Avocado has snagged a spot as one of the world’s healthiest superfoods — and for good reason. In addition to being delicious and easy to enjoy, avocados also contain a hearty dose of important nutrients, such as fiber, healthy fats, potassium and vitamin K. There are also several avocado benefits, with research suggesting that avocados could help enhance heart health, boost weight loss and keep your digestive tract running smoothly.
So are avocados healthy for you? And how can you start adding this flavorful food to your diet? Keep reading for more fun avocado facts and avocado benefits, along with some simple recipe ideas to help get you going.
What Are Avocados?
Avocados are nutritious fruit that originated in Mexico but are now cultivated around the globe. The avocado tree, also known as Persea americana, is a member of the laurel family and can grow between 30–40 feet tall. It has greenish-yellow flowers and produces a single-seeded berry known as the avocado.
There are several different types of avocados, each of which is actually a different cultivar of the avocado plant. The Hass avocado is the most popular variety, but there are several other less-common kinds available as well, including Bacon, Lula, Pinkerton, Fuerte and Gwen avocados.
Is avocado a fruit or a vegetable?
Although it’s used as a vegetable in the culinary world, avocados are actually a fruit. They are great in both savory and sweet dishes.
The fruit itself is typically characterized by a dark outer peel with smooth green flesh inside and a large pit in the middle. It has a mild taste and creamy texture that works well in many different dishes and recipes, ranging from chicken avocado salad to avocado chocolate pudding and beyond.
In addition to being highly versatile, the nutritional value of avocado is also off the charts. Not only does it top the high-potassium foods list, but it’s also a great source of fiber, healthy fats and bone-boosting vitamin K. No wonder there are so many avocado benefits.
Avocados are jam-packed with nutrients. Although each serving does contain a good amount of avocado calories, it’s also rich in fiber, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C and potassium, along with a good chunk of heart-healthy fats and minimal avocado carbs.
So how many calories are in an avocado?
One raw, California avocado without the skin and seed (about 136 grams) contains approximately:
- 227 calories
- 11.8 grams carbohydrates
- 2.7 grams protein
- 21 grams fat
- 9.2 grams fiber
- 28.6 micrograms vitamin K (36 percent DV)
- 121 micrograms folate (30 percent DV)
- 12 milligrams vitamin C (20 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligrams vitamin B6 (20 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams pantothenic acid (20 percent DV)
- 689 milligrams potassium (20 percent DV)
- 2.7 milligrams vitamin E (13 percent DV)
- 2.6 milligrams niacin (13 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams copper (12 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams riboflavin (11 percent DV)
- 39.4 milligrams magnesium (10 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams manganese (10 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram thiamine (7 percent DV)
- 73.4 milligrams phosphorus (7 percent DV)
- 0.9 milligrams zinc (6 percent DV)
- 0.8 milligrams iron (5 percent DV)
- 200 international units vitamin A (4 percent DV)
In addition, this fruit also contains some omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, choline, betaine, calcium and selenium.
What are the benefits of eating avocado? Here are the top nine health benefits of avocado.
1. Improves Heart Health
Avocados (and especially avocado oil) promote heart health by balancing blood lipids. In terms of its chemical composition, the avocado fat content is about 71 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, 13 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids and 16 percent saturated fatty acids. Diets that are moderately high in healthy fats — especially monounsaturated fat, or MUFAs — are known to block plaque buildup in the arteries more effectively than diets high in insulin-spiking carbohydrates. In addition to their fat content, the fiber in avocado and the presence of beta-sitosterol compounds, magnesium and potassium may also help reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
There is a growing body of clinical studies exploring why healthy sources of fat are so important to maintaining heart health. For example, researchers from Mexico administered an avocado-enriched diet to both healthy adults and people with high cholesterol and examined the results. After just one week, it was discovered that when healthy people with normal lipid levels ate avocados their total cholesterol levels dropped 16 percent. The results observed in the high-cholesterol group were even more profound. Not only did total cholesterol drop 17 percent, but so did LDLs (22 percent) and triglycerides (22 percent), while their levels of good HDL cholesterol actually increased by 11 percent.
2. Reduces Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Some research suggests that eating avocados could be associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome in U.S. adults. Metabolic syndrome is a term for a cluster of conditions that increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Some other avocado health benefits include help with high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and excess belly fat.
One study published in Nutrition Journal evaluated the eating habits of 17,567 U.S. adults over a seven-year period. Researchers found that people who ate avocados regularly tended to have a more balanced and better quality diet than non-avocado consumers, plus a higher intake of fruits, veggies, healthy fats fat and fiber. Consumption of avocados was also tied to a lower body weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, as well as higher levels of good HDL cholesterol. Researchers also found that those who ate the avocados were 50 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome than non-consumers.
3. Supports Eye, Skin and Hair Health
Why is avocado good for your skin? Rich in fat-soluble vitamins and monounsaturated fats, avocado benefits also include glowing skin, bright eyes and shiny hair both when eaten or used topically. Truth be told, avocado benefits for skin include possibly being nature’s best moisturizer, especially considering their price tag and that they’re completely free from added synthetic chemicals.
Avocados are high-antioxidant foods that contain lutein, a type of carotenoid that protects eye health and preserves healthy, youthful-looking skin and hair. Carotenoids are a group of antioxidant phytochemicals found in veggies like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes that are known for blocking the effects of environmental toxins like pollution and UV light damage. Research shows that dietary carotenoids provide health benefits related to disease prevention, particularly certain cancers of the skin and age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration. Lutein appears to be beneficial for eye health because it absorbs the type of damaging blue light rays that enter the eyes and skin, changing DNA and causing free radical damage. Research also shows that adding avocado to a meal can help boost carotenoid absorption.
To promote a healthy, shining complexion, simply rub the inside of an avocado peel on your skin and use avocado oil as your primary moisturizer. Mix in some therapeutic essential oils and you can easily make a cost-effective lotion instead of pouring out money for that store-bought stuff filled with irritating chemicals. You can also use this fruit for hair masks to replenish, moisturize and add shine.
4. Fights Cancer Cell Growth
Several studies have surfaced recently touting avocados as cancer-fighting foods. The Journal of Nutrition and Cancer published the results of an in vitro study, for instance, claiming that the phytochemicals in avocados are so powerful that they could help kill off oral cancer cells. Researchers from Ohio State University have taken this theory one step further to attempt to figure out exactly how this phenomenon happens. A preliminary study published in 2011 suggests that the specific phytonutrient combination found within each avocado may hold the key to its anticancer effects. Research shows that phytochemicals extracted from avocados help induce cell cycle arrest, inhibit growth and promote apoptosis in precancerous and cancer cell lines. Studies indicate that avocado phytochemicals extracted with 50 percent methanol help in proliferation of human lymphocyte cells and decrease chromosomal changes.
Another reason that avocados are being linked to reduced risks for both cancer and diabetes is their content of monounsaturated fatty acids. These have been shown to offer better protection against chronic disease compared to other types of fatty acids because of their ability to lower inflammation. Beta-sitosterol, another compound found in avocados, is also highly protective of the prostate and linked to better immune function and lower prostate cancer risk.
5. Promotes Weight Loss
Do avocados make you gain weight, or do avocados burn belly fat? Contrary to what most people believe, diets lower in carbohydrates and higher in healthy fats are known to accelerate weight loss — so if you are looking to lose weight fast, avocados are your friend. Fats are super filling and increase satiety hormones that help you eat less overall. They also allow you to go longer between meals without getting hungry to help prevent overeating, snacking and sugar addiction. That’s one reason why increasing MUFAs in the diet is related to better weight management and healthier BMI status.
Ever eat a big salad without much dressing, nuts or avocado and feel hungry within a couple hours? That’s because low-fat diets tend to leave you unsatisfied and pose other risks like nutrient malabsorption, insulin spikes, reproductive problems and mood-related issues. Researchers in charge of a 2005 study sought out to dispel the myth that avocados are fattening and therefore should be avoided in energy-restricted diets. They examined the effects of avocados, a rich source of calories coming from monounsaturated fatty acids, as part of an energy-restricted diet.
They found that consumption of 30 grams a day of fat from avocado within an energy-restricted diet didn’t compromise weight loss at all when substituted for 30 grams a day of mixed dietary fats. The diet high in avocados resulted in significant weight loss in addition to other health improvements. Measurements including body mass, body mass index and percentage of body fat decreased significantly in both groups during the study, but only the avocado group experienced positive changes in fatty acid blood serum levels, demonstrating that there are clearly avocado benefits for weight loss.
6. Enhances Digestive Health
As you now know, avocados are one of the best fruit sources of fiber. Depending on the size of the avocado, one whole fruit contains between 11–17 grams of fiber, which is more than nearly any other fruit and most servings of vegetables, grains and beans too. High-fiber foods are important for anyone with digestive tract issue because fiber helps shift the balance of bacteria in the gut, increasing healthy bacteria while decreasing the unhealthy bacteria that can be the root of some digestive disorders. Fiber also helps add bulk to stool, supports regularity, and helps pull waste and toxins through the intestines and colon.
Fats are also essential for digestion and nutrient absorption because they nourish the lining of the gut. A low-fat diet can result in constipation or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by abdominal pain and change in bowel habits.
7. Protects Against Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
According to multiple studies, following a MUFA-rich diet can improve fasting insulin levels in insulin-resistant subjects. Eating plenty of MUFA-dense foods may also help decrease blood sugar levels and insulin concentrations for hours compared with carbohydrate-rich meals. Consumption of dietary MUFAs promotes healthy blood lipid profiles, mediates blood pressure, improves insulin sensitivity and regulates glucose levels, all while preventing obesity and oxidative damage to the cells.
8. Boosts Mood
Fatty acids play an important role in regulating central nervous system functions and cognitive processes because they impact neurotransmitter levels and help balance hormones naturally. As a consequence, your mood can also improve when you eat enough healthy fats. That means you can add mental well-being aid to the list of avocado benefits.
While studies suggest that consuming trans fats may be linked with a higher risk of depression, the opposite is true of natural MUFAs. In other words, higher-fat diets might lower depression, anxiety and other mental disorder risks because they facilitate proper thought processing, hormone production and stress reduction mechanisms within the brain.
9. Decreases Arthritis Symptoms
Arthritis is a common condition characterized by joint pain and swelling. According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis affects up to 50 million adults and 300,000 children around the world. Some studies suggest that avocado benefits certain symptoms of arthritis. In fact, several studies show that specific compounds extracted from avocado oil may help decrease symptoms of osteoarthritis, which is considered the most common form of arthritis.
How to Select and Store Avocados
Widely available at most grocery stores in the produce section, finding avocados has become pretty simple. What’s a bit more challenging, however, is picking out a good one from your local supermarket.
When picking a fresh avocado, first make sure the it is ripe. There are plenty of different methods for how to tell if an avocado is ripe, but the best way is to simply squeeze it, which should give a firm, but gentle, yield to pressure. Ripe avocado can be stored in the refrigerator for several days until ready for use. If it’s not fully ripe, there are several options for how to ripen an avocado as well. The easiest way is to set it on the counter to let it ripen at room temperature over a period of several days.
If the avocado is cut, try sprinkling the exposed flesh with lemon juice or another acid to help keep it fresher for longer. Be sure to cover or wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for around a day or two.
Wondering how to cut an avocado before using it in your favorite recipes? Start by using a knife to cut the avocado in half. Because of the large avocado pit in the middle of the fruit, it usually works best to rotate the fruit as you cut to ensure you’re slicing all the way around. Next, twist the two halves, which should help you easily separate the two.
You can remove the avocado seed by carefully tapping the pit with the knife, securing it firmly into the seed. Then simply twist the fruit, which should help the pit break away evenly.
You can cut the avocado flesh while it’s still in the skin and then use a spoon to scoop out the slices. Alternatively, you can also scoop the flesh out using a spoon and then cut into wedges or slices on a cutting board instead.
Recipes and Uses
There are plenty of avocado recipe ideas out there, with new and creative ways to incorporate this superfood into your daily diet. Here are a few ideas for how to eat avocado in order to take advantage of the host of avocado benefits:
- Use it as a fat replacement in baking to add a tasty twist to avocado brownies
- Dice it as a nice topping for avocado soup or bone broth
- Put it in the food processor to make an avocado smoothie, avocado sauce, chocolate avocado pudding or countless other recipes
- Mash or whip it until completely smooth for a baby’s first food instead of processed food in a Gerber jar
- Mix it with other veggies to make a tasty avocado salad
- Use it to make homemade guacamole or avocado salsa
- Top off your favorite dishes — think avocado pasta, avocado sandwich or avocado chicken salad
- Put it on your skin as a natural moisturizer or use it to make a soothing avocado hair mask
Need some ideas to help get you going? Here are a few simple avocado recipes that you can try out to get avocado benefits in your diet:
- Sweet Avocado Ice Cream
- Creamy Cilantro Lime Avocado Salad Dressing
- Vegan Avocado Toast Recipe
- Asparagus and Avocado Egg Benedict
- Avocado Chocolate Mousse
Risks and Side Effects
When consumed in moderation, avocado can be a nutritious and delicious addition to a balanced diet. However, there are some people who may need to limit their consumption of this superstar fruit.
For example, those with kidney problems are often advised to follow a low-potassium diet. That’s because eating high amounts can cause potassium levels to rise in the body when the kidneys aren’t working properly. Because of the high amount of avocado potassium packed into each serving, it may be best to keep intake to a minimum and opt for other foods low in potassium instead.
Although uncommon, some people may also have an avocado allergy, which can cause food allergy symptoms like hives, itching and swelling. Those with a latex allergy should also be mindful about eating avocados, as the cross-reactivity can trigger an allergic reaction in some cases.
Finally, keep in mind that, despite the many avocado benefits, more is not always better. In fact, there are a high amount of calories in avocado, so going overboard could potentially lead to weight gain, especially if you’re not making other adjustments in your diet to account for these extra calories.
Avocados are also high in fiber, which can be beneficial in moderation. However, increasing fiber intake too quickly can lead to digestive issues like constipation, gas and bloating. Start slow and stick to one to two servings per day. Additionally, be sure to drink plenty of water, which can help mitigate side effects of increased fiber intake and promote regularity.
- Avocados are a delicious and nutritious fruit cultivated around the globe.
- They are highly nutritious, and each serving contains a good amount of avocado fiber, plus healthy fats, potassium, vitamin K, folate and vitamin C. These account for the many avocado benefits.
- Are avocados good for you? Potential benefits of avocado include improved heart health, increased weight loss, enhanced digestive health and better blood sugar levels. Avocado benefits may also include the ability to help improve mood; support eye, skin and hair health; fight cancer cell growth; and reduce the risk of arthritis and metabolic syndrome.
- Avocados are also easy to use and can be incorporated into a variety of recipes. Try making an avocado dressing, avocado dip or avocado tuna salad.
- Enjoy a few servings per week as part of a well-rounded diet to reap the rewards of this incredible ingredient.
Source: Dr. Axe