Avocados are unique. While most fruits are high in carbs, these are high in healthy fats. This is why flaunting avocados on one’s toast or smoothie have become a trendy affair (almost). But there’s more to avocados than what most of us know.
Avocado is scientifically called Persea americana. It originated in Southern Mexico and Columbia about 7,000 years ago. As time passed, the English colonists nicknamed avocados as alligator pears (for their characteristic green scaly skin and pear shape).
Today, this fruit is available in over 80 varieties (from pear-shaped to round and from green to black). Among them, Hass avocado is the most popular.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, avocados are one of the few foods without any assigned GI (glycemic index) values. This is because they contain very little carbohydrates, and it is highly unlikely anyone would be able to eat so many avocados to consume even 25 grams of carbohydrates.
How Can Avocados Benefit You?
1. Promote Heart Health
Avocado consumption was associated with an increase in serum levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) – which can have a positive impact on heart health. We need more long-term trials to validate this, though.
Another report suggests that making avocados a part of your regular diet can lower LDL levels and cut the risk of cardiovascular disease. The monounsaturated fats in the fruit can be responsible for this.
Eating avocados is a healthy way of treating hyperlipidemia, without having any negative effects on HDL cholesterol (which is often the case with low-saturated fat diets).
Studies show that ripe avocados are better. As the fruits ripen, their saturated fat content decreases while the levels of oleic acid (the monounsaturated fatty acid) increase. The fruits contain potassium too, which helps regulate blood pressure levels. This further results in improved heart health.
2. Aid Cancer Treatment
Avocados contain avocatin B, a specific lipid, which was found to fight leukemia stem cells that may cause a rare and deadly form of cancer.
In another study, an avocado extract had inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells. This has been attributed to the monounsaturated fats in the fruit – which, along with other phytochemicals, can contribute to reduced cancer risk.
Phytochemicals in avocados were also found to inhibit cancer cell growth and induce apoptosis (cell death) in precancerous and cancer cell lines.
Another report states that these phytochemicals can be considered as appropriate complementary treatments for esophageal and colon cancers.
3. Help With Weight Loss
Studies show that body weight, waist circumference, and BMI are significantly lower in individuals who consume avocados regularly. This can mean a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome as well – thanks to the presence of monounsaturated fatty acids and, more importantly, dietary fiber.
Avocado extracts also exhibited hypolipidemic activity, which, as per studies, can reduce the risk of obesity. Avocados are also replete with monounsaturated fatty acids, which were found to have positive effects on weight maintenance, appetite sensations, and energy metabolism.
4. Avocados Boost Vision
Lutein and zeaxanthin and other carotenoids are essential for boosting vision health. These compounds are found to prevent age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and other forms of eye diseases.
Interestingly, studies show that the addition of avocado to one’s diet can enhance the absorption of these carotenoids. This ultimately helps boost eye health.
Avocado intake was also associated with an increased macular pigment density in older adults. The macular pigment has a role in visual function as it acts as a blue light filter. The fruit is also rich in vitamin E, another essential antioxidant for eye health.
Avocados also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two powerful carotenoids that contribute to eye health.
5. May Enhance Cognitive Function
The monounsaturated fats in avocados can promote cognitive function. The cognition-enhancing effects of the fruit can also be attributed to vitamin E. The antioxidant nutrient was found to reduce cognitive decay in the elderly.
Studies also suggest that vitamin E can offer the greatest antioxidant protection against Alzheimer’s disease. Avocados, being a good source of this nutrient, can play an important role here.
6. Improve Bone Health
Raw avocados contain boron, a mineral that may enhance calcium absorption and benefit bones.
Avocados are also rich in vitamin K, which has an important role in bone health. The nutrient boosts bone formation and also offers osteoprotective benefits.
Avocados can have a role to play in treating arthritis as well. Research shows that the monounsaturated fats in this fruit have anti-inflammatory potential. The vitamin E in the fruit also has anti-inflammatory properties. These characteristics of avocados can make them one of the foods that help manage arthritis.
7. Promote Digestive Health
The fiber in avocados gets the credit here. They also contain potassium, which is known to promote healthy digestion. As avocados are low in fructose, they are also less likely to cause stomach gas.
Avocados are also a preferred food to combat diarrhea. The potassium they contain helps replenish the lost electrolytes. You may sprinkle some salt over avocados – for an additional dash of sodium in the event of diarrhea.
8. May Aid Diabetes Treatment
Though avocados have comparatively more calories, they are also replete with fiber and essential fats (and low on carbs) – so this may make them one of the ideal foods for diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the type of fat you consume is more important than its amount. The association recommends eating more of monounsaturated fat, citing avocado as one of the best foods in this regard. It also strongly recommends people with diabetes to include avocados in their diet.
The fiber in avocados plays a role too. Multiple studies show that fiber can lower fasting blood sugar levels in diabetes patients.
Despite the research, we recommend you check with your doctor before adding avocados to your diabetes diet. They are high in calories as well, and that character may have different impacts on different diabetes patients.
9. May Help Fight Wrinkles
The essential fatty acids (EFAs) in avocados may delay signs of skin aging. EFAs are important for the synthesis of tissue lipids. They may also inhibit wrinkle formation.
Rat studies show that intake of avocado oil may boost total collagen content in the skin. This was attributed to specific active factors that were present in the avocado seed.
Avocado oil has also been used for wound healing in addition to treating wrinkles.
10. Might Be Useful To Treat Psoriasis
Avocado oil has also been used in treating psoriasis. In one study, a vitamin B12 cream containing avocado oil was found to be quite effective in treating psoriasis.
The monounsaturated fats in the fruit can fight inflammation and may hence also aid in psoriasis treatment.
11. May Promote Hair Health
The vitamin E in avocados may strengthen hair and promote hair growth. Vitamin E also helps repair damage on the scalp, which can lead to decelerated hair growth.
What Is The Nutrition Profile Of Avocados?
Here are some of the most abundant nutrients, in a single 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving:
- Vitamin K: 26% of the daily value (DV)
- Folate: 20% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 17% of the DV
- Potassium: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin B5: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 10% of the DV
It also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin).
This is coming with 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. Although it contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of those are fiber, so there are only 2 “net” carbs, making this a low-carb friendly plant food.
How To Include Avocados In Your Diet
Avocados are versatile. Though we are used to seeing the fruits spread on toast or tossed into salads or smoothies, these alligator pears go with almost anything. You can include them in soups or desserts or even have them as it is (with a pinch of salt and pepper, of course!)
You can also consume avocados in any of the following ways:
- Add avocado to your morning scrambled eggs.
- Replace mayonnaise with avocado to make chicken, tuna, or egg salads.
- Grill avocados and make them a wonderful side dish for barbecued meats.
- Use pickled avocados in your salads or sandwiches.
- Deep fry avocados and enjoy these avocado fries with different dipping sauces (like mustard or ketchup).
- Prepare avocado ice cream! Combine avocado, milk, lime juice, cream and sugar.
- Add avocados to your breakfast pancakes.
Do Avocados Have Side Effects?
Not many. But you must be aware of them nonetheless.
- May Cause Weight Gain
- Avocados are high in fat. Eating too many of them can lead to weight gain. Make sure to control your intake.
- Latex Allergy
- Individuals who are sensitive to latex may have an allergic reaction to avocados. Hence, such people should avoid avocados.
Flaunting avocados on your breakfast toast now has a purpose! This fruit is replete with powerful nutrients and is worth making an important part of your diet.