Three dark green whole avocados and two light green half avocados, one holding the pit, arranged like petals of a flower against a yellow background

The creamy, pale green flesh of an avocado is full of nutrients closely tied to heart health. Now, a long-term study finds that eating at least two servings of this popular fruit per week is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Study co-author Dr. Frank Hu, the Frederick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), puts this finding in perspective. "This study adds to the evidence to support the benefits of healthy fat sources like avocados to help prevent cardiovascular disease," he says. A key take-home message is to substitute avocados for less-healthy foods such as butter, cheese, and processed meats, he adds.

Who was in the study?

The study included more than 110,000 people involved in two long-running Harvard studies: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up study. Most of the participants were white; they ranged in age from 30 to 75 and were free of heart disease and cancer when the study began.

Researchers assessed the participants’ diets via questionnaires given at the start of the study and then every four years. One question asked how much and how often people ate avocado. A serving was considered a half an avocado or one-half cup, cubed.

What were the findings?

During the 30-year follow-up, researchers documented 9,185 heart attacks and 5,290 strokes among the participants. Compared with people who never or rarely ate avocados, those who ate at least two servings each week had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of experiencing a heart attack or related problem due to coronary artery disease. (Coronary artery disease refers to a narrowing or blockage in the blood vessels that supply the heart; it’s the most common type of cardiovascular disease.)

What makes avocados a heart-healthy choice?

Hass avocados, which have dark green, nubbly skin, are the most popular variety in the United States. They’re abundant in healthy fats, fiber, and several micronutrients associated with cardiovascular health:

The good news is that there are so many delicious ways to add avocado to your meals, says Dr. Hu. "I make avocado toast for breakfast, use avocado as a spread for sandwiches, and add them to salads," says Dr. Hu. Some people add avocado to their smoothies — and of course, there’s always guacamole (try this recipe from the HSPH’s Nutrition Source).

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