Could avocado be the new apple? Avocados have become a popular food thanks to their pleasant nutty flavor, creamy texture, high fiber content, and the fact they are so easy to prepare. While they have been hailed for a long list of health benefits, a recent study shows avocados can improve gut health and keep gut microbes happy. (1)
Why Avocados for Gut Health?
It’s no secret that avocados are packed with essential nutrients for good health. But did you know that avocados can also help to increase gut health? The key lies in the avocado’s impact on our gut microbiome.
Our gut microbiome is a community of trillions of bacteria that lives in our intestines. These bacteria play a vital role in our overall health, from helping us to digest our food to boosting our immune system. Studies have shown that the composition of our gut microbiome can profoundly affect our mood and even our risk of developing certain diseases.
One way to promote a healthy gut microbiome is by eating a diet rich in prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber is a dietary fiber that acts as food for the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Avocados are an excellent source of prebiotic fiber, providing around 7 grams per avocado. Eating just one avocado daily can help increase the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut, leading to better gut health overall.
How Do Avocados Impact Gut Microbes?
The stomach contains a wealth of microbes that play an essential role in the digestive process. These microbes help to break down food, extract nutrients, and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Avocados are a rich source of fiber and healthy fats, promoting beneficial gut microbes’ growth. Studies have shown that eating avocados daily can significantly increase the number of healthy microbes in the stomach. Additionally, avocados’ antioxidants can help protect gut microbes from damage. As a result, avocados can have a positive impact on the health of the gut microbiome.
A Study In Avocado Gut Health
Headed up by lead author Sharon Thompson, the study performed at the University of Illinois looked at how avocados affect the digestive system. “We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes and the metabolites the microbes produce,” says Thompson. (1)
The gut microbiome contains a population of varied microorganisms, known as the gut microbiota. The microbiota plays an important role in maintaining immune and metabolic health as it protects against pathogens that make you ill. (2)
Avocado Gut Health In Overweight People
The study focused on people aged 25 to 45 who were either overweight or obese, but in good health. Two groups tracked their meals with similar diets, with one exception: One group had an avocado to replace one of their daily meals. (1,3)
During the 12-week study, blood, urine, and fecal samples were collected along with a list of the foods eaten during the study. The group that included avocados once a day had more healthy microbes in their stomachs and intestines than those that did not. Their stools also showed they excreted more fat than their counterparts. (1,3)
Increased Fat Excretion
“Greater fat excretion means the research participants were absorbing less energy from the foods that they were eating,” says senior author Hannah Holscher, assistant professor of nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois. “This was likely because of reductions in bile acids, which are molecules our digestion system secretes that allow us to absorb fat. We found that the number of bile acids in stool was lower, and the amount of fat in the stool was higher in the avocado group.” (1)
The team intended to test whether or not fats and fiber in avocados had a positive effect on gut microbiota. They also wanted to see if there is a tie between gut microbes and health outcomes. (1)
It is important to note that the study was funded by the Hass Avocado Board. They also funded a study looking at avocados to positively influence weight loss. They found they did reduce appetite, so people eating avocados eat less and therefore lose weight. The research only used a very small group of 31 participants. However, other research does support the fact avocados do have health benefits. (1,4)
The bottom line in the case of the University of Illinois study is eating avocados certainly can support your good health. They are mild in flavor, making them easy to use in a variety of ways. If you aren’t so keen on the taste and texture of avocado, there are many foods that offer probiotic nutrients, such as yogurt. You could also eat more fiber-rich foods, a variety of vegetables as well as foods like chickpeas and lentils. (1)
Check out these recipes to support gut health.
- A new study suggests eating avocados daily for a ‘happy’ gut (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Introduction to the human gut microbiota – PMC (nih.gov)
- Avocado Consumption Alters Gastrointestinal Bacteria Abundance and Microbial Metabolite Concentrations among Adults with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic (oup.com)
- Nutrients | Free Full-Text | Using the Avocado to Test the Satiety Effects of a Fat-Fiber Combination in Place of Carbohydrate Energy in a Breakfast Meal in Overweight and Obese Men and Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial | HTML (mdpi.com)