We’ve all heard of the old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but can you say the same about avocados? Are avocados good for you?
When I started eating avocados, my go to was chips and guacamole. I love a mild spice added at my favorite Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn. In recent years, avocados have received a bad rep for containing a lot of fats; but did you know that modern research proves avocados to be a leading super fruit?
Avocados are one of the leading fruits that contain phytochemicals. It is said that the additive and synergistic effects of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are responsible for their potent antioxidant and anticancer activities.
We will touch base on phytochemicals a little later on. With so much confusion on whether or not avocados are healthy for you, I wanted to do some research to help you decide how many avocados you should be eating and for what reasons.
Before we take a look at the health benefits of avocados and reasons why they should be incorporated into you nutrition each day, let’s get a little background on what avocados really are.
What are Avocados?
Avocados are a fruit, not a vegetable. They actually grow on an avocado tree and contain seeds on the inside, where as vegetables do not. After researching for this post, I actually found out that a tomato is a fruit too!
There are three distinct races of avocados:
- Mexican — these avocados are usually small with thin, smooth skins.
- Guatemalan — this race has skins that are thick, hard, brittle and, warty.
- West Indian — these have shiny skins that are thin to medium in thickness.
Even though there are different races of avocado fruits, there are hundreds of different types with about seven varieties grown in California. The Haas avocado is the most popular; amounting to 95% of all avocados in the United States.
When choosing the right avocado fruit in the supermarket, be sure to look for only the ripest. The perfect avocado texture is silky smooth, and the flavor is rich and nutty.
Let’s take a look at some health benefits and avocado nutrition facts, shall we?
Cardiovascular Disease Prevention
Even though avocados are high in fat, and I am referring to the good fats, this fruit actually helps contribute to a heart healthy diet. In my previous post, “6 Sweet Healthy Dessert Recipes You Must Devour” I touched a little bit on these three types of fats and their health benefits.
Avocados are rich in mono-saturated fats, in fact 71% to be exact. According to the CDC the leading cause of death in men is heart disease. One of the leading causes of this is high blood pressure which puts a lot of stress on the walls of your blood vessels. By incorporating a low sodium and high fruit diet, this can help lower your blood pressure.
Avocado fruits contain a low amount of sodium and a high volume of potassium. Potassium is a mineral that helps your muscles contract, regulate fluids and mineral balance in and out-of-body cells, as well as maintaining a healthy blood pressure by diminishing the effects of sodium.
In 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported that Americans are actually falling short of the recommended daily amounts of potassium of 1600 – 2000 mg/day. 1 cup of avocados contain 708 mg of potassium which is almost half of the daily recommended amount!
A study last year was covered by NPR that showed the effects avocados had on lowering cholesterol levels. The study took 45 overweight individuals and split them up in three different groups. The groups consisted of three different types of cholesterol lowering diets.
One diet consisted of lots of:
- Low fat dairy
- A little bit of red meats
- Whole grains
As for the other two diets, they consisted of:
- More fats, with 34% of their total daily calories coming from fats
One of the diets contained a daily serving of avocados and one did not contain avocados at all. These diets were similar to the first one but contained more oils and nuts.
Towards the end of the study, the diet that contained an avocado a day almost doubled the lowering effect on cholesterol compared to the other two diets. The avocado diet lowered LDL cholesterol about 14 mg/dL of blood. The low-fat diet had a decrease of about 7 mg/dL and the conservative fat diet was lowered by about a 8 mg/dL.
Science shows that adding an avocado a day can definitely have a significant impact on lowering your cholesterol levels.
No one wants to grow old and wrinkly, but it is a natural progression of life as our skin ages and is damaged over the years. Avocados have been shown to help improve the health and tone of your skin and eliminate signs of premature aging.
These super fruits contain many vitamins and minerals associated with improving the skin epidermis by boosting collagen formation. Our skin ages through a process of oxidation. It is determined by a variable predominance of tissue degeneration over tissue regeneration.
Antioxidants that are found in avocados and other foods help neutralize this process and fight off free radicals — dangerous molecules said to have a hand in everything from aging to heart disease and cancer.
One powerful antioxidant to help fight free radicals is named glutathione. It is nicknamed the “master antioxidant” because it has the ability to regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E. This powerful antioxidant is healthy for your skin, and has been reported to have anti-carcinogenic properties.
Glutathione helps fight skin oxidation on a cellular level which results in healthier looking skin and slows down the aging process.
Phytochemicals and Cancer Fighting
When it comes to being healthy and staying healthy, avocados can offer a nice balance. Such a nice balance, that even cancer can’t compete with the deliciousness of Hass avocados.
Good avocados are rich in nutrients such as vitamins K, E, C, and B, along with potassium and other nutrients that are necessary for good health. Some of the most important ingredients that avocados contain are:
- Phytochemicals — fat soluble carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin)
- Vitamin E
- Glutathione (GPx)
- Oleic acid
- fat soluble carotenoid called a phytochemical
Avocados are omnipotent with all of these comprehensive cancer fighting antioxidants and vitamins that it only makes sense to eat one each day.
Looking at the phytochemicals, carotenoids, science shows numerous research of how they slow the growth rate of cancer cells.
In a study of more than 47,000 patients, those with the highest lycopene intake had a risk of prostate cancer that was 21% lower than those with the lowest lycopene intake. Hass avocados were found to have the highest amount of lutein among any other fruits or vegetables.
Lutein, which is a fat soluble carotenoid called a phytochemical, amounts to 70% of the carotenoids that are present in avocados. Research has shown that these phytochemicals extracted from avocados can help constrain the growth of different types of precancerous and cancerous cells. These carotenoids have been shown to inhibit the growth of the cancer cells responsible for prostate cancer.
Not only are the nutrients in avocados good for fighting off cancer cells, these little phytochemicals in avocados help boost the generation of your immune system cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are important because they bind to antigens and remove them from your body to keep you felling good.
These small little phytochemicals pack a big punch when it comes to staying healthy!
With about 35% of Americans being overweight and obese (according to the CDC), it seems as if there needs to be a new weight loss strategy. You probably would not think eating fats would help you lose weight. Surprisingly, there are actually good fats that can help you lose and manage your weight better, and avocados are a great source of these good fats.
Previous studies have shown that avocados can lower cholesterol and have beneficial effects on cardio‐metabolic risk factors that extend beyond their heart‐healthy fatty acid profile.
One of these benefits is that avocados contain oleic acid. This compound is found in avocados’ mono-saturated fats that actually triggers your body to quiet hunger. Oleic acid is one of the major sources of energy for your cells.
In a study that was published in the Nutrition Journal, they found a 40% decrease in desire to eat anything 3 hours after lunch, and a 28% decrease in desire to eat anything 5 hours after lunch when including a half of an avocado during their meal.
Nikki Ford, the director of nutrition at the Hass Avocado Board said:
“These results further complement our research efforts in weight management and diabetes, as well as our continued work to explore the many benefits that fresh avocados have to offer when consumed in everyday healthy eating plans.”
Stick to a quarter or a half of a Hass avocado each day and watch that belly fat melt away.
Changing your diet to start eating healthier not only allows you to lose weight but also feel better. When I say “feel better” I mean, you can actually help mitigate some pains by eating the correct foods. Avocados have anti-inflammatory properties to help alleviate some pains.
Avocados are polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAs). These PFAs are usually found in seaweeds and other ocean plants but provide our bodies with anti-inflammatory benefits to combat certain diseases. In fact, avocados can help prevent both osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
A study from 2014 shows that eating avocados helps prevent pro-inflammatory prostaglandin E2 synthesis within the connective tissues in our body. Basically this means, avocados can relieve OA pain; stimulate cartilage repair; and lower a patient’s need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
This property that avocados have helps reduce inflammation in the joints of those people who experience arthritis and gout.
Whether or not you have good or bad vision doesn’t necessarily mean that you have good or poor eye health. I was under this impression until I started doing my research.
Whether or not you know you have good or bad eye health, why not make them healthier by incorporating avocados into your daily diet?
We have talked a lot about carotenoids throughout this article and their importance to our health. It comes at no surprise that these little guys are a powerhouse of nutrition for our bodies.
When we discuss eye health, carotenoids, once again, play a particular role in our health. Particularly they play an important role in maintaining healthy vision. According to the American Optometric Association, lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and act as antioxidants in the eye.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are essential for eye health, but our bodies can’t produce them on their own. With the help of avocados, you can’t go wrong helping make your eyes healthier.
In June of 2006, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science released a study that showed people who had a high zeaxanthin intake (>0.09 μM) in their diet had a 75% decreased risk in developing cataracts compared to a low zeaxanthin intake (>0.04 μM). Globally, this number was a 43% decreased risk of developing cataracts compared to those who had a low zeaxanthin intake (>0.04 μM).
By eating avocados on a regular basis, you decrease your chances of macular degeneration and cataracts by increasing your overall eye health.
Pregnancy and Preventing Birth Defects
Avocados are extremely high in nutrients such as fiber, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin B6. One nutrient I want to touch on is folate.
Folate (vitamin B9) is also extremely important for a healthy pregnancy, with adequate intake reducing the risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects. Studies have also shown that fruits and vegetables that contain folate may also protect against preterm birth.
Avocados contain more folate (also called folic acid) per ounce than any other fruit, with 45 micrograms per half cup.
Getting the right amounts of folate during your first trimester is extremely important because your baby’s central nervous system is formed during this time. Dr. Joseph Hersh, M.D., from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, says
“folic acid has been shown to lower the risk of birth defects.”
Recent analysis from McGill University found that there was a 30% higher incidence of many different birth defects in baby mice who were conceived using sperm from mice who had a folate deficiency compared to sperm from mice without a folate deficiency.
Pregnant women and women trying to conceive should take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. A good idea would be to get as much of this from foods first rather than supplements.
Avocados have been known to help fight morning sickness and help your baby’s brain and tissue growth.
As you can see, eating this simple fruit, avocados have numerous health benefits that can prevent a lot of complications.
Potential Health Risks of Consuming Avocados
When it comes to your health you must look at your diet as a whole. Your health comes from your overall dieting patterns which can help prevent certain diseases and achieve wonderful health. In order to achieve good health, you must focus on a diet with variety. The key to good health is not to focus on one group of foods, but many.
One thing I found during my research was a precaution to take when adding avocados to your daily diet. If you are taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin), it is important that you do not suddenly begin to eat more or less foods containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting. Avocados contain vitamin K so be sure to ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
How do you like to eat your avocados? What are your favorite avocado recipes? If you have any great avocado recipes please share them with us below in the comments.