The buzz around avocados is deafening as they have become the undisputed favorites of health enthusiasts and culinary connoisseurs the world over.
Be it smoothies, sandwiches and burger toppings, salad dressings, the crown jewel of Mexican cuisine, or the guacamole dip, there are versatile avocado preparations that can spruce up your regular lackluster diet.
And if the flavorsome goodness and creamy rich texture aren’t enough to have you sold on this delectable treat, the perfect combination of good fat content and low cholesterol should do the trick.
Avocados have been a treasured food item all around Mexico and South and Central America right from the time of the Aztecs and the Incas, dating as far back as 7,000 years ago. They were later embraced by the English colonialists who gave them the name alligator pears, all thanks to their scaly green exterior and pear-like shape.
The current popularity of this fruit can be gauged by the fact that there are as many as 80 varieties of avocados being grown in California alone, of which the Hass avocado is the most sought after. This particular breed of avocados originally hails from Guatemala, which is oval in shape and has a slightly craggy, thick, purplish-brown exterior.
Nutritional Content of Avocado
This luscious green nutritional powerhouse is packed with more than 25 essential nutrients, such as vitamin A, B, C, E, and K as well as copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, fiber, protein, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (such as omega-3 fatty acids), folate, and several other beneficial elements.(1)(2)
Thus, there are more reasons than one to consider avocados as one of the highest-ranking superfoods that offer a long list of potential health benefits. When consumed on a regular basis, avocados can protect you from various diseases and keep your body and mind healthy for years to come.
Nutritional value of avocado per 100 grams:
- Water – 72.33 g
- Energy – 167 kcal
- Protein – 1.96 g
- Total lipid – 15.41 g
- Carbohydrate – 8.64 g
- Fiber – 6.8 g
- Sugars – 0.30 g
- Calcium, Ca – 13 mg
- Iron, Fe – 0.61 mg
- Magnesium, Mg – 29 mg
- Phosphorus, P – 54 mg
- Potassium, K – 507 mg
- Sodium, Na – 8 mg
- Zinc, Zn – 0.68 mg
- Vitamin C – 8.8 mg
- Riboflavin – 0.143 mg
- Niacin – 1.912 mg
- Vitamin B-6 – 0.287 mg
- Folate – 89 mcg
- Vitamin A – 7 mcg
- Vitamin E – 1.97 mg
- Vitamin K – 21.0 mcg
Precautions and Risk Factors
- By and large, most people can consume avocado in amounts found in food without any cause for concern. As far as topical use is concerned, applying avocado to the skin is likely to be safe for up to 3 months at a stretch.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women are well-advised to restrict their intake to food amounts, considering the dearth of information regarding the safety of using avocados medicinally in either condition.
- Given that avocados are generously endowed with a hefty fat content, it is best to regulate your intake and keep it in moderation to save yourself from the undue calories.
- People with a latex allergy can risk triggering an adverse reaction by using avocado and therefore should refrain from it.
Avocado might negatively interfere with the activity of anticoagulant drugs such as Warfarin (Coumadin). In effect, avocado counteracts and hampers Warfarin’s ability to slow blood clotting and thereby increases the risk of clotting instead.
While the exact mechanism behind this interaction remains unknown, it is important to get your blood tested regardless. Depending upon the result of your blood tests, your doctor might alter the dose of your Warfarin (Coumadin) to make it more effective and stave off any future complications.
Advantages of Adding Avocados to Your Diet
Here are 10 science backed-facts about avocados.
1. Nourishes the Skin
Enriched with essential monounsaturated fats, this wonder fruit helps fortify the structural barrier of the skin, allowing the epidermal layer to retain moisture for longer.
Furthermore, avocados are loaded with antioxidants such as carotenoids and vitamin C and E, which protect the skin from “free radicals” that can damage the skin and cause premature aging.(3)
Avocado oil extracted from the pulp of the fruit is rich in linoleic acid (6.1%-22.9%), linolenic acid (0.4%-4.0%), and oleic acid (31.8%-69.6%). It also contains β-sitosterol, β-carotene, lecithin, minerals, and vitamin A, C, D, and E. All these skin-friendly nutrients make avocados just the thing you need to naturally repair dry, damaged, and chapped skin.(4)
Also, the omega-3 fatty acids present in avocados help reduce skin redness and irritation and promote the body’s natural process of repairing damaged cells. As for the carotenoids present in the fruit, they help shield the skin from sun damage, including UV-induced inflammation.
A 2013 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that avocado oil can promote collagen synthesis and decrease the number of inflammatory cells during the wound-healing process and may thus be considered an alternative option for the treatment of skin wounds.(6)
Regular use of avocado offers the added advantage of aiding collagen synthesis, which helps keep your skin taut and supple, taking years off your face.
2. Aids Weight Loss
Although avocados are high in fat and calories, they are still considered good for weight loss. The monounsaturated fat in avocados is one of the “good” fats that will help satisfy your hunger and make you feel full so you eat less overall.(20)
Avocados are also high in L-carnitine, an amino acid used in metabolizing fat. They also have good amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which your body needs to keep its digestive system running smoothly.
As fiber takes the longest to digest, supplementing your meal with avocados keeps you feeling satiated without feeling the need to snack every other hour.
3. Helps with Digestion
Avocados contain vitamin B complex that helps release digestive enzymes used in the digestive process. The high content of soluble and insoluble fibers in avocados helps stimulate gastric and digestive juices, which improves the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food.(19)
Furthermore, these fibers help bulk up the stools and ensure their smooth passage through the digestive tract, thereby preventing constipation and diarrhea as well as preserving colon health.
4. Boosts Heart Health
Studies show that people who eat avocados have a much lower incidence of heart disease than those who don’t, given its cardiac health-promoting composition.(8)
Avocados contain vitamin E that prevents cholesterol oxidization(9) as well as folate that helps reduce dangerous homocysteine levels in the blood.(10) Moreover, avocados boast significantly higher levels of potassium than bananas, which help regulate blood pressure and phytosterols that reduce cholesterol absorption. The monounsaturated fat content also reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke and improves overall blood lipid levels.(11)
Furthermore, avocados are generously endowed with the beta-sitosterol, a plant-based cholesterol, which helps maintain healthy levels of cholesterol and thereby averts the risk of atherosclerosis.
5. Regulates Blood Sugar
The high amount of soluble fiber (6.7 g of fiber/100 g of avocado) in avocados also helps improve blood glucose control. Avocados also contain oleic acid that has a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity. Plus, avocado is a low-glycemic-index food. Do not eat this fruit in excess, though. Also, do not eat overripe avocados.
6. Promotes Brain Health
Health experts consider avocados as one of the top brain-healthy foods due to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E (although less than what fish offers but excellent for vegetarians).
Omega-3 fatty acids keep your brain healthy by improving the blood supply to the prefrontal cortex, the front part of the brain responsible for critical thinking, behavior, decision making, and planning.
Vitamin E has been clinically proven to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from progressing and even reverse the symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Thus, it is safe to say that an avocado a day can help keep Alzheimer’s disease away.(7)
7. Prevents Birth Defects
The high folate or folic acid content in avocados can protect your unborn baby. Just one cup of avocado provides almost one-third of the recommended dose of folic acid for pregnant women.
Folic acid, a B vitamin, is a key prenatal nutrient that helps the brain and other vital organs develop in the fetus. It is also essential in preventing birth defects, such as neural tube defect and spina bifida.(12)
Plus, avocados contain the antioxidant lutein, which increases the potency of the mother’s milk when the fruit is taken as part of the maternal diet. This nutrient is credited for promoting eye and neural development in infants.
8. Prevents Arthritis
Avocados are abundantly supplied with anti-inflammatory agents that help prevent or reduce inflammation that leads to arthritis. These include high levels of phytosterols and a variety of carotenoids.(13)
The phytosterols are in the fat content. The highest content of carotenoids is in the darker part of the fruit that sits closest to the skin, so be sure to eat that part too.
In a more concentrated form, avocado oil is said to be particularly good as an arthritis treatment when consumed regularly.(14) You can substitute avocado oil for olive oil in many recipes, including pesto and vinaigrettes, or use it to dip bread in. However, you should still watch how much you use; excessive consumption of any kind of fat is detrimental to your health.
Furthermore, only half an avocado can make up for about a quarter of your daily recommended dose of vitamin K1, which helps promote calcium absorption and thereby enhances the tensile strength of your bones.
9. Protects Against Cancer
Avocados can help prevent the occurrence of cancers in the mouth, skin, and prostate gland.(15) The anticancer properties in avocados are related to its unusual mix of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients.
In healthy cells, these properties reduced inflammatory and oxidative stress levels.(16) But in cancer cells, they increased oxidative stress and induced cancer cell death (apoptosis).
Also, the oleic acid in avocado, which is 60%-70% of its total fatty acid content, has been found to be effective in preventing breast cancer.(17)
10. Promotes Eye Health
Avocados also help in maintaining healthy eyesight. Avocados are rich with the carotenoid lutein, an antioxidant that protects the eyes from oxidative stress damage leading to cataracts and macular degeneration, which are usually age-related.(21)(7)
Also, the vitamin E in avocados helps protect the eyes against retinopathy, a condition caused by damage to the retina.(22)
- Basic Report: 09038, Avocados, raw, California. USDA Food Composition Databases. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/09038. Published April 2018.
- Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/. Published May 2, 2013.
- Antasionasti I, Riyanto S, Rohman A. Antioxidant Activities and Phenolics Contents of Avocado (Persea Americana Mill.) Peel in vitro. Research Journal of Medicinal Plants. https://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=rjmp.2017.55.61. Published March 15, 2017.
- Lin T- K, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/. Published December 27, 2017.
- Patzelt A, Lademann J, Richter H, et al. In vivo investigations on the penetration of various oils and their influence on the skin barrier. Skin Research and Technology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22092829/. Published August 2012.
- Oliveira APde, Franco Ede S, Barreto RR. Effect of Semisolid Formulation of Persea Americana Mill (Avocado) Oil on Wound Healing in Rats. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614059/. Published March 19, 2013.
- Scott TM, Rasmussen HM, Chen O. Avocado Consumption Increases Macular Pigment Density in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622679/. Published August 23, 2017.
- Weschenfelder C, Santos JLdos, Marcadenti A. Avocado, and Cardiovascular Health. Open Journal of Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases. https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=58403. Published July 27, 2015.
- Gilligan DM, Sack MN, Guetta V. Effect of antioxidant vitamins on low-density lipoprotein oxidation and impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation in patients with hypercholesterolemia. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0735109794901643. Published May 21, 2010.
- Lowering blood homocysteine with folic acid based supplements: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. The BMJ. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC28491/. Published March 21, 1998.
- -Etherton PMK. Monounsaturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.CIR.100.11.1253. Published September 14, 1999.
- Folic Acid for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects. Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/104/2/325. Published August 1, 1999.
- Berger A, Jones PJH, Abumweis SS. Plant sterols: factors affecting their efficacy and safety as functional food ingredients. Lipids in Health and Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC419367/. Published April 7, 2004.
- Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU). www.arthritis.org. https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/supplements-herbs/guide/avocado-soybean.php.
- Ding H, Chin CHY-W, Kinghorn AD, D’Ambrosio S. Avocado extracts selectively induce apoptosis in transformed human oral cells. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/16/12_Supplement/A132. Published December 1, 2007.
- Ding H, Chin YW, Kinghorn AD, D’Ambrosio SM. Chemopreventive characteristics of avocado fruit. Seminar in Cancer Biology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17582784. Published October 2007.
- Menendez JA, Vellon L, Colomer R. Oleic acid, the main monounsaturated fatty acid of olive oil, suppresses Her-2/ neu ( erb B-2) expression and synergistically enhances the growth inhibitory effects of trastuzumab (Herceptin™) in breast cancer cells with Her-2/ neu oncogene amplification. Annals of Oncology. https://academic.oup.com/annonc/article/16/3/359/160032. Published March 1, 2005.
- Devalaraja S, Jain S, Yadav H. Exotic Fruits as Therapeutic Complements for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. Food Research International. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156450/. Published August 1, 2011.
- Fast facts: all about avocados. Dietitians Association of Australia. https://daa.asn.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/food-and-food-products/fast-facts-all-about-avocados/.
- Pieterse Z, Jerling J, Oosthuizen W. Avocados (monounsaturated fatty acids), weight loss and serum lipids. Specialist Forum. https://studylib.net/doc/14023381/avocados. Published April 2003.
- Nelson J. Foods to Protect Vision – Prevent Glaucoma, Cataracts. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-01-2011/10_foods_to_help_prevent_eye_disease.html. Published January 21, 2011.
- Runge P, Muller DP, Lloyd JK. Oral vitamin E supplements can prevent the retinopathy of abetalipoproteinemia. British Journal of Ophthalmology. https://bjo.bmj.com/content/70/3/166. Published March 1, 1986.