15 Health Benefits of Avocado

Avocado

Avocado, also called alligator pear, is a fruit that belongs to the flowering plant family Lauraceae. Other members of the family include cinnamon, camphor, and bay laurel.

The avocado is believed to have originated in Puebla, Mexico, and the word “avocado” is derived from Nahuatl word ahuacatl, meaning “testicle”, a reference to the shape of the fruit.

Currently, there are over 80 varieties of avocados, with the Hass variety being the most popular. Other common varieties include Bacon, Brogdon, Fuerto, Gwen, Wilma, Reed, Pinkerton, Lula, and Zutano.

Avocado milkshake
Avocado milkshake

Avocados are very popular in vegetarian cuisine, as a substitute for meats in sandwiches and salads due to its high fat content.

They are also used as the base for the Mexican dip known as guacamole, as well as a filling for several kinds of sushi, including California rolls.

In some countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Brazil, avocados are commonly used for milkshakes and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts. The milkshake is made with milk, sugar, water and pureed avocado. Chocolate syrup is sometimes added.

Avocado Nutrition Facts

Avocados are considered a nutrient-dense fruit as they are loaded with a huge variety of vitamins and minerals. It is also high in fiber and contains phytochemicals like beta-sitosterol, glutathione, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Moreover, avocados are one of the few fruits that contain monounsaturated fat, which is a “good” fat.

According to the USDA FoodData Central, a one-cup serving of sliced raw avocados contains:

  • 234 calories
  • 12.5 g of carbohydrate
  • 2.9 g of protein
  • 9.8 g of fiber
  • 0.4 mg of vitamin B6
  • 14.6 mg of vitamin C
  • 3.0 mg of vitamin E
  • 30.7 mcg of vitamin K
  • 118 mcg of folate
  • 708 mg of potassium
  • 14.3 g of monounsaturated fat

Health Benefits of Avocado

1. Maintains a healthy heart

Avocado contains vitamin B6 and folate, which help regulate homocysteine levels. High level of homocysteine is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The vitamin E, glutathione, and monounsaturated fat found in avocado also help in maintaining a healthy heart.

2. Lowers cholesterol

Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which has been shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels.

According to a study, patients with mild hypercholesterolemia who included avocado in their diet for 7 days had a 17 percent decrease in total cholesterol levels, a 22 percent decrease in both LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and a 11 percent increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels [1].

3. Controls blood pressure

Avocado is a great source of potassium, which helps support and maintain a normal blood pressure.

A study published in 2013 showed that having a high potassium intake is linked to reduced blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure [2].

4. Prevents cancer

Avocado contains carotenoids and monounsaturated fat, both of which when combined is associated with the reduction of cancer.

Furthermore, a 2007 study published in the journal Seminars in Cancer Biology found that the phytochemicals in avocado may encourage cell death of pre-cancerous and cancer cell lines [3].

5. Anti-inflammatory benefits

Avocado is high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects [4].

Avocados also contain potent antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, that also have anti-inflammatory benefits, which may help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

6. Promotes eye health

Avocados are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that help protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes.

A study published in the journal Nutrients found that those eating avocados experienced significant increases in macular pigment density (MPD) [5]. A low MPD could be a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration.

Interestingly, the same research team found that avocado consumption provided more than doubled the MPD compared to a lutein/zeaxanthin supplement. This suggests that the fatty acids (MUFAs) in avocado significantly increase absorption of these key carotenoids over and above the supplement.

7. Regulates blood sugar

The high levels of monounsaturated fats in avocados can help stop insulin resistance and control blood sugar levels. Furthermore, the soluble fiber in avocados can also help keep blood sugar levels steady.

8. Increases nutrient absorption

The monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados also support the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and fat-soluble antioxidants.

One study showed that avocados increased the absorption of carotenoids when consumed with salad and salsa. The study looked at the absorption of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein, which were 7.2, 15.3, and 5.1 times higher, respectively [6].

9. Improves digestion

Due to its high fiber content, consuming avocado is very beneficial for improving digestion, encouraging regular bowel movements and helps in preventing constipation.

10. Prevents birth defects

Avocado is rich in folate, a B vitamin needed for healthy growth and development. 100 grams of avocado provides about 23% of the recommended daily value of folate. Folate is very important for healthy pregnancy as it can help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.

11. Fights bad breath

Avocado is effective against bad breath due to its ability to kill odor-causing bacteria in the mouth. Also, the creamy, rich flesh of avocado cleanses your mouth when you chew it, so it helps to freshen your breath.

12. Good for skin

Avocados are a rich source of healthy fats which can keep your skin supple and moisturized.

They also contain vitamins C and E, which are both essential for skin health. Vitamin C helps in the stimulation of collagen, the main structural protein responsible for healthy skin, and vitamin E protects your skin from oxidative damage, which can lead to signs of aging.

13. Supports bone health

Avocados are an excellent source of vitamin K. About half of an avocado provides approximately 25 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin K.

Vitamin K plays an important role in helping the body absorb calcium for bone and tooth development. Additionally, some studies have shown that low levels of vitamin K are linked to higher risks of hip fracture and low bone mineral density.

14. Weight loss

Some people might think that avocados should be avoided in calorie-restricted diet because of their high fat contents. In fact, including avocados to your meals will help you feel more satiated, which will eventually reduce your desire to eat more and thus decrease your calorie intake [7].

Plus, avocados may be an excellent supplement to an effective weight loss diet due to its high fiber content [8].

15. Liver care

The chemicals contained in avocados were found to be effective at reducing liver damage.

A 2000 study presented by the American Chemical Society found that avocados contain potent chemicals that can protect against liver damage caused by Hepatitis C virus, which can cause severe liver disease and death [9].

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