Yes, ‘Diet’ Avocados Are Now a Thing—Here’s a Nutritionist’s Take
The Avocado Light has 30% less fat. Is that ever a good thing?
You do not need a diet avocado. I repeat: You do not need a diet avocado. But there is indeed a “skinny” version on the way. Called Avocado Light, the new variety is marketed by Spanish food company Isla Bonita as a fast ripening, slow-to-turn-brown fruit, with 30% less fat than traditional avocados.
According to the company's site, the Avocado Light was created by cultivating a particular avocado breed in specific growing conditions. No additional info on its overall nutritional value is provided. The new variety is only available in Spain for now. But here’s my take on why your regular old avocados are perfect just the way they are.
First, the fat in avocado isn’t fattening. Avocados may actually help you keep weight off: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed that people who ate about half of an avocado every day weighed, on average, 7.5 pounds less than those who didn’t. They also had smaller waist measurements, and were 33% less likely to be overweight or obese.
One potential explanation is that the healthy, monounsaturated fat in avocados helps you feel full. Research from Loma Linda University found that adding half of a Hass avocado to meals resulted in a significant boost in self-reported satiety among study participants. avocado eaters also experienced a reduction in their desire to eat, which lasted for up to five hours. (One caveat to note: this study was funded by a grant from the Hass Avocado Board.)
In addition to healthy fat, avocados provide antioxidants, which have also been linked to weight management. And the fruit helps fight inflammation, too—another benefit that may help you stay slim. (For more on the link between inflammation and weight, click here.) In a study done at UCLA (and also supported by the Hass Avocado Board), researchers compared people who ate burgers with or without half of a Hass avocado; they found those who had the topping produced fewer inflammatory compounds afterward. The avocado eaters also experienced improved blood flow, compared to the other group; and their triglycerides (blood fats) didn’t rise above the levels seen in the plain-burger group.
What's more, regular avocados are overall nutrient powerhouses. They provide fiber, and nearly 20 other key nutrients, including vitamins E and K, magnesium, and potassium. The fruit's good fat also significantly boosts the absorption of certain antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins, which hitch a ride with fat to get transported from the digestive system into the blood stream. Without knowing the overall nutrient levels in the Avocado Light, I’m hesitant to recommend them.
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Now, you may be thinking, Hmmm, if I eat diet avocados, can I have them more often, or eat a whole avocado instead of half? Maybe, but keep in mind that the new variety contains only 30% less fat, so you shouldn’t go crazy. And, it’s important to include a variety of healthy fats in your diet beyond avocados (think nuts, seeds, olives, and tahini), to provide your body with a broader spectrum of nutrients.
After years of fat phobia, health conscious eaters are finally embracing the notions that eating fat doesn’t make you fat, and that not all fats are created equal. avocados are high up on the good-for-you fat list, so, in my opinion, they were never in need a makeover.
That said, if skinny avocados become available in the U.S. and you decide to try them, be strategic about how you eat them. For example, if avocado is going to be the only or primary fat source in a meal, stick with the full-fat kind. If you want to add avocado to a dish that already contains healthy fat—like extra virgin olive oil or nuts—the light version may help you better balance your macro-nutrients.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.