The Incredible Heart Benefits of Avocados

Avocados are more than just a delicious fruit to be enjoyed in favorite party dips like guacamole or as a garnish on sandwiches; they're a nutrient-rich food that packs a variety of nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They're also high in heart-healthy, unsaturated fats. Unlike saturated and trans fats, which can raise LDL (low-density lipoproteins or "bad") cholesterol levels in your blood, unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats can help reduce your blood cholesterol levels when you use them in place of saturated and trans fats. But, according to the American Heart Association (AMA), moderate intake of all types of fats is best. Just remember to limit your fat intake to between 25 percent and 35 percent of your total calories per day, with most of the fats coming from food sources high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including avocados; vegetable oils like soybean, canola, olive and sunflower; and fish such as salmon, trout and herring. Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products like meat and dairy, which also contain cholesterol. Trans fats are also found in animal products and in many commercially baked goods like muffins, pastries, cakes, pie crusts, doughnuts and cookies; fried foods like French fries, fried chicken and breaded fish; snacks such as popcorn and crackers; and in butter and margarine.

In addition to the cholesterol-improving benefits of avocados, the monounsaturated fats found in avocados also suppress blood changes that can lead to clogged arteries and heart-attack triggering clots and decreases blood insulin levels that can result in damaged arteries as well as diabetes.

Although high in calories and fat-one medium-size avocado is nearly 300 calories and 30-grams of fat-a little of this fruit can go a long way in providing you with all the nutrients you need to stay heart healthy and keep you from exceeding your fat and calorie count for the day. For example, instead of topping your morning slice of bread, English muffin or bagel with butter, use a little mashed avocado instead. A two-tablespoon serving of avocado has 5 grams of fat and 55 calories as opposed to 22 grams of fat and 200 calories in butter.

It's easy to incorporate avocados into your daily menu, including adding sliced or mashed avocados to your favorite sandwich; filling an avocado half with poultry, seafood or vegetable salads or adding slices, chunks or cubes to salads.