AHA: Pass the guacamole, avocados may soon have heart-healthy label

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Chocolate pudding is healthy. Avocados are not. According to nutritional standards established during a January 1993 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules and regulations meeting regarding food labeling and nutrition content claims, these statements are true. Back then, a food was deemed nutritional if it was low in fat and avoided artificial sweeteners.

In 2016, that is no longer the case.

On September 27, the FDA announced that it has officially begun the public process of redefining what healthy stands for on food labels.

With that door open, the American Heart Association (AHA) has formed a four-year partnership with the Haas Avocado Board to ensure that the word “healthy” will appear on avocados, as well as other fruits and vegetables that fit into the AHA’s approach to a healthy lifestyle.

Avocados, as well as other foods rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, have been left off of healthy food lists due to their overall high fat content. In an effort to increase consumption of fats that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, the AHA hopes to use the “healthy label” to point consumers towards foods that could save their lives.  

In a January 2016 article in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that eating healthier fats could save more than a million people from dying from heart disease, and the types of diet changes needed differ greatly between countries.

Analysis of diet and food availability data from 186 countries found that 711,800 heart disease deaths worldwide were estimated to be due to eating too little healthy omega-6 polyunsaturated fats.

“Worldwide, policymakers are focused on reducing saturated fats,” Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, senior study author and dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy in Boston, said in a statement. "Yet, we found there would be a much bigger impact on heart disease deaths if the priority was to increase the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as to reduce trans fats."