Surprising Health Benefits Of Avocados
Rich in anti-inflammatory oleic acid, heart-healthy minerals, cancer-fighting antioxidants, the sweet, succulent fruit - avocado - can be a great addition to a balanced diet. It has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, alleviate arthritis, battle hypertension, lower cholesterol, and even protect eyesight. But, like any good thing, you don't want to have too much of it!
The avocado has fast become a main player on menus frequented by the health-conscious, so what makes this gorgeously green fruit such a hit? Well, it’s not only packed with fiber and antioxidants, but also anti-inflammatory oleic acid and heart-healthy minerals like potassium1 – and that’s just the beginning of its long list of benefits.
Benefits Of Avocados
1. Improves Cardiovascular Health
While bananas are widely touted as a potassium-rich fruit, avocados actually contain more of this essential nutrient!2 Potassium is needed to keep your blood pressure in check. High blood pressure is a major risk factor when it comes to heart disease. The mineral is vital for normal heart function and important for skeletal and smooth muscle contraction.3 Research has determined that raising intake of potassium can lower blood pressure in those who have hypertension. In addition, it may also lower risk of having a stroke by as much as 24 percent.4
Studies have also found that the fiber found in avocados can help lower risk of cardiovascular disease.5 And avocados contain 6.7 gm of fiber in every 100 gm portion.6
2. Provides Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
The bulk of the fat found in avocados is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid not unlike what you’d find in olive oil. One Japanese study found that levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker in the body, was inversely related to oleic acid intake.7
3. Alleviates Arthritis
The Arthritis Foundation suggests eating avocados if you have osteoarthritis, a painful condition that causes inflammation of the joints. The presence of anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fatty acids, carotenoid lutein, and Vitamin E – all which have anti-inflammatory effects – can help alleviate symptoms. As the foundation explains, a diet that is high in these nutrients has been associated with lower risk of joint damage characteristic of early-stage osteoarthritis.8 In one study, avocado–soybean extract was found to be effective when treating patients with symptomatic hip osteoarthritis.9 This all-natural extract is made by combining one part of avocado oil with two parts of soybean oil. It helps block inflammation, reduces degeneration of cells that line your joints, and could even regenerate normal connective tissue.10
4. Protects Your Eyes
Abundant in avocados, carotenoids are great for your eyesight. Studies have found that not getting enough lutein through your diet could cause age-related eye dysfunction. But diets rich in monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) have a protective effect against this dysfunction. Avocados, in particular, are spotlighted because the bioavailability of lutein/zeaxanthin is higher than in most other vegetables and fruits since carotenoids experience better absorption alongside MUFA.11
5. Lowers Cholesterol
Enjoying avocados regularly can also boost levels of the good HDL cholesterol, while simultaneously reducing levels of the bad LDL cholesterol.12 Some studies have also shown that avocado-enriched diets can help people with hypercholesterolemia improve their lipid profiles – dropping triglyceride and LDL levels and boosting HDL levels. Those with normal lipid levels can lower their LDL further without increasing levels of triglycerides or causing a drop in good HDL cholesterol levels. This led researchers to suggest that the American diet could benefit from the addition of avocado, though further research and larger studies are warranted.13
6. Offers Anticancer Effects
Avocados contain phytochemicals and antioxidants like Vitamin E, lutein, beta carotene, alpha carotene, and zeaxanthin. These can help inhibit the growth of precancerous and cancer cell lines, induce cell death or apoptosis of abnormal cells, and also induce cell cycle arrest. In addition, the phytochemicals could have potential use as chemoprotective agents that can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.14
Earlier studies have pointed to the potential of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet in offering protection against cancers, due to its oleic acid content.15 Since avocados also contain oleic acid, they could have potential protective anti-oncogenic properties, though more research needs to be done to prove this link.
Researchers have found that the high level of monounsaturated fat and bioactive carotenoids, as well as other phytochemicals in the fruit, can significantly reduce cancer risk. In one study, extract of the fruit was found to inhibit prostate cancer cell growth, something researchers attributed to this combination of nutrients.16
7. Offers Fat-Fighting Fiber
About 80 percent of an avocado’s carbohydrates come from fiber. Of this, about 70 percent is insoluble and 30 percent soluble.17 Consuming fiber has been linked to lower risk of obesity, because it increases the feeling of fullness, resulting in a lower-calorie diet. Fiber also helps avoid those sudden dips or spikes in sugar or energy levels that can lead you to make unhealthy food choices.18
The Arthritis Foundation also points out that, though avocados are high in calories, those who consume them regularly still seem to weigh less and have smaller waists. Experts attribute this to the possible effect of having a high fiber diet that includes healthy oleic acid.19 Avocado consumption is also linked to lower BMI and lower risk of metabolic syndrome, according to data from the The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2006.20
How Much Should You Eat?
In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased the serving size of an avocado from one-fifth of a medium-sized fruit to one-third. That’s the equivalent of about 50 grams of the fruit, which can give you 10 percent of your daily folate requirements and 11 percent of your daily value of fiber. It also gives you 6 grams of healthy fats, 135 micrograms of lutein/zeaxanthin, and a healthy dose of potassium and vitamins C and E.21 A third of a cup of avocado has around 80 calories, making it a fairly calorie-rich food.22 This means you need to pay special attention to your serving size – it’s easy to eat too much!
What’s The Best Way To Enjoy That Avocado?
The best way to consume an avocado is when it’s nice and fresh. No need to cook with it – heating avocado can ruin its flavor. Also, remember, exposure to air can quickly oxidize the nutrients, so if you intend to eat more of your avocado later, a protective squeeze of lemon juice may help.
Avocados taste best eaten fresh and raw in a salad or used as a dip or spread. Or whip up a delicious avocado smoothie with a base of milk or dairy substitutes like nut or rice milk. This sure is one of the popular ways to drink up its goodness!
You could also juice an avocado, though you could end up consuming more calories than you want to. A cup of the juice requires multiple cups of the actual fruit. However, blending a serving of avocado into a smoothie with other low-calorie fruits and vegetables is a great and satisfying option.
Avocados For Everyone?
Avocados are a good addition to any diet, provided you don’t go overboard. If you are calorie-counting, avocados can eat heavily into your daily caloric allowance. And while its good fats are great to have, be sure to compensate by cutting down on fats from other food sources.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||USDA Food Composition Databases. USDA.|
|2.||↑||USDA Food Composition Databases . USDA.|
|3.||↑||Potassium. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|4.||↑||Aburto, Nancy J., Sara Hanson, Hialy Gutierrez, Lee Hooper, Paul Elliott, and Francesco P. Cappuccio. “Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses.” Bmj 346 (2013): f1378.|
|5.||↑||Pereira, Mark A., Eilis O’reilly, Katarina Augustsson, Gary E. Fraser, Uri Goldbourt, Berit L. Heitmann, Goran Hallmans et al. “Dietary fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies.” Archives of internal medicine 164, no. 4 (2004): 370-376.|
|6, 22.||↑||Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|7.||↑||Yoneyama, Satoko, Katsuyuki Miura, Satoshi Sasaki, Katsushi Yoshita, Yuko Morikawa, Masao Ishizaki, Teruhiko Kido, Yuchi Naruse, and Hideaki Nakagawa. “Dietary intake of fatty acids and serum C-reactive protein in Japanese.” Journal of epidemiology 17, no. 3 (2007): 86-92.|
|8, 12, 19.||↑||Best Fruits for Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation.|
|9.||↑||Maheu, Emmanuel, Christian Cadet, Marc Marty, Dominique Moyse, Isabelle Kerloch, Philippe Coste, Maxime Dougados et al. “Randomised, controlled trial of avocado–soybean unsaponifiable (Piascledine) effect on structure modification in hip osteoarthritis: the ERADIAS study.” Annals of the rheumatic diseases (2013): annrheumdis-2012.|
|10.||↑||Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables. Arthritis Foundation.|
|11, 13.||↑||Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass avocado composition and potential health effects.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53, no. 7 (2013): 738-750.|
|14.||↑||Paul, Rajkumar, Paresh Kulkarni, and Narayan Ganesh. “Avocado fruit (Persea americana Mill) exhibits chemo-protective potentiality against cyclophosphamide induced genotoxicity in human lymphocyte culture.” J Exp Ther Oncol 9, no. 3 (2011): 221-30.|
|15.||↑||Menendez, Javier A., and Ruth Lupu. “Mediterranean dietary traditions for the molecular treatment of human cancer: anti-oncogenic actions of the main olive oil’s monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid (18: 1n-9).” Current pharmaceutical biotechnology 7, no. 6 (2006): 495-502.|
|16.||↑||Lu, Qing-Yi, James R. Arteaga, Qifeng Zhang, Sergio Huerta, Vay Liang W. Go, and David Heber. “Inhibition of prostate cancer cell growth by an avocado extract: role of lipid-soluble bioactive substances.” The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 16, no. 1 (2005): 23-30.|
|17, 20.||↑||Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass avocado composition and potential health effects.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53, no. 7 (2013):738-750.|
|18.||↑||Burton-Freeman, Britt. “Dietary fiber and energy regulation.” The Journal of nutrition 130, no. 2 (2000): 272S-275S.|
|21.||↑||Avocado Serving Size Update. California Avocado Commission.|