They are called wonder fruits because they contain good fat. But now, medical experts warn that they may do more harm than good when taken in plenty
Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi
Just like fashion has its trends, so it seems the new trending food item is avocados. And when they are not in season, avocados are still loved by many, even though they are highly priced.
They are also popping up in high-end restaurants and on fast food menus. There are many reasons avocados have such wide appeal. They are delicious and have numerous health benefits, including healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
Their versatility, which allows them to be used in a variety of dishes have made them a beloved ingredient in many different cuisines.
But before you think about gobbling a whole avocado, you need to ask: Are they as health as we thought?” Experts now say, as with anything, you can have too much of a good thing.
In an interview with British newspaper, Daily Mail, Dr Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist at National Jewish Health, says avocados are better fat than other fats such as animal fat, but only when taken in moderation.
“For people with advanced heart disease, there’s evidence that they shouldn’t have it at all. From a nutrition standpoint, the high calorie count is an issue. In fact, you only need a fraction of the fruit to get the benefits,” he said.
One avocado has about 322 calories, 29 grams of fat, and 13 grams of fibre. “For example, if a person is trying to lose weight, she might only want 1,200 calories a day. One avocado is a quarter of her needs,” said Freeman.
Henry Ng’ethe, a nutrition and dieteics expert describes avocados as wonder fruits that contain essential nutrients responsible for good health.
Although he agrees with some parts of Dr Freeman’s argument, he says when you compare an avocado fruit with other fruits, it contains little sugar, meaning what we call the glycemic index is low, therefore, it cannot raise blood sugar levels.
“Avocados contains ‘good’ fat, which we refer to monounsaturated fat, mainly oleic acid. It is said to help protect against heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Numerous studies show avacados reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides levels considerably and increases the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
“I noted that Dr Freeman indicated that avocados could lead to gaining weight to which I disagree on this basic ground – the fruit contains fats which cause a feeling of satiety, this means that when you take a diet with fat one seems to feel full and this reduces the desire to eat for many hours, compared to a similar meal without avocado,” he argues.
Ng’ethe, who is also the National Chairman of the Nutrition Association of Kenya says avocados have compounds known as carotenoids. These include lutein and zeaxanthin, which play an integral role in minimising the risk of age-related eye diseases.
A new study released in March last year backs suggestions that the brunch staple might not be good for us as we thought. Research from the University of Cambridge discovered that avocadoes can actually harm people who have a certain genetic mutation.
Experts found that people with this mutation in the SCARB1 gene, called the P376L variant, have high levels of HDL-C. Dr Pius Mwange, a general practitioner, says HDL-C is the good cholesterol found in avocados and people with the mutation have an 80 per cent increased relative risk of coronary heart disease.
But, he explains this mutation only affects one in 1,700 people. He says this isn’t the first time avocados have been associated with less than healthy attributes. Because of the high fat content found in avocados this can increase tiredness.
“Despite the good fats, studies have found that consuming any kind of fats made a quarter of people who consumed the highest fat intake, get tired quickly during the day than those who consumed less fatty foods,” he concludes.