Do you know your cholesterol level? You should, because a high cholesterol level increases your risk for heart disease. Also, more women than men in the United States experience high cholesterol levels. You body naturally produces some cholesterol, but the foods you eat contain cholesterol and saturated fats that add to your levels. Only foods derived from animals contain cholesterol. Avocados contain no cholesterol and very little saturated fat; therefore avocados do not cause high cholesterol.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body needs to add structure to cell walls, produce hormones and make bile acids important for the digestion of fats. Although produced in the liver, cholesterol travels throughout the body in the blood vessels. For the waxy substance to mix with watery blood, cholesterol binds to specialized proteins known as lipoproteins. Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, carry cholesterol from the liver to the cells. This type of cholesterol sticks easily to the lining of the blood vessels promoting the formation of plaques and increasing your risk for heart disease. High-density lipoproteins, or HDL, pick up cholesterol from the blood vessels and carry it back to the liver for removal from the body.
Your Cholesterol Levels
The American Heart Association recommends women and men over the age of 20 get their cholesterol levels checked every five years. Your total cholesterol, the combination of LDL and HDL, should stay under 200 milligrams per deciliter. Doctors consider a total cholesterol level above 240 milligrams per deciliter as high cholesterol. You want your HDL, or good cholesterol, to be high, with any level above 60 milligrams per deciliter helping to reduce your risk for heart disease. You should strive to keep your LDL, the bad cholesterol, at less than 100 milligrams per deciliter. Doctors diagnose a LDL cholesterol level above 160 milligrams per deciliter as high cholesterol.
Avocados, fondly known as alligator pears because of their bumpy green skin, not only contain no cholesterol but also serve as a good source of healthy unsaturated fats. A 5-ounce medium avocado contains nearly 18 grams of unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats, especially when eaten in place of saturated fat, help lower cholesterol levels.
Other Beneficial Nutrients
In addition to the healthy fats, avocados contain other beneficial nutrients. A medium avocado contains nearly 3 milligrams of vitamin E. Vitamin E inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which prevents or delays the process of atherosclerosis and reduces your risk for heart disease. Avocados also contain 32 micrograms of vitamin K per 5-ounce serving, a vitamin important for normal blood clotting. The same serving size of avocado provides 10 grams of fiber, which not only helps keep your digestive tract healthy but also plays a role in lowering your cholesterol levels.
Stephanie Chandler is a freelance writer whose master's degree in biomedical science and over 15 years experience in the scientific and pharmaceutical professions provide her with the knowledge to contribute to health topics. Chandler has been writing for corporations and small businesses since 1991. In addition to writing scientific papers and procedures, her articles are published on Overstock.com and other websites.