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An avocado a day can help keep bad cholesterol at bay

Last Updated Jan 8, 2015 10:05 AM EST

Move over apples, a new study reveals that avocados are the latest health food to help keep the doctor away.

Researchers at Penn State University say including avocados in your diet could help lower the bad cholesterol that contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries and can lead to heart attack or stroke.

They looked at 45 healthy but overweight or obese adults who followed three different cholesterol-lowering diets. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Hass Avocado board, found that people who ate an avocado every day had lower levels of bad cholesterol and improved their total cholesterol and triglycerides.

According to the CDC, lowering your cholesterol can reduce your risk of having a heart attack, needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty, and dying of heart disease. About 71 million American adults have high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol.

"The avocado is this nutrient-rich, power-packed fruit that's full of monounsaturated fat," CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told "CBS This Morning."

"It also has fiber and antioxidants in it. It's high in potassium, vitamins. It's low in sodium, cholesterol and sugars." Plus, she noted, "the ancient Aztecs thought it was an aphrodisiac, if you need another reason to eat them."

While avocado lovers are rejoicing at the news, don't get too carried away. A typical avocado packs a hefty 300 calories, so eating too many can lead to weight gain. Try adding a half an avocado to a salad as a way to stay lean while helping to lower bad cholesterol.