15 Health Benefits of 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.
Avocado is believed to be originated in Mexico, and the name “Avocado” is derived from Aztech or 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.
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.
Nutritional Value of Avocado
Avocados are considered a nutrient-dense fruit as it’s loaded with a huge variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, C, E, K, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and copper.
It is also high in fiber and contains a good amount of protein, beta-sitosterol, glutathione, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Moreover, avocados are one of the few fruits that contain monounsaturated fat which is a type of good fat.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a one cup (146 g) serving of sliced avocados (raw, all commercial varieties) contains:
- Calories: 254
- Dietary fiber: 9.78 g (39% Daily Value)
- Vitamin K: 30.7 mcg (38% Daily Value)
- Folate: 118 mcg (30% Daily Value)
- Vitamin C: 14.6 mg (24% Daily Value)
- Pantothenic Acid (Vit B5): 2.03 mg (20% Daily Value)
- Potassium: 708 mg (20% Daily Value)
- Vitamin B6: 0.4 mg (19% Daily Value)
- Vitamin E: 3.0 mg (15% Daily Value)
- Copper: 0.3 mg (14% Daily Value)
- Niacin: 2.5 mg (13% Daily Value)
- Riboflavin: 0.2 mg (11% Daily Value)
- Magnesium: 42.3 mg (11% Daily Value)
- Manganese: 0.2 mg (10% Daily Value)
- Phosphorus: 75.9 mg (8% Daily Value)
- Thiamin: 0.1 mg (7% Daily Value)
- Protein: 2.9 g (6% Daily Value)
- Zinc: 0.9 mg (6% Daily Value)
- Vitamin A: 213 IU (4% Daily Value)
- Iron: 0.8 mg (4% Daily Value)
Health Benefits of Avocado
1. Maintains a healthy heart
Avocado contains vitamin B6 and folic acid, 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 a compound called beta-sitosterol 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 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 .
3. Controls blood pressure
Avocado is a great source of potassium, which helps support and maintain 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 .
4. Prevents cancer
Avocado contains carotenoids and monounsaturated fat, both of which when combined is associated with the reduction of cancer.
Avocado also contains glutathione, an antioxidant that protects the cells from cancer and the dangerous effects of free radicals .
5. Anti-inflammatory properties
Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fat oleic acid, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties .
It’s also a good source of vitamin E, another antioxidant vitamin that have anti-inflammatory effects.
One study reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed that vitamin E has anti-inflammatory properties and supplementation can be helpful to people living with inflammatory conditions .
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) .
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 .
9. Aids 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. Cures bad breath
Avocado’s rich, creamy flesh cleanses your mouth when chewed, so it acts like a natural toothbrush. Moreover, the antioxidant flavonoids found in avocado can get rid of bacteria in your mouth that can result in bad breath.
12. Good for skin
Avocados are a rich source of healthy fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – which help 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 .
Plus, avocados may be an excellent supplement to an effective weight loss diet due to its high fiber content .
15. Liver care
The chemicals contained in avocados was 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 .