You are what you eat!
Avocado lover? Anyone who knows me knows, I LOVE AVOCADOS! Trying to not over load on them daily is a challenge, but knowing I eat one every day keeps me healthy and refreshed!
The most common reason given for not enjoying eating avocados is because they are high in fat. Fortunately this type of outdated nutritional thinking is being replaced by an understanding that healthy fats, like those found abundantly in avocado, are vital for good health and even for losing weight.
While 100 grams of avocado usually has around 15 grams of fat, the majority of this is monounsaturated oleic acid. This is the same beneficial monounsaturated fat found in olive oil that makes it so good for your body and healthy fats, like those found abundantly in avocado, are vital for good health and even for losing weight.
Recent research has demonstrated that a diet high in oleic acid can actually reduce high levels of potentially damaging LDL cholesterol at the same time as increasing protective HDL cholesterol. In fact, eating avocado has been specifically associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and a healthier cardiovascular system.
Oleic acid has also been shown to be much more likely to be used by the body as a slow burning energy source than stored as body fat when compared to saturated fat. See the page onAvocado and Weight Loss for even more reasons why avocado and its nutrients are so good for losing weight.
Having avocado in your diet additionally helps reduce high cholesterol levels with their significant phytosterols content. Phytosterols, like beta-sitosterol found in avocados, are compounds that are structurally similar to cholesterol and can block its absorption during digestion.
Phytosterols also have anti-inflammatory properties and are believed to be useful in helping to prevent diseases of inflammation like arthritis and heart disease. There have been positive studies recently associating beta-sitosterol with an increase in the body’s immune response.
Hass avocados in particular are a good source of phytosterols, but unrefined avocado oil is even richer in these beneficial nutrients. Switching from heavily processed and pro-inflammatory cooking oils like canola oil to inflammation reducing avocado oil would be a significant step to better health for many people.
Avocado nutrition contains a broad spectrum of antioxidant carotenoids such as beta-carotene, alpha carotene and the less well known beta-cryptoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, violaxanthin, neoxanthin and neochrome. These antioxidants provide important protection for your body’s cells from free radical damage that leads to the visible signs of aging and a variety of diseases like cancer.
The strongest concentrations of these carotenoids are found just below the avocado skin, so make sure you eat as much as possible of the greener pulp there.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two other special antioxidants found in good levels in avocados. They are uniquely important for protecting the macula area of your eyes that is responsible for short range vision and detail and allowing you read the words on this screen.
Having a diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in the elderly) and cataracts later in life. Foods like butternut squash, green leafy vegetables and goji berries are also good sources.
4. Avocado Vitamins
Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant nutrient found in avocado. There is around 15 mg per cup, which is a quarter of the government’s recommended daily intake. Like most of these RDIs, this may be enough to prevent deficiency but it’s not likely to provide many health benefits.
Higher levels of vitamin C in the foods you eat will help protect against heart disease, improve circulation, boost your immunity and enhance collagen production for beautiful skin. Here’s a good list of the best vitamin C foods if you’d like to get more of it into your diet.
Vitamin E is also a strong antioxidant and, being fat soluble, is particularly beneficial for preventing cholesterol oxidation that is believed to contribute to heart attacks and strokes.
Vitamin E can also enhance your appearance by allowing your skin to retain more moisture within its epidermal layer and protecting it from free radical damage that leads to wrinkles, sagging skin and other visible signs of aging.
A cup of chopped avocado contains around 3 mg of mixed vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols. It’s in this mixed form that the nutrient has been shown to have the most health benefits and avocado vitamin E is far superior to the alpha-tocopherol found in most multivitamins.
Most B vitamins are contained in avocados but they are highest in B5 at around 1.5 mg in 100 grams (which is 15% of the recommended daily allowance), B6 at close to 0.4 milligrams (which is 19% of the RDA) and folic acid at more than 120 mcg (which is 30% of the recommended intake).
All of the B vitamins are important for good health but natural folate can be particularly hard to get from foods. This is because so many of the supermarket foods we eat have it processed out of them.
Research shows that folic acid reduces homocysteine levels in the blood (a consistent marker for cardiovascular disease) and people with a good intake of this nutrient have a considerably lower risk of developing heart disease.
Folate is necessary for proper cellular growth and regeneration and is believed to have a role in preventing Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer. This nutritional element is also very important for pregnant women to prevent fetal deformities in unborn babies. Alongside avocado, green leafy vegetables, broccoli and beans and some of the best sources.
Vitamin K is found in avocados at around a third of the recommended daily intake for one cup of the fresh fruit. This vital nutrient is involved in blood clotting, building healthy bones and proper calcium metabolism and deficiency in it can be a factor in a wide variety of diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Other high sources of vitamin K include parsley, spinach, kale and other leafy greens.
5. Minerals in Avocado
Like most fruit and vegetables, the mineral content of avocados can vary significantly depending on the soil they are grown in. While avocados are not a crop usually associated with pesticide problems due to their thick outer skin, there is another reason why you may choose to buy organic avocados where possible.
Organic produce is usually grown in better soils that haven’t been so depleted of minerals by intensive conventional farming. The majority of comparisons I’ve read on organic versus conventional produce shows a higher (often significantly higher) mineral content for organically produced fruits and vegetables.
While amounts will vary, the highest levels of minerals in avocado on a recommended daily allowance basis are usually for manganese, copper, magnesium and potassium with lower but still useful levels of phosphorus, zinc, iodine, calcium and iron.
6. Dietary Fiber
While it doesn’t taste like most high fibre foods, avocado is a good source of dietary fibre with approximately 8 grams per cup. This fibre content is primarily insoluble fibre for improving your digestion with some soluble fibre from regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol.
The fibre in avocados, along with their healthy fats and essential avocado nutrients, is why they tend to fill you up so well and reduce hunger and cravings much more than quickly digested foods like grains or sugary fruits.
Protein - an average avocado contains around 4 grams of protein, which is much more than most other fruits.
Sugar - avocado's sugar content is low compared to other fruits. Half an avocado contains approximately 0.2 g of sugar.
Vitamins and minerals - avocados are an excellent source of potassium (containing more per weight than bananas). In addition, avocados are rich in vitamin K, Vitamin B9, vitamin B6, vitamin B5 vitamin C, and vitamin E.2
Dietary fiber - a medium avocado contains 11 grams of fiber, which is close to half of the daily recommended minimum intake.3