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An Avocado A Day May Help Boost Gut Diversity & Improve Fiber Absorption, Study Says

Eliza Sullivan
Author:
December 17, 2020
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Forget Toast: This Pan-Fried Tofu Is Our New Favorite Way To Eat Avocado
Image by Tatjana Zlatkovic / Stocksy
December 17, 2020

Honestly, even if avocados didn't have a slew of health benefits, we'd still love them—it's almost like all their health benefits are an added bonus to the creamy, flavorful fruit. This versatile food is a staple in many kitchens, and it's a star ingredient at many cafes and restaurants (often, of course, on toast).

So while we don't necessarily need any more reasons to eat avocados, a recent study has provided just that. The research uncovered even more benefits of this favorite food—and it all comes back to the microbiome.

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How avocado can benefit the microbiome.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Nutrition, sought to find out how eating avocado every day might influence gut health. While the high dietary fiber content of avocado—and the associated gut health benefits of eating fiber—have been pretty well known, understanding how daily avocado consumption might influence the microbiome was still something of a mystery.

A team of researchers at the University of Illinois found that daily avocado intake led to an increase in the microbial diversity, a higher concentration of the microbiomes that work to break down fiber, which help produce the metabolites that support our overall gut health.

"Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fiber in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota," explains Hannah Holscher, Ph.D., senior author of the study. "We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes." 

Participants were between 25 and 45 years old who were considered either overweight or obese based on BMI. After being split into two groups, they were all given similar meals to consume each day, though one group had avocado, as well. Over the course of 12 weeks, participants provided blood, urine, and fecal samples and reported all the foods they ate.

From the results, the researchers found evidence "this nutrient-dense food affects digestive physiology, as well as the composition and metabolic functions of the intestinal microbiota."

The importance of supporting the microbiome.

Supporting those microbes is crucial for our health: Studies have linked poor gut health to inflammation, and many chronic health conditions. With so many things contributing to the downfall of our gut health—from stress to diet—we're all for simple ways to support our gut microbiome with the foods we love.

Avocado's high fiber content means they're a good source of prebiotics—those nondigestible compounds that fuel the probiotics that keep our gut in balance. This may help to explain how daily consumption of avocados helps fuel increased microbial diversity. Though the researchers don't call out prebiotics, specifically, they did discuss in a news release the role of fiber: "We can't break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can. When we consume dietary fiber, it's a win-win for gut microbes and for us," explains Holscher. "Just like we think about heart-healthy meals, we need to also be thinking about gut healthy meals and how to feed the microbiota."

So while we'll certainly keep enjoying the occasional avocado toast or side of guacamole, maybe it's time to start thinking about diversifying how we're consuming their healthy fats: Here's a list of ideas for enjoying avocado.

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Eliza Sullivan
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.