You don’t need a margarita to treat yourself to an avocado. The reasons to eat more of this fruit go way beyond guacamole.

Avocados are high in dietary fiber and monounsaturated fat, and a new benefit has now emerged, according to a study from the University of Illinois. Making avocados part of your daily diet can help improve gut health.

There are about 12 grams of fiber in a medium avocado, and this goes a long way toward meeting the recommended 28 to 34 grams of fiber per day.

“We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce,” researcher, Sharon Thompson, said in a statement.

People in the study who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance and diversity of gut microbes, which turned out to not only help break down fiber, but also to increase metabolites — the compounds the microbes produce — that support gut health.

There are about 12 grams of fiber in a medium avocado, and this goes a long way toward meeting the recommended 28 to 34 grams of fiber per day.

“Less than 5% of Americans eat enough fiber. Most people consume around 12 to 16 grams of fiber per day. Thus, incorporating avocados in your diet can help get you closer to meeting the fiber recommendation,” Hannah Holscher, senior author of the study and an assistant professor of nutrition, explained.

“It’s just a really nicely packaged fruit that contains nutrients that are important for health. Our work shows we can add benefits to gut health to that list,” she added.

Over 160 adults between the ages of 25 and 45 took part in the study. All were overweight or obese, with a BMI of at least 25, but otherwise healthy. Each participant was given one meal each day to eat as a replacement for either breakfast, lunch or dinner.

One group of participants had an avocado as part of this meal; the other, the control group, consumed a similar meal but without the avocado. All the participants reported how much they consumed of the provided meals, and every four weeks they recorded everything they ate. Blood, urine and fecal samples were also taken throughout the 12-week study.

The goal was not weight loss. People were not asked to restrict or change what they ate. All they had to do was replace one meal per day with the meal the researchers provided. Otherwise, they consumed their normal diets.

The idea was to see what, if any, effects avocado consumption had on gastrointestinal microbes. “Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fiber in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota. We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes,” Holscher said.

Eating avocados reduced bile acids in the gut, the study showed. And it increased the levels of short chain fatty acids, known to help the body guard against the effects of stress on the intestine, including irritable bowel syndrome.

“These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes,” explained Holscher, whose lab specializes in dietary modulation of the microbiome and its connections to health. “Just like we think about heart-healthy meals, we need to also be thinking about gut healthy meals and how to feed the microbiota.”

The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.