Everyone loves guacamole, avocado salad, or avocados in their sandwiches. Sometimes we even have avocados added in smoothies or desserts. But how beneficial is eating avocados to our health and body? Let’s learn more about avocados and how healthy eating avocado is.
What is an avocado?
Avocado (Persea americana) or also known as alligator pears or butter fruit, is considered by most botanists as a berry fruit. Depending on the variety, avocados are medium-sized, single seed fruit with dark green bumpy or smooth skin. It has a creamy and rich texture of flesh that is deep chartreuse green in color near the skin and pale chartreuse green near the core.
Nutritional Facts of Avocado
It contains a wide variety of nutrients – 20 different vitamins and minerals such as:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
It does not contain cholesterol or sodium and is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fat is a “good” fat that, when eaten in moderation, can help lower bad cholesterol.
It also contains more potassium compared to bananas. A 3.5 ounce (or 100-gram) serving of an avocado has 14% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of potassium compared to 10% in bananas. There are several studies show that having a high potassium intake can help reduce blood pressure.
The avocado fruits are also low in sugar and relatively rich in fiber. The 25% of the fiber in avocado is soluble (easily dissolves and broken down), while 75% is insoluble.
Health Benefits of Avocado
Avocados are not only the main ingredient of your favorite guacamole or your favorite dessert. Eating avocado can bring you a lot of health benefits such as:
1. Good for the heart
Avocado is a high-fat food, 77% of its calories are from fat. And, majority of these fats are the heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids are oleic acid. These heart-healthy fats can help lower cardiovascular inflammation and have beneficial effects on cancer genes.
The avocado fruit also contains a natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol – 25 milligram per ounce. The regular consumption of beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols can significantly help in maintaining a healthy cholesterol level.
In a few controlled studies, although small and short-term, it is found out that adding avocado to your meal can help lower and maintain cholesterol levels. The findings below have been recorded.
- There is a significant reduction in the total cholesterol level.
- The blood triglycerides were reduced by up to 20%.
- LDL cholesterol decreased by up to 20%.
- HDL (good) cholesterol increased by up to 11%.
2. Good for the eyes
Eating avocados is beneficial to eye health since avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are phytochemicals that are mainly concentrated in the tissues in the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin provide antioxidant protection to help minimize eye damage, including damage from ultraviolet light.
A study shows that these phytochemicals (carotenoids) are linked to a drastically reduced risk of cataracts and macular degradation expected in older adults. The monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados support the absorption of beneficial fat-soluble antioxidants such as beta-carotene, which is good for the eyes.
3. It helps prevent and treat osteoporosis.
The nutrient that is often overlooked but is essential in supporting bone health is vitamin K. Avocados are rich in this vitamin. A half avocado can provide approximately 25% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin K. Having a diet with adequate vitamin K helps support bone health since it increases calcium absorption and reduces urinary excretion of calcium.
Avocados also contain saponins, also found in soy, associated with relieving symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.
4. It may help prevent cancer.
Researchers believe that folate protects against an undesirable mutation in DNA and RNA during cell division. An adequate intake of folate from food shows promising in protecting against cancers like colon, stomach, pancreatic and cervical.
A research found that phytochemicals extracted from avocado can selectively inhibit the growth of precancerous and cancerous cells. It can also cause cancer cells’ death while encouraging the proliferation of immune system cells called lymphocytes. A decrease in chromosomal damage caused by cyclophosphamide, a chemotherapy drug, is also associated with these phytochemicals.
Another research also found that avocado extract can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in a laboratory.
5. Lower risk of depression
According to some research, foods that contain high levels of folate may help decrease the risk of depression. Folate helps block the build-up of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is a substance that can impair circulation and delivery of nutrients to the brain and ramps up depression.
An excess in homocysteine can also prevent the production of serotonin (an essential hormone that stabilizes our mood), dopamine (a substance that our body makes and is used by the nervous system to send messages between nerve cells), and norepinephrine (both a hormone and neurotransmitter that is produced by the adrenal glands).
6. May help with weight loss and detoxification
According to a study, people who eat avocado with a meal felt more satisfied and had a lower desire to eat for the next 5 hours compared to those who didn’t. Therefore, including avocados in your diet may help you naturally eat fewer calories, making it easier to stick to a healthier eating habit.
These fruits are also high in fiber and very low in carbs; these are two attributes that should help promote weight loss. Eating foods with natural fiber like avocado can help prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and lower colon cancer risk.
Adequate fiber promotes regular bowel movements, which is crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool.
7. Can protect you from chronic diseases
A high fiber intake is not only associated with weight loss, but it can also lower the risk of developing chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases.
Not only can you take advantage of the fiber you get from eating avocados, but you can also get vitamin E. Vitamin E can lower inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation in the body can kick off many diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis.
8. Helps with a healthy pregnancy
Adequate folate intake not only lowers the risk of depression but also reduces the risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects. A woman needs at least 400 micrograms of folate a day during pregnancy to prevent congenital disabilities in the baby’s brain and spine. One avocado can give you around 41% of that needed folate.
Avocados are healthy fruit, but they also contain antimicrobial properties, particularly against Escherichia coli, a leading cause of food poisoning. So, having avocados in your meal would not only satiate your hunger but also make your body healthy. You can eat avocado as is, or you can try having them in soups, starters, or desserts. (Read for different avocado recipes).