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Which has more calories, a whole avocado or a McDonald’s cheeseburger?
If you guessed cheeseburger—at 300 calories—you’d be wrong.
Avocado—the superfood darling of Instagram foodie pics—is no doubt having a moment. And there’s no doubt that avocado, with its heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber, and many other nutrients—is a nutritionist-approved, good-for-you food. But if you’re not careful about how much avo you’re scooping onto your toast, you might be going way overboard on calories.
A whole avocado has 322 calories, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database, along with the following other nutrition facts: 30 grams of fat (20 grams of which are monounsaturated), 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of sugar.
Having 322 calories in a whole avocado may seem like a huge amount, but keep in mind that the recommended serving size is only one-fifth an avocado. That amount of avocado—a couple of slices atop a sandwich or a thin layer of avocado mash spread on toast, say—offers up just 50 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. But who can eat just one-fifth an avocado? Not most of us. According to 2013 paper in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, the average avocado consumption is closer to one-half an avocado. That amount of avocado has around 160 calories (along with around 15 grams of fat).
Avocados are a true treat from Mother Nature. The creamy insides of that leathery green skinned-fruit are packed with a variety of nutrients your body craves. For starters, avocadoes provide fiber, which is a non-digestible carbohydrate that can help prevent constipation and help you feel full longer. What’s more, the fiber in avocados is a kind called soluble fiber, which is also helpful in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and steady blood sugar levels. A serving of avocado (one-fifth a whole avocado) provides almost 3 grams of fiber.
Avocados also have a decent amount of potassium, which helps you maintain healthy blood pressure levels. A whole avocado has 975 milligrams of potassium (by comparison, a medium banana has 422 milligrams.) Avocados also contribute modestly to your intake of vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, and iron. And the fat in avocados allows you to absorb more fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin E and vitamin E) when you eat your avo with other nutrient-rich foods, such as in a veggie-packed salad.
In fact, a study published in Nutrition Journal—in which authors looked at the diet quality of more than 17,000 U.S. adults—found that avocado eaters were significantly healthier on many measures than non-avocado fans. Overall, avocado eaters consumed more fruits and veggies and less added sugar in their diets. People who ate avocado regularly also had significantly lower body weight and a smaller waist size than those who rarely or never did.
The study authors even advised that “dietitians should be aware of the beneficial associations between avocado intake, diet and health when making dietary recommendations.”
Overall, avocado eaters ate
more fruits and veggies, less added sugar, and had a lower body weight than those who rarely ate them.
Avocados are high in fat, and no one’s suggesting you eat multiple whole avocados a day. But the fat in avocados is primarily a healthy kind, known as monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs. These heart-healthy fats seem to help lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol and increase your good HDL cholesterol. MUFAs are linked with a decreased risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and even belly fat.
Yes, you can still eat avocado if you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, most nutritionists would agree that you’re better off spreading toast with a thin layer of mashed avocado than with butter or cream cheese, or topping a turkey burger with a slice of avocado than with a slice of processed cheese.
If you’re trying to lose weight and love avocadoes, there’s no need to cut back as long as you watch your serving size. Remember that a serving of avocado is only one-fifth an avocado, which is just a few thin slices. So you may need to adjust to eating a bit less than you’re used to. Keep an eye on your total calorie intake for the day and make trade-offs when necessary. Maybe if you add avocado slices to your sandwich, you eat it open-faced to reduce the calorie count.
The Produce for Better Health Foundation, a non-profit that works with the CDC to encourage Americans to eat more fruits and veggies, recommends these tips for working more avocado into your diet:
Preeti Parikh, MD
Review date: April 25, 2018