom on each side. There’s a pit in the middle, so you won’t be able to slice all the way through the avocado. Instead, you’ll want to insert the knife until you feel it hit the pit in the middle, and then cut lengthwise all the way around the avocado.
  2. Once you’ve sliced all the way around, take the avocado in your hands and twist and pull the two sides apart.
  3. Use a spoon to scoop out the pit.
  4. Peel skin away from the avocado with your hands, or use the tip of the knife to separate the skin from the fruit and gently scoop the fruit out.
  5. Slice it up and enjoy!

Eating an avocado

Avocado is an extremely versatile fruit. A few things you can try:

  • Slice it up and put it on a sandwich.
  • Cube it and put it in a salad.
  • Mash it up with lime juice and spices, and use it as a dip.
  • Smear it on toast.
  • Cut it up and put it in an omelet.

Substituting with avocado

Avocados are creamy and rich, with a mild nutty flavor. Here are some ideas for ways to replace fats with avocados:

  • Try putting avocado on your morning toast or bagel instead of butter and cream cheese. You will be substituting bad fats with good, fiber-rich fat.
  • Bake with avocado instead of butter and oil. Avocado can be substituted one-to-one for butter. Here’s a recipe for low carb avocado brownies.
  • Add avocado to your smoothie instead of milk for a blast of nutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals. Here are more ideas for diabetes-friendly smoothies.
  • Substitute cheese for avocado in your salad to reduce saturated fat and make you feel fuller.
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Takeaway

Takeaway

Avocados are creamy and delicious. They are packed full of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. The low-carb, high-fiber ratio is great for blood sugar stability. The good fats in avocado can help you prevent diabetes complications, like heart attack and stroke, and help you use your insulin more effectively.

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