The avocado, also known as the Persea americana, is native to the western hemisphere. If you haven’t cooked with avocados yet, if you like Mexican or Southwestern food you’ve probably tried it in guacamole (one of the simplest and tastiest ways to have this awesome, versatile, and nutrient-dense food).
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. They also contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in each serving, including potassium, lutein, folate, and vitamins B, C, and E. In addition, avocados pack quite a lot of fiber, with 13 grams in the average avocado.
They’re also low in sugar. But one thing you should keep in mind is that it’s relatively high in calories. One-fifth of an avocado will contain about 50 calories – so if you have a whole avocado, that will set you back 250 calories. For a fruit or vegetable, that’s a lot. But keep in mind that an avocado is extremely filling and nutritious, so it’s worth making space for avocados instead of eating lots of low-nutrition and high-calorie foods.
Because of its high number of nutrients, the avocado offers a wide range of health benefits. Let’s dive in.
Health Benefits of Avocado
1.Help Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number 1 killer in the United States, affecting nearly 27 million adults, so it only makes sense that we would want to protect ourselves by being more health-conscious in our dietary choices.
Avocados have been shown to positively benefit our cardiovascular system in a number of ways due to its low saturated fat and high unsaturated fat content (predominantly the monounsaturated fat (MUFA) variety).
Consuming excess saturated fat (>10% of total calories) may raise your LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. On the contrary, consuming adequate unsaturated fat in your diet may help lower LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol), maintain HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) and potentially improve your insulin sensitivity.
In addition to its nutritious fat content, avocados also contain a potent mix of nutrients (e.g., potassium and lutein), including plenty of antioxidants such as carotenoids, callexanthophylls and phenols. These compounds can help prevent inflammation and oxidative stress in the blood vessels while facilitating improved blood flow.
2. Help with Weight Management
Eating fat to lose fat; who would have thought?
Avocados can help with weight-loss and maintaining a healthy BMI by promoting a feeling of satiety. A recent study showed that including avocado in meals helped extend feelings of fullness and reduced the desire to overindulge. The belly-filling properties of avocados is aided by their high fiber content, about 14g per fruit on average.
In addition, higher avocado consumption has been associated with smaller waistlines and lower BMIs in observational studies.
Some research has even shown that weight-loss diets higher in MUFA, like the kind avocados are packed with, may prove healthier for your heart than low-fat weight-loss diets.
3. May Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Avocados provide us with numerous phytochemicals that may help prevent cancer, including the previously discussed xanthophylls and phenols.
A protein compound called glutathione, along with the xanthophyll lutein (both found in avocados), have been associated with decreased rates of oral cancer. Preliminary data also show promising results for avocados’ potential role in reducing risk of both breast and prostate cancers.
Other preliminary studies demonstrate that a specific type of fav derived from avocados is able to exert anti-cancer effects on acute myeloid leukemia cells.
Together, these studies show that further research needs to be conducted to draw more conclusive results.
4. Healthier Eyes and Skin as You Age
Both lutein and zeaxanthin found in avocados can slow age-related ocular decline and prevent vision dysfunction. Lutein and zeaxanthin can help protect your eyes from high-energy light waves such as UV rays in sunlight. According to research, having a high amount of both in eye tissue is linked with greater vision, especially in dim light or when glare is an issue.
In addition, these same two nutrients also act as buffers against oxidative UV damage, keeping our skin smooth and healthy. The bioavailability (ease of absorption by our body) of carotenoids from avocados compared to many other fruits and vegetables makes eating avocados every day a sensible choice.
How to Prepare and Eat Avocados?
Avocados can take 4-5 days to ripen after you’ve purchased them from your local grocery store. Store them on the countertop if your aim is to ripen them. Iif you want to ripen even faster than normal, you can stick your avocados in a paper bag. (Add in a banana or apple for faster ripening.)
Once the skin is dark purple or black, and it yields to gentle pressure, your avocado is ripe. Wash the avocado’s outside before cutting off the skin with a sharp knife. The avocado has a hard, woody, inedible core in the middle, so make sure to cut carefully.
Aside from the multitude of health benefits, avocados have the extra bonus of being a tasty, creamy food that can be incorporated into shakes, desserts, dips, and toppings. Here are two of my favorite recipes:
- ½ ripe avocado
- 1 ripe banana
- ½ cup low-fat yogurt
- ½ cup orange juice
- OPTIONAL: handful of ice
Combine ingredients into a blender and mix.
Bacon Peach Guacamole
- 1 ripe peach
- 2 ripe avocados
- ¼ red onion, minced
- 2 strips bacon, crisped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut peaches into small dice and place in a bowl. Mash avocados and combine with peaches. Crisp bacon in skillet, dice and add to bowl. Mince onion and add to guacamole. Enjoy with whole-grain tortilla chips.
Avocados are healthy, delicious, and easy to prepare. Add them to your diet to help you get nutrients you might be missing, as well as to lose weight if that’s what your goal is.
Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com