The health benefits of avocado include weight management, protection from heart diseases and diabetes, treating osteoarthritis, and enhancing the absorption of nutrients for the body. It also reduces the risk of cancer, liver damage, and vitamin K deficiency-related bleeding. Avocado helps in keeping the eyes healthy and protecting the skin from signs of aging and the harmful effects of UV rays. It also helps in maintaining blood sugar levels and has antioxidant properties. It even increases circulation, boosts cognitive abilities, and builds stronger bones!
According to a recent research study, avocado seeds are used for the treatment of diabetes, inflammatory conditions, and hypertension, as well as for improving hypercholesterolemia. Another research study shows that consumption of avocado leads to improved diet quality and nutrient intake, including a lowered risk of metabolic syndrome.
What is Avocado?
Avocado has a high fatty acid content but contains extremely low levels of cholesterol. Many people tend to stop eating avocado due to its high-calorie content, thinking that it may add to their weight. However, it contains fewer calories when compared to butter and other high-calorie dietary items. Also, much of the fat content comes from unique sources, like phytosterols, which are beneficial for a number of reasons. This article discusses the various health benefits of avocado and its nutritional content, but first, let’s learn a bit more about this valuable and beneficial fruit.
Avocados are also known as Alligator Pears, which is mainly due to their shape and the leathery appearance of their skin. The fruit that is grown on Persea Americana, which is an evergreen tree from the Lauraceae family. Although it doesn’t resemble these relatives, avocados are closely related to cinnamon and bay laurel. It is usually tall and can grow up to a height of 65 feet. The approximate weight of avocados is between eight ounces and three pounds, depending on the variety of avocado. It is harvested early and then allowed to ripen gradually when it is sold commercially. This is why avocados are called climacteric fruits, which only ripen after harvesting, just like bananas.
Avocados are available in many varieties, but the most popular of all is the creamy Hass variety. Avocado trees grow well in tropical, sub-tropical and equatorial areas, but like so many other fruits, the cultivation of avocados is the easiest in the Mediterranean climate. That being said, avocados originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico, where evidence in caves dates back to at least 10,000 B.C. Ancient Central American and South American cultures were known to use wild avocados, but it is unclear if cultivation began until the last few thousand years. It only appeared in other parts of the world in the last 500 years but has quickly gained popularity for its unique appearance, taste, and health benefits.
Due to its various health benefits, this fruit is now grown in a number of countries. It has a very thick skin that protects it from pesticides. This is the reason you don’t need to buy organic avocados; it is one of the safest crops in terms of its low exposure to pesticides.
It is usually eaten raw, as a dessert whip, or in the form of salads with little pepper and salt. The most popular use of avocados is in the form of guacamole, a traditional Mexican and Central American dip that is also good as a topping on hamburgers and sandwiches. Also, you may use avocado as a replacement for fat content (butter or oil) while baking or just as a replacement for mayonnaise in sandwiches. Here, you add the same amount of avocado as any other fat. This is a way to reduce your intake of unhealthy calories. For instance, 3.5oz avocados contain 14.66g fat, whereas the same amount of butter contains 81g fat. Therefore, avocados can be substituted for butter while baking, so you can cut down on the calories and still have a delicious treat!
Nutritional Value of Avocado
Avocados are considered a “superfood” and have a special position in the food calorie pyramid. Avocados are rich in various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. They are also a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids and have a low sugar content. They are a good source of energy and contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals. Avocados contain calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. They also contain minerals such as vitamin C, B6, B-12, A, D, K, E, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. Furthermore, they are a great source of dietary fiber, and a single serving can provide more than 40% of the daily requirement!
Avocados are rich in potassium and successfully balance the potassium to sodium ratio which is vitally important to overall health. According to CAC (California Avocado Commission), a medium-sized Hass avocado contains almost 22.5 grams fat. Two-thirds of this fat is of the monounsaturated variety, and they are also very low in fructose. Perhaps most importantly, avocados have a unique collection of organic compounds like phytosterols, carotenoids, and flavonoids.
Health Benefits of Avocado
Avocados have many health benefits. They are packed with nutrients and are therefore considered as one of the best foods you can eat. Avocados are most beneficial when eaten raw. Many of the well-researched and important health benefits of avocados are as follows:
Aids in Digestion
It is believed that avocados are soothing for the intestine and therefore aid in digestion. They contain soluble and insoluble fibers that help to keep the digestive system running smoothly. These types of fiber are very important for digestion because they bulk up stools and help ensure the smooth passage of food through the intestinal tract. Furthermore, they stimulate gastric and digestive juices so nutrients are absorbed in the most efficient and rapid way. Finally, they reduce the symptoms from conditions like constipation and diarrhea. All in all, the huge amount of fiber found in avocados (40% of daily requirement per serving) makes this a very important food for optimizing your digestive health.
Consumption of avocados also helps in preventing bad breath, which is primarily caused due to indigestion or an upset stomach. Halitosis can be eliminated by improving digestive health, and the antibacterial and antioxidant flavonoids found in avocados also kill the bacteria in your mouth that can result in bad breath. Avocados have also been connected with preventing oral cancers!
Skin and Hair Care
Avocados are packed with nutrients that are beneficial for maintaining healthy skin. It enriches skin that is dry, chapped or damaged. They are added to a variety of cosmetics due to their ability to nourish the skin with essential vitamins and make it glow. It is also used for nourishing dry and damaged hair. Many people use avocados to prepare skin and hair masks. Above all, avocado oil helps in treating plaque psoriasis. Beta-carotene and lycopene are two organic compounds found in large quantities in avocados. Both of these have been connected to improving the health and tone of your skin and eliminating signs of premature aging.
Avocados are very good at reducing liver damage. It has certain organic compounds that help in improving liver health. Liver damage is normally caused due to Hepatitis C. Findings of a recent research study suggest that avocados may play a major role in toning up and protecting your liver from a wide variety of conditions.
Avocados help keep your eyes healthy. They contain carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to protect your eyes against cataracts, eye diseases related to age, and macular degeneration. These conditions are often caused by free radicals that accumulate in the tissues of the eyes. The antioxidant activity of these special carotenoids in avocados neutralize the effects of those dangerous free radicals.
Promotes Healthy Heart
The health benefits of avocados include a healthier heart. Beta-sitosterol, which is found in avocados, helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Research studies suggest that the intake of avocado may enhance antiatherogenic properties of HDL cholesterol, which helps in protecting the heart from atherosclerosis, also known as arteriosclerotic vascular disease. The significant levels of potassium also make avocados a powerful fruit in the fight against hypertension. Potassium is a vasodilator, which relaxes the tension of blood vessels and arteries, thereby reducing the chances of clotting, heart attacks, and strokes.
Diet plays a very important role in maintaining the balance of minerals and fluids in those who suffer from chronic kidney disorders. Potassium is one of the minerals that help in maintaining a normal heart rate. Avocados are a good source of potassium and their inclusion in your diet may provide other benefits as well. It is important to make sure that potassium levels are not too high as that can also be dangerous for the heart. Potassium is a key aspect of maintaining fluid balance through chemical channels for cells and organs. This balance of fluid is also vital for the functioning of the kidney, which handles the movement of fluid and toxins through the body.
Vitamin K Deficiency
A vitamin K deficiency is not very common but is frequently seen in neonatal care. It may lead to a bleeding disorder known as vitamin K deficiency-related bleeding (VKDB). This occurs mostly due to an insufficient intake of vitamin K during pregnancy. The inclusion of avocado in the diet of a pregnant woman may help in lowering risk of VKDB in the newborn child since avocados are one of the rare fruits that have a very high amount of vitamin K (almost 40% of the daily requirement in a single serving!)
During pregnancy, morning sickness is very common. Avocados help overcome nausea and queasiness during pregnancy since it contains vitamin B6, which is commonly connected to reducing nausea and vomiting.
The anti-inflammatory properties of avocados are perhaps its most valuable attribute, and between the wide range of phytochemicals, flavonoids, carotenoids, phytosterols, fatty alcohols, and omega-3 fatty acids it contains, avocados are one of the best foods for reducing the inflammation in tissues, joints, and muscles. Arthritis affects tens of millions of people around the world, and by consuming a proper amount of avocados, studies have frequently shown the symptoms and associated pain of arthritis can be efficiently reduced!
Health benefits of avocados include a lower risk of cancers, including breast cancer and prostate cancer. Avocado contains carotenoids and monounsaturated fat, both of which contribute to the significant reduction of cancer. Avocado also contains Glutathione, an antioxidant that protects the cells from cancer and the dangerous effects of free radicals. The list of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in avocados is impressive, and it is almost difficult to determine which one has the largest impact. Studies have been widely done on oral, skin, and prostate cancers, and the results show that instead of metastasizing, the organic compounds in avocados cause cancerous cells to undergo apoptosis (automatic cell death). Research is still ongoing on the relationship between avocados and cancer.
Avocado contains both vitamin C and E, which help enhance antioxidant properties of the human body. Vitamin C recycles vitamin E and helps reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Avocado also contains antioxidants like epicatechin, violaxanthin, neochrome, and about a dozen others. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism. They are responsible for dozens of serious conditions in the body, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, cognitive disorders, and many more.
Avocados contain many vitamins and minerals that help in maintaining healthy skin. Carotenoids found in avocados are associated with reducing UV-induced inflammation of the skin due to exposure to the sun. Oil made from avocado helps in protecting the skin against sunburn damage. The high levels of beta-carotene in avocados can be enzymatically split into provitamin A, which has long been connected to protecting the skin from a variety of conditions and the damaging effects of the sun.
Regular exercise, along with a healthy diet, is very important in weight management. Avocados are fruits that provide nutritional value to the body and support weight control. Findings of a recent study suggest a number of beneficial effects of avocado on weight management.
Consuming avocados is also associated with healthy aging. It contains compounds such as xanthophyll, which has antioxidant properties. Research studies suggest that an intake of xanthophyll may decrease signs of the aging process on various parts of your body.
Avocados contain carotenoids such as zeaxanthin and lutein, which are associated with a reduced risk of cartilage defects (the symptom of osteoarthritis). Intake of foods such as avocado and soy may help in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis. Furthermore, the levels of essential minerals in avocados are significant, including zinc, phosphorous, copper, and trace amounts of calcium and selenium. All of these are connected to lowered risks of osteoporosis and improvements in bone mineral density.
Avocados are best eaten along with other fruits and vegetables. This is due to the fact that nutrients present in fruits and vegetables get enhanced when eaten along with avocados. The absorption of carotenoid antioxidant molecules, which helps protect the body against free radical damage, increases three to five times when a salad is eaten along with avocado. Therefore, adding sliced avocado to a mixed salad is a good way to make a healthy meal even better. This makes avocado a great element as an appetizer since it prepares the digestive tract to function at its highest level during the meal to come!
Blood Glucose Level
Apart from the fruit, the leaf extracts of avocados also provide health benefits. A study conducted on non-diabetic and diabetic rats suggest that the leaf extracts may help in lowering blood glucose levels. For diabetic patients, the metabolism of starch-based foods into simple sugars like glucose can cause the spikes and plunges that are dangerous for diabetics. Fiber helps to slow the breakdown of food into usable sugars, so it is absorbed by the body in a more balanced way. Furthermore, the majority of carbohydrates in avocados are made up of 7-carbon sugars, a relatively rare form of sugar that actually inhibit the enzyme hexokinase. This helps avocados control the way that glucose is metabolized by the body, thereby protecting the overall health of diabetic patients.
Useful for Athletes
Athletes require a lot of energy and must maintain optimal nutrition to fuel their body. Avocado provides vital nutrients to athletes to maintain required energy levels and good health. Moreover, they contain phytochemicals that are a natural fuel source for your body.
Side Effects of Avocado
The side effects of consuming too much of avocado include:
- Sensitivity to light
Care must be taken and consumption of avocado should be avoided if these symptoms are experienced.
How to Select and Store Avocado?
Fresh, ripe avocados with no dark spots should be chosen. Do not refrigerate avocados unless they are ripe. If a portion of the fruit has been used then the remainder may be stored in the refrigerator for future use. Unripe avocados can be stored at room temperature.
Quick Serving Ideas
Soup: Garnish soups with chopped avocado for additional flavor and health benefits.
Fruit: Ripe avocados can be consumed directly.
Dressing: Avocados can be used for dressing food preparations of your choice.
Is avocado a fruit?
Yes, avocado is a fruit; although technically, it is a berry. Also known by the name of ‘Alligator Pear’ (a reference to its dark, rough outer skin), avocados are rich in healthy fats and are popular in many cuisines all over the world. They have numerous health benefits, both as a food and as an addition to natural skincare products.
Are avocados good for you?
Avocados are great for your health when incorporated into a balanced and healthy diet. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and are full of ‘healthy’ fats, which help keep you feeling full for longer. Avocados can be a great natural or vegan substitute for products like butter and margarine.
Is avocado a fruit or a vegetable?
Avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable but technically, it’s a type of berry. Avocados lack sweetness, which is perhaps where this confusion comes from. However, its lack of sweetness combined with its rich, creamy texture makes it a very versatile food – you can use it in any number of sweet or savory recipes.
Are avocados healthy?
Avocados are very healthy! They contain healthy fats, which your body needs. Just be aware that they are usually high in calories because they are fatty. Make sure you keep track of how much you consume; it can even be helpful to use avocado in place of less healthy fats, such as butter or margarine.
What is an avocado?
An avocado is a fruit (technically a berry), which grows on the avocado tree. It is roughly pear-shaped, with a dark and bumpy outer skin – for this reason, it is also referred to as ‘alligator pear.’ The edible portion of the avocado is the creamy flesh within, which is light-green in color, and not sweet in taste.
Are avocados bad for you?
Avocados are not bad for your health – in fact, they contain many vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that your body needs to function optimally. Their high-fat content, however, does make them energy-dense or ‘calorific’ – this means that you need to be aware of how much you consume, as is true for any fatty product you may often enjoy.
How many calories does an avocado have?
100g of avocado flesh contains around 160 calories. Avocados differ in size, and so the exact calorie content you take in will, of course, depend on how much of your avocado you choose to eat. Avocados are calorie-dense because of their fat content; however, these are healthy fats, and in moderation are really beneficial to your body.
Where do avocados come from?
Avocados originate from Mexico, where they are part of traditional recipes (such as the ubiquitous guacamole) that are popular around the world for their deliciousness and health benefits. Avocado trees need tropical or subtropical temperatures to thrive, and so are also found in other parts of the world with such climates, including India and some African countries.