The humble avocado, shunned for years during the fat-free diet craze of the 1990s, may have finally hit its stride. No longer just for guacamole, this nutritious fruit is popping up as a healthy addition to various diet plans.
But can people with diabetes eat this food? It turns out that avocados are not only safe for people with diabetes, but they may be downright beneficial. Research shows that avocados offer many ways to help people manage their diabetes and improve their overall well-being.¹
it’s low-carb and high in fat, and the fat is all good for you (because it’s mostly a healthy fat). The avocado is also yummy, like butter, except instead of killing you, it’s saving you. I know, I know, big claims, but why?
Here are some of the nutritional wonders of the average California avocado:
- about 320 calories
- 17 grams carbs
- 13 grams of fiber
- 30 grams of fat
–> 4 grams of saturated fat (the least healthy kind)
–> 20 grams monounsaturated fat (the most healthy kind)
–> 4 grams of polyunsaturated fat (a pretty healthy kind)
- Numerous vitamins and minerals, including the ever so important electrolytes potassium and magnesium. In fact, an avocado usually has 3 times more potassium than a banana does.
Now let’s break that down. 320 calories. That’s pretty high, right? So what! With everything you get in this wonder fruit, it’s worth it. Yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable. The avocado is also known as an “alligator pear.”
17 grams of carbs and 13 grams of fiber. As people with diabetes, you know that’s a really odd ratio, and it seems that you may not even need to take any insulin when you eat one of these things, because we always substract the fiber from the carbohydrates to calculate our insulin needs. Personally, I don’t need any insulin for an avocado, and that’s part of why I love them.
30 grams of fat. That’s high too, right? So what! The simple myth of “eating fat makes you fat” simply isn’t accurate. Fat doesn’t make you fat. You get 20 grams of monounsaturated fat with these little green wonders, which is a roto-rooter for your arteries. That’s a massive dose!²
Diet and diabetes
A healthy diet is critical for people with diabetes. The foods that they eat each day can have a considerable impact on how they feel and how well their diabetes is controlled.
In general, people with diabetes should eat foods that help control blood sugar levels and that offer health benefits such lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. This is one of the best ways to keep diabetes under control, avoid complications, and lead the healthiest life possible.
Avocados are an excellent choice for people with diabetes because they offer all these benefits – and possibly more.
How do avocados affect blood sugar levels?
Avocados are lower in carbohydrates than many other fruits.
Blood sugar control is critical for people who have diabetes. A physician or dietitian may advise patients to choose foods that are lower in carbohydrates and sugar. They may also recommend foods that help control blood sugar spikes. An avocado meets both of these requirements.
A 1-ounce serving, or about one-fifth of an avocado, contains only 3 grams of carbohydrates and less than 1 gram of sugar.
With so few carbohydrates, people with diabetes likely won’t need to worry about an avocado raising their blood sugar levels.
Pairing an avocado with other foods may help reduce blood sugar spikes too. Its fat and fiber content takes longer to digest and slows the absorption of other carbohydrates in the process.
How much avocado can people with diabetes eat?
Before people make any significant changes to their diet, they should talk with their physician or dietitian. One of the things to consider is total calorie intake.
A whole avocado contains 250-300 calories, but a 1-ounce serving has only 50. People who are watching their calories in order to maintain or lose weight can still add avocado to their diet. This can be done by switching a serving of avocado for something else with a similar amount of calories like cheese or mayonnaise.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) say people should pay attention to the type of fat they’re eating more than the amount.
Specifically, people should strictly limit the unhealthy fats. This includes saturated fats and trans fats, often found in fatty meats, fried foods, processed and restaurant foods.
The ADA encourage people with diabetes to consider adding avocado into their diets due to its healthy fats.
Avocados and heart health
Avocados have fat and are calorie-dense, but this is not a reason for people with diabetes to avoid them.
Avocados could help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in people with diabetes.
The fats in avocados are mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which have been shown to raise “good” HDL cholesterol. MUFAs can also lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and fats called triglycerides, and reduce blood pressure.
Having healthy cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease and stroke as someone without diabetes, according to the NIDDK. More importantly, heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death among people with diabetes.
There may be an additional reason that MUFAs are a ticket to better health when living with diabetes. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests that these fats may help control blood sugar and insulin levels.
The researchers found this was particularly the case when replacing some carbohydrates in the diet with MUFAs. So besides being naturally low in sugar and carbohydrates, an avocado’s healthy fats can help lower blood sugar levels even more.
Fiber, blood sugar levels, and feeling full
A medium avocado has an impressive 10 grams of fiber. For reference, men should get 30-38 grams of fiber per day, and women need 21-25 grams, according to the Academy of Nutrition of Dietetics.
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet because it improves digestive health and keeps the bowels regular. It’s particularly helpful for people with diabetes because it helps improve blood sugar levels.
Soluble fiber, which is present in avocados, may also improve cholesterol levels, according to a study in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition. This is another way this fruit may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Avocados may also help people feel fuller for longer. This can help people control their calorie intake without feeling hungry. A study in the Nutrition Journal found that eating half of an avocado with lunch increased levels of feeling full up to 5 hours later.
Choosing and using avocados
Avocados offer a buttery yet versatile flavor that can be added to a variety of salads, sandwiches, and sweet and savory dishes.
Ripe avocado is easy to add to a wide range of different healthy meals.
Although avocados require no cooking, it is best to eat one when it’s ripe. A ripe avocado will be dark in color and will feel slightly soft when squeezed gently.
If an avocado is firm and green in color, it should be left to ripen for a few days. Avocados ripen off the tree, and many found at the store need some time to reach their ideal ripeness.
The following is another way of telling if an avocado is ripe or not:
- Try to remove the avocado’s stem
- If it doesn’t come off easily, it’s not yet ripe
- If it removes easily and the skin underneath is green, the avocado is ripe
- If it removes easily and the skin underneath is brown, the avocado may be overripe. It may have brown spots inside or a texture that are too soft
Spread 1 to 2 teaspoons of avocado on whole grain toast instead of butter. Adding a dash of black pepper and garlic, a tomato slice, or some fresh salsa can give it extra flavor. Combine it with favorite vegetables and seasonings.
Another option is a baked avocado egg. Slice the avocado in half and remove the pit. Crack an egg, place it in the avocado half, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 425°F. Top with diced tomatoes, salsa, peppers, or other vegetables.
Slices of avocado make a great addition to nearly any salad. They also work well as a topping for vegetable or chicken wraps and turkey burgers. Avocado can also be used in a sandwich in place of mayonnaise or butter.
Adding a mashed up avocado to store-bought hummus gives a boost of fiber and healthy fats. Skip the chips and instead, dip fresh, crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery sticks.
Avocados naturally pair well with fish tacos, enchiladas, or other Mexican dishes. They can also be used as a topping on chili in place of sour cream. Sprinkle diced avocado on a whole-grain pizza and cut back on the cheese.
Avocados may be a healthy boost to a diabetes meal plan. People with diabetes should talk with their doctor or dietitian about their dietary needs, and consider giving avocado a try at their next meal.¹
Learn more about avocados from our sources!