A unique member of the fruit family, avocado is rich in healthful fats, rather than high in carbohydrates as most other fruits are.
The avocado tree (Persea Americana) yields a different sort of fruit that’s loaded with fiber and nutrients. (1) The soft yellowish-green flesh is most well-known as the main ingredient of guacamole, and the bioactive phytochemicals it delivers are impressive (2), making it an excellent choice for bumping up dietary sources of antioxidants.
Avocados have been called the “alligator pear” because of the shape and bumpy green skin; they can range from light to dark green, sometimes appearing nearly black. Small avocados might weigh only a half-pound with skin and seed intact, while large ones can weigh up to 3 pounds.
Here are 8 benefits you can cash in on if you include avocados in your diet.
- Get 20 Different Vitamins and Minerals in One Neat Package
A single serving of avocado (3.5 ounces or 100 grams) contains an assortment of micronutrients that can put a dent in the RDA for 7 different vitamins and minerals. (3)
- 10% of the RDA for vitamin E
- 13% of the RDA for vitamin B6
- 14% of the RDA for vitamin B5
- 14% of the RDA for potassium
- 17 % of the RDA for vitamin C
- 20% of the RDA for folate
- 26% of the RDA for vitamin K
Add these vitamins and minerals to the list at smaller amounts: vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin A, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, manganese and magnesium.
At 160 calories, a serving of avocado also delivers 15 grams of exquisite fat and 2 protein grams; 7 of the 9 carbs are fiber, so it’s easy to include avocado in low-carb diets.
- More Potassium Than Bananas
Most people don’t get enough potassium, especially if they’re eating a diet heavy on sodium. Low potassium levels can contribute to high blood pressure, a known marker for increasing the risk of developing heart disease. (4)
Potassium performs vital functions in the body, including the regulation of electrical activity. Making certain you eat foods high in potassium may help drop blood pressure, as well as decreasing the chance of suffering a stroke or kidney failure. (5)
While bananas are considered high in potassium, a serving only provides 10% of the RDA, while a comparable amount of avocado weighs in at 14%.
- Rich in Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
At 77% caloric content derived from fat, avocado is one of the fattiest plant foods on the planet. Most of the fat is oleic acid, the very same fatty acid found in olive oil.
Researchers believe oleic acid may be the reason olive oil imparts so many health benefits, which include the taming of inflammation. Oleic acid has also been shown to have positive effects on the genes associated with a higher risk for developing cancer. (6, 7, 8)
Avocado oil is fairly resistant to oxidization when subjected to high heat, so it’s a good choice for cooking.
- Excellent Source of Fiber
Adequate fiber intake is also strongly associated with lowering the risk of chronic disorders like heart disease. (11)
A serving of avocado provides 7 grams of fiber, more than a quarter of the RDA. A quarter of this is insoluble fiber (12), which feeds friendly intestinal bacteria. Cultivating good gut health is important to insure optimal physical and mental function. (13)
- Reduce Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
More people die of heart disease worldwide than any other cause. High cholesterol readings, along with elevated triglyceride measurements, are among the most common markers known to raise the risk of developing heart disease, and eating avocados can help normalize both. (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
Eight separate randomized trials compared test results for people who included avocados in their diet against those who didn’t. Here’s how the number changed for the avocado-eating groups:
- Significant drops in total cholesterol
- Up to 20% reduction in blood triglycerides
- Lower levels of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” kind, to the tune of 22% in some participants
- Higher levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” kind, by more than 10% for some
These were all small, short-term studies, but show great promise for improving vital markers in heart health.
- Better Absorption of Nutrients in Plant Foods
Eating avocado (or using avocado oil) can boost the amount of antioxidants and other nutrients the body can absorb from foods like salad vegetables and salsa; improved absorption rates in one test ranged from 2.6 to 15 times more. (21)
Antioxidant carotenoids, along with vitamins A, D, E and K, are examples of fat-soluble nutrients that are better absorbed when eaten with a healthy fat like avocado; using this strategy can help you make certain you get the most from your veggies.
- Protects Eyesight
Getting enough of these two antioxidants is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing cataracts, as well as suffering from macular degeneration. (24, 25)
- Other Potential Benefits
Laboratory experiments indicate avocado extract can slow down the growth of prostate cancer (26), and patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment report fewer side effects when they include avocado in their diets. (27)
Avocado oil also shows promise in reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis. (28)
When it comes to supporting weight loss, the high fiber/low carb profile of avocados seems to promote satiation; one study showed people who ate avocados felt more satisfied after meals, and experienced less desire to eat over the following 5 hours. (29)
Even if you consider avocados a splurge when it comes to calories and fat content, the benefits you can reap from including them in your diet are well worth it.
Summary: Avocados are among the most beneficial fruits you’ll find in the produce section of the supermarket; you can’t go wrong stocking them in your healthy kitchen.