Is it okay to eat avocado if you have diabetes? There is often a lot of confusion about eating fruits, like avocado, when living with diabetes. Since fruit has sugar does that mean it’s off limits? Is dietary fat bad for people living with diabetes? These are all common questions, but the truth is that avocados can still be enjoyed.
They are a delicious, nutritious food that can be prepared in multiple healthful ways.
So, what nutrients in food can support diabetes management?
To answer this question, we have to consider how nutrients in food affect blood sugar in the short term. We also must consider the effect on long-term risks of complications related to diabetes like heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, peripheral artery disease and eye disease. Diabetes is a leading cause of these debilitating conditions.
The American Diabetes Association 2022 Standards of Care in Diabetes recommends that saturated fats be limited. According to a consensus report published in the ADA’s Diabetes Care Journal, an eating pattern that replaces saturated fat with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can support healthy cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is a risk factor for diabetes-related complications.
It’s recommended that saturated fats be replaced with nutrient-dense sources of unsaturated fats, like fresh avocado, nuts, and oils.
Nutrient-dense foods and beverages provide vitamins and minerals and other health-promoting components. They also have little added saturated fat and little added sugar or sodium.
For patients with diabetes and abnormal cholesterol, the ADA Standards of Care recommends limiting saturated fat to <7% of daily calories and cholesterol to < 200mg/day. It recommends ~10% of calories come from monounsaturated fats.
So, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats = good fats. Avocados are a nutrient-dense food and essentially the only fruit with good fats. One-third of a medium avocado contains 6 grams of unsaturated fat.
It is recommended that people with diabetes or at risk for developing diabetes eat a minimum of 14g of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. An eating pattern rich in healthy foods containing fiber, such as some fruits and vegetables, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Fiber helps to promote healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels which can help manage diabetes complications. It also supports good bowel health.
Thus, fiber is beneficial to health. Avocados are a good source of fiber with 3 grams per one-third of a medium avocado.
Many people with diabetes are concerned about carbohydrates and their food choices. For general health, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing nutrient-dense carbohydrate options that have fiber, vitamins, minerals and little added sugars, sodium, saturated fats or refined grains.
Many foods with carbohydrates can be enjoyed when living with diabetes and when following a diet that promotes health. Nutrient-dense carbohydrate options include foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
Unlike most other fruits, avocado contains zero grams of naturally occurring sugar per serving. A serving of avocado contains 4 grams of carbohydrate and the carbohydrate found in avocado is 79% fiber.
There has also been some interesting research on avocado’s role in management of type 2 diabetes. In a that included 31 adults with overweight or obesity, scientists found that including a half or whole avocado at breakfast decreased the participants’ glucose and insulin when compared to the control breakfast. In this randomized, controlled, three-arm, six-hour postprandial, cross-over study supported by the Avocado Nutrition Center (ANC), a half or whole avocado replaced carbohydrate energy in a breakfast meal. Conclusions cannot be generalized to all populations, study length, or for different amounts of avocado. The findings in this study align with a growing body of evidence supporting avocados as beneficial for a type 2 diabetes diet.
So, for all avocado lovers out there, we have a win for avocado and diabetes. Fresh avocado can be enjoyed healthfully when living with diabetes, and perhaps even more exciting, there is still so much more to learn about the benefits of this fruit for health. That’s why the ANC is working to deepen the world’s scientific understanding of it. Without the ANC, the vast majority of research into the avocado as a whole food wouldn’t exist.
To learn more and stay up to date on avocados, check out Fresh Avocados – Love One Today, a free science-based resource offering access to more exciting research from the ANC, educational materials, and nutrition articles for health professionals to use and guide their patients through healthy eating habits. Here are a few of my favorite resources.
A free, downloadable fact sheet on Avocado’s Role In Management Of Type 2 Diabetes
Nutrition research, including the study I mentioned above
More educational resources including meal plans and
Tips for avocado storage, usage, ripening, and picking/buying. Make sure to wash all fruit and vegetables before eating.
Always remove an avocado pit with a spoon, not a knife!
This post was created in partnership with Fresh Avocados – Love One Today, a science-based resource that makes it easy for consumers and health professionals to learn more about the nutritional benefits of fresh avocados and ways to include them in everyday menus.