Getty Images Image by: Getty Images
Avocados are more than just a popular trend among self-proclaimed "foodies." This stone fruit can help make your diet healthy and tasty!
Whether it's in a smoothie, on toast, or in guacamole, avocado has proven itself in the food world. It's tasty, has a creamy texture and is super healthy for you. Adding avocado to your balanced diet has been linked to reducing the risk of many food intake-related health conditions. Heres some health benefits of the fruit:
1. They're good for your heart.
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids (aka. good fats), which can help the body keep cholesterol—a risk factor for heart disease— in check. And recent research out of Pennsylvania State University has found that avocados actually lower cholesterol better than other healthy fats, such as olive oil.
2. They improve nutrient absorption.
There are some food combinations that boost the body’s uptake of certain nutrients. It turns out, the avocado is a one-stop shop for nutrient absorption. According to a study from Ohio State University, the fats in avocados helped participants better absorb cancer- and disease-fighting carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which is found in carrots. It also helps the body convert them to vitamin A, which has an important role in growth and development, eye sight and even immunity.
3. They help you lose or maintain weight.
While an avocado can pack about 250 calories, those calories are well spent, especially if you're trying to curb cravings for less healthy foods. Researchers have found that adding half of an avocado to your lunch can help you feel satiated and avoid snacking later. Another study, published in Nutrition Journal in 2014, found that eating avocado was linked with a 40 percent reduction in the desire to eat over the three-hour period that followed.
4. They can help you see clearly.
Avocados are actually great for vision. They contain two phytochemicals that provide antioxidants to reduce damage from UV light. Because of their ability to improve nutrient absorption mentioned above, they also reduce the risk of developing retina disease, macular degeneration that can come with aging, according to Medical News Today.
5. They can protect you from disease.
Because of the high concentration of dietary fibre in avocados, incorporating them into your diet and making sure you are getting enough fibre in your day to day life can significantly lower your risk for chronic disease. Risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and more can be reduced according to a study done by the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky.
Looking for healthy and delicious ways to add avocados to your diet? Here are some Canadian Living recipes to add to weekday dinner options:
Your body needs some sugar to function, but Canadians, who consume the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of the sweet stuff every day, are probably overdoing it. We break down what too much sugar does to your body, and how you can cut back.
Good news for those with sweet tooths: Glucose is our main source of fuel, so, yes, we actually do need sugar in our diets. But don't get too excited— they're not all alike.
"All carbohydrate-containing foods, whether candy, pop, fruit, vegetables or grain products, break down into glucose in our bloodstream," says Patricia Chuey, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian. "But our bodies respond differently when we get sugar from nutrient-dense, fibre-rich foods, eaten as part of a balanced meal that contains protein, compared to 'empty' calories from zero-nutrient, fibre-less foods."
Those carb-heavy, low-nutrient foods cause our blood-sugar, or glucose, levels to spike, triggering the release of insulin in response. One of insulin's jobs is to move glucose from the blood to our liver, muscle and fat cells for storage, and when there's more in our bloodstream than what our bodies need for energy, it can end up as stored fat—"even though fat, per se, wasn't consumed," says Chuey. That's partially why excess sugar consumption is linked to fatty liver disease, as well as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fibre-rich, nutrient-dense foods, on the other hand, break down more slowly, so they don't cause as much of a blood-sugar spike, or the resulting weight gain.
That doesn't mean you have to skip your favourite sweet indulgences entirely. What we know today is that moderation is key—a little sugar won't hurt you.
But, for the most part, Canadians are not consuming a little sugar. According to Statistics Canada, on average, 22 to 26 percent of our total daily caloric intake consists of sugar. Put another way, that's an average of 110 grams, or 26 teaspoons, per day. And it's not just how much; experts are also concerned about where it comes from.
"Whole foods that are sweet, like fruit, can be good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, which can contribute to overall health," says Gita Singh, a research assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Boston's Tufts University.
It's added sugar, regardless of the source, that's the problem. You'll find it in processed foods, such as many breads, soups, salad dressings and pasta sauces. And then there's pop, sports drinks and fruit drinks, which experts collectively refer to as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). These drinks are among the top causes of obesity and its attendant ailments, which include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and other chronic diseases. In fact, Singh coauthored a report published in the medical journal Circulation that estimates SSB consumption is partially responsible for the diabetes-, cancer- and cardiovascular disease–related deaths of 1,600 Canadians each year.
The fact that SSBs are a leading source of excess sugar in our diets is galling but encouraging. That's because the solution is straightforward: Stop, or at least cut back on, drinking them.
Chuey says you can further reduce the added sugar in your diet by avoiding convenience foods that list sugar (or maltose, corn syrup, cane sugar or honey) among the first three ingredients; swap your caramel macchiato for a latte; and top plain yogurt with fresh fruit. The less sugar you consume, the less you'll end up craving.
But when you do indulge, go all in. "Apply the pleasure maximization principle," says Chuey. "Make it really worth it! Not in terms of quantity, but the kind of quality that will really satisfy." So skip the soda fountain. But those homemade cookies? Enjoy!
YOUR BODY ON SUGAR
There are lots of table sugar subs on the market, but how do they stack up, health-wise?
Stevia: Zero calories per teaspoon
Stevia is a zero-calorie, fructosefree option.
Date sugar: 11 calories per teaspoon
Date sugar contains all the fibre and nutrients found in the dried fruit.
Coconut sugar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Made from the sap of coconut-tree flowers, coconut sugar has the same calorie count as table sugar, but it's lower on the glycemic index.
Agave nectar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Agave nectar is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than refined sugar, so you can use less. But it's high in fructose (hello, blood-sugar spikes!).
©iStockphoto.com/oldbunyip Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/oldbunyip