One fruit that has gained immense popularity for its nutritional benefits is the avocado. Renowned for its creamy texture, vibrant green color, and distinct taste, avocados are increasingly touted as "a superfood." However, people with diabetes must understand its impact on blood sugar levels and overall diabetes management.
This Diabetic & Me article will cover the following:
- Are avocados good for diabetics?
- Benefits of avocados for diabetics
- Can avocados lower your Hb1Ac?
- The impact of avocados on your weight
- Are there downsides to eating avocado as a Diabetic?
- How do you add avocados to your diabetic diet?
Are Avocados Good for Diabetics?
Avocado, botanically known as Persea americana, is a unique fruit native to the Americas and was first domesticated in Mesoamerica over 5,000 years ago. It is well-regarded for its creamy texture, rich taste, and versatility in various culinary dishes. While avocados contain carbohydrates, most of their carbohydrates are in the form of fiber, which has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels.
Studies have found that the monounsaturated fats (MUFA) in avocados can reduce harmful cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity. Avocados are also rich in folic acid, which according to studies, reduces homocysteine and sortilin levels, enhancing glycemic control and reducing insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes. Most importantly, avocados have a glycemic index score of 40, which is on the lower side.
So, to answer the question above, including avocados in a diabetes diet plan is not only safe but will also help you reach your blood sugar goals, provided you eat adequate protein and vegetables, stay hydrated, engage in regular physical activity, get enough sleep, and manage your stress level.
Benefits of Avocados for Diabetics
Avocados are dubbed "a superfood" for a good reason: it's a single food rich in many nutrients and antioxidants! According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the nutritional value of 100 grams of raw avocado is as follows:
- Energy: 160kcal
- Water: 73.2 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Fat: 14.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 8.53 g
- Fiber: 6.7 g
- Calcium: 12 mg
- Magnesium: 29 mg
- Phosphorous: 52 mg
- Sodium: 7 mg
- Vitamin C: 10 mg
- Fluoride: 7 mcg
- Folate: 81 mcg
- Choline: 14.2 mg
- Vitamin A: 146 IU
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: 271 mcg
- Vitamin E: 2.07 g
- Vitamin K: 21 mcg
Besides having numerous essential nutrients, avocados have also been associated with many health benefits, particularly for people with diabetes. Let's explore some of these benefits in detail.
Blood Glucose Management
Avocados are low in carbohydrates and will not raise your blood sugar levels. A recent study evaluated the effects of incorporating half an avocado into the regular lunch of healthy, overweight adults. The study revealed that avocados did not cause significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
One of the reasons avocados are considered a suitable option for individuals with diabetes is their low carbohydrate content coupled with their high fiber content. While many other foods rich in fiber foods may still spike blood sugar levels, avocados, with their unique nutritional composition, offer a more favorable choice for diabetes management.
In a 2012 review published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, the analysis of 15 studies involving fiber supplements for individuals with type 2 diabetes revealed reductions in fasting blood sugar levels and A1c levels. Hence, avocados, being a fiber-rich food, when included in a healthy diet, exercise, and a comprehensive diabetes management plan, may help control blood sugar and A1c levels and reduce the chances of diabetes complications.
Better Weight Management
An increased BMI (Body Mass Index) elevates the risk of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. Moreover, achieving healthy weight loss contributes to regulating blood pressure.
Avocado consumption has been linked to potential weight loss benefits. Various ways avocados aid in weight reduction include reducing frequent food cravings and increasing metabolic rate. However, it is crucial to be mindful of portion sizes when consuming avocados, as a single fruit (approximately 150 grams) contains about 240 calories. It is advisable to monitor calorie intake when eating avocados alone or using them as a spread over bread.
Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFA), particularly oleic acid. These healthy fats have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.
A study conducted in 2007 assessed various weight loss plans in individuals with reduced insulin sensitivity. The findings revealed that a weight loss diet rich in monounsaturated fats significantly improved insulin sensitivity, a benefit not observed in a similar high-carbohydrate diet.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Dietary fats can be classified into two main categories: healthy and unhealthy. Overconsumption of saturated fats and any intake of trans fats can elevate bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in your bloodstream. Simultaneously, trans fats can lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. High LDL and low HDL cholesterol levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, applicable to individuals with and without diabetes.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which avocados have in abundance, can elevate your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Having higher levels of good cholesterol aids in the removal of bad cholesterol from your bloodstream, keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy and lowering the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Strengthens the Immune System
Avocados contain an abundance of micronutrients, including essential minerals and vitamins, which play a vital role in supporting the health of individuals with diabetes. Among the minerals found in avocados are iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc, while the vitamins present include vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin K, and vitamin E. These valuable nutrients bolster the immune system, maintain overall well-being, and help mitigate diabetes-related complications.
Improves Gut Health
Good gut health is essential for better blood sugar management. And half of a small avocado provides approximately 4.6 grams of dietary fiber, promoting regular bowel movements and fostering the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Avocados may also alleviate constipation, a common issue experienced by individuals with diabetes.
Can Avocados Lower Your Hb1Ac?
Avocados are low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, and rich in monounsaturated fat, which can contribute to better blood sugar management and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications in individuals with diabetes. However, there is no conclusive proof that avocados alone can directly lower HbA1c levels, which indicates long-term blood sugar control.
Diet alone cannot fully control HbA1c levels in diabetes. A well-rounded diabetes management plan, which includes appropriate medications (if prescribed), a balanced diet, regular physical activities, and proper medical supervision, is essential for achieving and maintaining target HbA1c levels.
NOTE: There is a difference between sugar levels and HbA1c levels. Blood sugar or glucose levels refer to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream at a specific moment. These levels fluctuate throughout the day due to various factors like diet, physical activity, stress, and medication. Blood sugar levels are typically measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L). On the other hand, HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) reflects the average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. It is calculated in percentage to determine what ratio of hemoglobin proteins in your blood is coated with sugar. Unlike blood sugar levels, which provide a snapshot of glucose levels at a particular moment, HbA1c offers insight into long-term glucose control. It helps people with diabetes evaluate their overall diabetes management.
Our HbA1c calculator will help you convert your average blood sugar level into an A1c percentage, so you can see where you stand.
Are There Downsides to Eating Avocado as a Diabetic?
While avocados contain healthy fats and are an excellent choice for people with diabetes, they are also high in calories and may cause weight gain!
A full Hass avocado, for instance, contains approximately 250-300 calories. So consuming them above your calorie requirements can lead to poor weight management.
If your goal is to lose weight, practicing portion control is crucial. Instead of adding avocados to your diet, consider using them as a replacement for foods high in saturated fat, such as cheese and butter. For instance, you can mash up an avocado and use it as a toast spread instead of butter.
If you have a latex allergy, it is essential to consult your doctor before incorporating avocado into your diet. Individuals with a severe latex allergy may experience symptoms after consuming avocado.
How Do You Add Avocados to Your Diabetic Diet?
Some ideas on how to include avocados in your meals:
- Mash or slice ripe avocados and spread them on whole-grain toast for a delicious and nutritious breakfast or snack.
- Dice or slice avocados and add them to salads for creaminess and a boost of healthy fats.
- Add avocados instead of milk in a smoothie for a blast of nutrients and fiber.
- Prepare homemade guacamole with mashed avocados, diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice for a flavorful dip or topping for tacos and grilled dishes.
- Slice avocados and enjoy them as a side dish or snack.
- Top half an avocado with a cooked egg for a protein-rich, satisfying breakfast.
- Make a creamy and nutritious salad dressing by blending avocados with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and your favorite herbs.
- Use avocado slices as a filling in whole-grain wraps or collard green wraps for healthy and delicious lunch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Avocado Raise A1C?
Avocados are considered diabetes-friendly because they contain low carbohydrates, high fiber, and healthy fat. Including avocados in a balanced diet can support better blood glucose management. No evidence suggests that avocados raise HbA1c levels in people with diabetes.
What Foods Can Diabetics Eat Freely?
The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases recommends the following foods as part of diabetes dietary guidelines:
Vegetables: Nonstarchy (e.g., broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers, tomatoes) and starchy (e.g., potatoes, corn, green peas).
Fruits: Includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas, and grapes.
Grains: At least half should be whole grains (e.g., wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, quinoa).
Protein: Lean meat, chicken/turkey without skin, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, peas, and tofu.
Dairy: Nonfat or low-fat milk, lactose-free milk, yogurt, cheese.
Heart-healthy Fats: Oils like canola and olive oil. Nuts, seeds, heart-healthy fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), and avocado.
NOTE: While the foods listed above have minimal impact on blood sugar levels and are generally considered diabetes-friendly, you must consume them in moderation for the best result.
Can a Diabetic Eat Avocado Every Day?
Yes, most people with diabetes can include avocados in their daily diet. Avocados don't usually spike blood sugar due to their low carbohydrate content, high fiber, and healthy fat content. Including avocados in a balanced diet can support better blood sugar management.
However, it's essential to have portion control in mind. While avocados are nutritious, they are also calorie-dense. Eating them excessively can increase calorie intake, which may contribute to weight gain. Therefore, it's advisable to incorporate avocados as part of a well-balanced meal plan that aligns with individual dietary needs and health goals.
How Many Avocados Can a Person with Diabetes Eat Daily?
The number of avocados people with diabetes can eat daily depends on their dietary needs, overall calorie intake, and health goals.
The FDA recommends one-fifth of a medium-sized avocado per serving, containing about 50 calories. However, people often consume one-half of the fruit in a single sitting. Studies show that avocado consumers have better overall nutrition, lower body weight, and a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.
Avocado is a superfood, widely tolerated by people with diabetes, and can be a valuable addition to the overall management of the condition. Its low carbohydrate content, high fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats make it an excellent choice for managing blood sugar levels. But then, it's crucial to consume avocados in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet that aligns with your diabetes management plan.