Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Are avocados really so great?

HEADLINES this week that ‘Eating avocado twice a week can help you stay heart healthy’ got me thinking.

We are always on the look out for the food that can help make us super-duper healthy and in recent years the avocado has found its place as a so-called superfood in the diets of any self-respecting healthy person, but is it really as good as all that?

Nutritional science is a hard one to get a straight answer with. As human beings, we are all unique creatures. Our genetics, exercise habits, stress levels, daily routine and the food we eat all have a huge impact on how healthy we are.

The study in question is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Participants were asked to fill in a questionnaires about their food consumption every four years.

One of the questions specifically asked how much avocado they consumed regularly. Researchers used this to assess the effects of avocados on risk of coronary heart disease.

The conclusion was that eating more avocados was associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease in men and women, and researched suggest replacing certain fat?containing foods with avocado could lead to lower risk of heart disease.

But what about all the other risk factors – smoking, sedentary lifestyle, stress? Eating an avocado will not make up for the errors of our unhealthy ways. It might be argued that folk who eat avocados are more likely to eat a healthier diet in general, but if that is the case, then how do we know that it is the avocado that is the wonder food?

Hoping your avocado habit is the secret to good health and longevity is not an answer. We all need a balance of different types of food in our diet. A rich and varied diet, packed with as many different plant foods as possible is one way to improve your nutrition, rather than focusing on just one individual food as being good or bad, it is much more useful to look at your diet as a whole .

  • Do you eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day? Remember, this is not just about variety, but also quantity. Seven a day means seven handfuls, not just seven different varieties.
  • Do you eat some healthy fats every day? Think olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, oily fish.
  • Do you drink enough water?
  • Do you choose wholegrain over white and refined grains?
  • Do you include some protein every time you eat?
  • Do you eat pulses every week? Try chickpea curry, lentil soup, three-bean salad, hummus, puy lentil bolognese.
  • Do you eat foods that grow locally and are in season?

NOT TO MENTION THE FOOD MILES…

Your avocado has taken an epic trip across the world to end up with a poached egg on your toast. Most avocados are imported to the UK from Central and South America.

By the time your Mexican avocado gets mashed onto your toast, it has traveled an incredible 5,555 miles, according to sustainablefoodtrust.org.

So how much nutrition is it really contributing to your diet? It is picked before it has had time to ripen naturally, stored in a controlled environment and been traveling for some time before it hits your plate. All of this affects its nutritional value.

Yes, avocados have a healthy balance of good fats, minerals and fiber, but no one single food is going to make us as healthy as can be. Get your healthy fat fix from nuts and seeds, oily fish. Up your mineral intake by packing a few more vegetables into your daily diet, and increase your fiber by popping a few more pulses into your cooking.

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