We have all heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” but it is really the avocado fruit that you should include in your diet daily for good health. Avocados, also known as alligator pears because of their shape and leathery skin, are considered a superfood. Eating avocados regularly can provide positive health benefits for almost every part of the body including, the cardiovascular system, bones, eyes, skin, brain, and more. It can even support weight loss and management.
Avocados are a naturally nutrient dense food and contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and good fats. All this coming with 160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 15 grams of heart healthy monounsaturated fats in half of a medium sized fruit. There are 9 grams of carbohydrate in an avocado, but fiber makes up 7 grams for a net 2 grams, making this a low carb high fiber diet friendly food.
A nutritious diet comes not just from what you eat but from how well the nutrients are absorbed. Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K along with antioxidants need to be combined with fat to be absorbed. A study in the Journal of Nutrition 2005 showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to salads and salsa increased antioxidant absorption by 2.6 to 15 fold. Avocados are not only nutrient dense they also increase the nutrient value of other plant foods eaten with them.
Impact on Cholesterol
Due to their high monounsaturated fat and phytochemical content avocados have been found beneficial for heart health. Several controlled research studies found consumption of avocados reduced cholesterol levels significantly, lowered LDL cholesterol by up to 22% and increased HDL (the good) cholesterol by as much as 11%. Although additional research is needed, a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018 supported the finding that eating avocado can significantly increase HDL cholesterol, which may help protect against heart attack and stroke.
Rich in potassium, avocados are a powerful dietary tool for controlling hypertension. A 3.5 ounce serving of avocado, about one half, has 14% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of potassium which is 4% more than bananas. A study in the British Medical Journal 2013 found that higher potassium intake was associated with a 24% lower stroke risk and suggested that increased potassium intake is potentially beneficial for the prevention and control of elevated blood pressure and stroke.
Antioxidants in Avocados
Avocados are also high in antioxidants and especially the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of which are important to eye and skin health. Studies have shown that these nutrients can drastically reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, which are common in older adults. Carotenoids have also been associated with reducing UV-inflammation of skin from sun exposure and slow skin aging.
Individuals who are trying to lose or manage their weight often avoid eating avocados because of their high fat content. But several preliminary studies have shown some evidence that avocados can be beneficial to a weight loss program. In one study overweight adults who ate half of a Hass avocado with lunch reported feeling 23% more satisfied and had a 28% lower desire to eat within the next 3-5 hours. A lower desire to eat could help decrease snacking and thus help someone to naturally eat fewer calories and stick to their weight loss plan.
But you still might be wondering if eating avocados can really make you healthier. Using data from 17,567 participants in the US NHANES survey, researchers looked at the diet quality and health of people who ate avocados. They found that participants who consumed avocados regularly were healthier than people who did not eat the fruit. These individuals had a higher nutrient intake, were less likely to be overweight, had a lower BMI, and higher HDL cholesterol levels. These findings certainly increase the case for adding avocados to your diet. However, it should be taken with “a grain of salt” as it is hard to say if just eating avocados caused these individuals to be healthier.
Avocados are easy to add to your diet. They have a rich creamy texture and blend well with other ingredients to make dips and dressings or can be added to a salad, top a sandwich, or layered in a casserole. Avocados are a climacteric fruit and ripen only after harvesting. Unripe avocados can last in the refrigerator up to two weeks and ripe ones for one week. So, when you shop, buy several avocados at different stages of ripeness and you will always have one ready to eat.
For more tips on buying, storing, and avocado recipes visit the Hass Avocado Board website.
Feature Image: Juraj Varga from Pixabay