The humble avocado, shunned for years during the fat-free diet craze of the 1990s, may have finally hit its stride. No longer just for guacamole, this nutritious fruit is popping up as a healthy addition to various diet plans.
But can people with diabetes eat this food? It turns out that avocados are not only safe for people with diabetes, but they may be downright beneficial. Research shows that avocados offer many ways to help people manage their diabetes and improve their overall well-being.
Diet and diabetes
A healthy diet is critical for people with diabetes. The foods that they eat each day can have a considerable impact on how they feel and how well their diabetes is controlled.
In general, people with diabetes should eat foods that help control blood sugar levels and that offer health benefits such lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. This is one of the best ways to keep diabetes under control, avoid complications, and lead the healthiest life possible.
Avocados are an excellent choice for people with diabetes because they offer all these benefits - and possibly more.
Blood sugar control is critical for people who have diabetes. A physician or dietitian may advise patients to choose foods that are lower in carbohydrates and sugar. They may also recommend foods that help control blood sugar spikes. An avocado meets both of these requirements.
A 1-ounce serving, or about one-fifth of an avocado, contains only 3 grams of carbohydrates and less than 1 gram of sugar.
With so few carbohydrates, people with diabetes likely won't need to worry about an avocado raising their blood sugar levels.
Pairing an avocado with other foods may help reduce blood sugar spikes too. Its fat and fiber content takes longer to digest and slows the absorption of other carbohydrates in the process.
How much avocado can people with diabetes eat?
Before people make any significant changes to their diet, they should talk with their physician or dietitian. One of the things to consider is total calorie intake.
A whole avocado contains 250-300 calories, but a 1-ounce serving has only 50. People who are watching their calories in order to maintain or lose weight can still add avocado to their diet. This can be done by switching a serving of avocado for something else with a similar amount of calories like cheese or mayonnaise.
Specifically, people should strictly limit the unhealthy fats. This includes saturated fats and trans fats, often found in fatty meats, fried foods, processed and restaurant foods.
The ADA encourage people with diabetes to consider adding avocado into their diets due to its healthy fats.
Avocados and heart health
Avocados have fat and are calorie-dense, but this is not a reason for people with diabetes to avoid them.
The fats in avocados are mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which have been shown to raise "good" HDL cholesterol. MUFAs can also lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and fats called triglycerides, and reduce blood pressure.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease and stroke as someone without diabetes, according to the NIDDK. More importantly, heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death among people with diabetes.
The researchers found this was particularly the case when replacing some carbohydrates in the diet with MUFAs. So besides being naturally low in sugar and carbohydrates, an avocado's healthy fats can help lower blood sugar levels even more.
Fiber, blood sugar levels, and feeling full
A medium avocado has an impressive 10 grams of fiber. For reference, men should get 30-38 grams of fiber per day, and women need 21-25 grams, according to the Academy of Nutrition of Dietetics.
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet because it improves digestive health and keeps the bowels regular. It's particularly helpful for people with diabetes because it helps improve blood sugar levels.
Soluble fiber, which is present in avocados, may also improve cholesterol levels, according to a study in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition. This is another way this fruit may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Avocados may also help people feel fuller for longer. This can help people control their calorie intake without feeling hungry. A study in the Nutrition Journal found that eating half of an avocado with lunch increased levels of feeling full up to 5 hours later.