Avocados might be one of the healthiest foods available, as they not only offer a myriad of health-promoting fats, but also are high in fiber and essential nutrients. They come from the avocado tree that is mainly native to Mexico and Central America.

The avocado is interesting in that, while it is a fruit, it consists mainly of fats. This differs from most fruits, which are primarily carbohydrates, so this creates some confusion around whether avocado is a fruit or vegetable. Ripe avocados have versatile uses and a rich, creamy, and delicious taste. Their nutritional benefits are vast, and you are hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t love this fruit. 

Brief History of Avocados

Avocados come from the Persea americana tree, and have been cultivated in parts of Central America, Mexico, and South America for thousands of years. Technically, the avocado is a berry, as it contains a large, single seed. The fruit grows well in most tropical climates, and they only ripen after being harvested (in fact, they can stay on the branch for up to 18 months without ripening).

Nowadays, the biggest avocado producers are the United States, Mexico, Chile, Columbia, Brazil, Peru, China, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia. Many of the avocados eaten in the U.S. come from Mexico, although, within the U.S., California and Florida are the largest producers. [1]

There are over 1,000 varieties of avocado, and they offer more potassium than a banana (but more on their nutritional properties in a moment).

Fun Facts About Avocados 

Before we dive into the impressive nutritional profile and health benefits, check out a few fun facts about the avocado:

  • Perfect First Baby Food– Babies need healthy fats to thrive, and avocados provide just that. Aside from giving little ones a nutritional powerhouse of a first food, they are also soft and easy for babies to “gum.” In fact, just give them a slice of ripe avocado and let them dig in (and then promptly put them in the bath).
  • It Used to be Called “Alligator Pear”– The avocado used to be referred to as an “alligator pear,” due to its rough, green skin and alligator-like shape.
  • Symbol of Love and Fertility– Aztec’s use the avocado as a symbol of love and fertility, partly because they grow in pairs on the tree, and also because they cannot self-pollinate.

Nutritional Facts

A 100-gram serving of avocado provides around 160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 8.5 grams of carbohydrates, and just under 15 grams of fat. [However, most of the carb content of avocado is made up of fiber, meaning that the actual, digestible carb count of an avocado is under 2 grams.

Avocados are most rich in a particular fatty acid called oleic acid, which is the same fat found in olive oil and is well-studied for its anti-inflammatory effects. [3]

In terms of micronutrients, avocado is most rich in folate, It also offers certain, unique plant compounds such as carotenoids, persenones A and B, and a type of sugar called D-mannoheptulose. All have their own unique and powerful health benefits.

Health Benefits of Avocados

The list of health benefits obtained from eating avocados regularly truly is long, but here are some of the top benefits you can count on:

Promote Heart Health

Contrary to popular belief, a diet with plenty of healthy fats is key for heart health. The type of monounsaturated fat mentioned above that is found in abundance in avocados is especially heart-healthy, and has also been shown to prevent breast cancer. [4] The bulk of avocado’s cardiovascular benefits come from oleic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties, along with the following benefit.

Lower Triglyceride and LDL Cholesterol Levels

Avocados are also known to be heart healthy because of their ability to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are major markers of a person’s risk of heart disease. Multiple studies have been done on avocado’s ability to lower triglycerides [5], LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure, while also raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the blood

Encourage Weight Loss

While many people think that because avocados are a high-fat food they could not possibly promote weight loss, they are actually weight-loss promoting when incorporated into a healthy diet. Out of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat), fat is the slowest-burning macronutrient and therefore keeps us fuller for a longer period of time. Without enough good fat in the diet, we are likely to experience sugar cravings and increased hunger.

One study found that avocado eaters felt 23 percent more satisfied for longer after meals, and 28 percent less likely to eat over the next 5 hours. [7]

Allow us to Better Absorb Carotenoids

Many fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids, which are yellow-orange pigments that offer a huge list of health benefits. However, carotenoids (a type of antioxidant) should be eaten with fat in order to be effectively absorbed by your cells, and studies have shown that avocado greatly increases the absorption of carotenoids. Foods particularly high in these health-promoting compounds include sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark leafy greens.

One study even found that adding avocado alongside these foods can increase carotenoid absorption by up to 15 percent. [8] So, the next time you are eating carotenoid-rich foods, add a few avocado slices to the mix.

Uses for Avocados

Avocado goes well alongside just about everything, but here are a few easy ways you can incorporate it into your diet today:

Enjoy it Plain with Sea Salt

One of the easiest and most nutritious snacks is avocado sprinkled with a bit of sea salt and eaten alone or with a whole-grain or gluten-free cracker. This satisfying fruit doesn’t need much sprucing up, as it is filling and delicious all on its own. Have a serving (about 1 ounce) of cheese along with it for some extra protein.

Have it with Eggs in the Morning

Avocado pairs perfectly with eggs, and that is a great way to start your day. The combination helps you achieve and maintain stable blood sugar levels, which can ensure more-sustained energy throughout the day without those all-too-frequent dips and spikes. Healthy fats are important to include with breakfast, along with a serving of protein.

Make a Nourishing Face Mask

While eating avocado should be first on your list, why not also turn it into a nourishing and exfoliating mask for your skin? Especially if you suffer from splotchy and/or dry skin, the fats in avocado can work wonders for your complexion. There are several avocado mask recipes, but you can start by mixing together one mashed ripe avocado, one whisked egg white, two tablespoons of oats, and the juice of one lemon. Apply this mixture to your face and allow it to sit for 20 to 30 minutes, then gently rinse it off with warm water. You can apply this mask 2 to 3 times per week.

Make Your Own Baby Food

As mentioned earlier, avocados make an excellent first food for babies. Once your little one reaches about 6 months of age (and, of course, this varies from baby to baby and is a personal decision as to when they will begin solids), they are ready for nutrient-dense, whole foods. Babies usually love the smooth, creamy texture of avocados, and the nutritional profile is perfect for their growing brains and bodies. Simply mash avocado with a fork, or combine it with a bit of breast milk or formula.

Turn it Into Guacamole

Who doesn’t love guacamole? This easy side dish is perfect to bring to a get-together or have around the house for a healthy snack. Serve it alongside chopped veggies or eat it with whole-grain crackers or tortilla chips (10 chips = 1 serving). Guacamole can be as simple as mashing a ripe avocado and adding a bit of lemon juice and salt, or you can combine that with chopped tomato, minced onion and garlic, and perhaps some finely chopped cilantro. Get creative!

5 Things You Can Make with Avocados

Aside from the ideas just mentioned, consider the following ways to use avocado that are probably new!

1. Avocado “French Fries”

These are truly decadent and all you need is almond or coconut flour, egg, and an oven. Avocado fries make a tasty and healthy after-school (or after-work) snack.

2. Avocado Salad Dressings

There are quite a few ways to do this, but start with simply blending ripe avocado with olive oil, balsamic dressing, and a pinch of sea salt. It adds a creaminess to your dressing without the added sugars and artificial ingredients that usually come in creamy, commercial dressings.

3. Make a Decadent Chocolate Mousse

Avocado for dessert? Absolutely! All you’ll need is ripe avocado, pure chocolate (raw cacao or cocoa powder with no sugar added), a bit of honey, and sea salt. Blend them together, refrigerate, and enjoy with a spoon or some homemade banana ice cream.

4. Eat them in Salads

Avocados are the perfect ingredient to make your salad heartier and more filling. Combine mixed greens of your choice, sliced avocado, and a healthy protein and you’re good to go.

5. Healthy Deviled Eggs

This potluck favorite just got much healthier with avocado instead of mayonnaise. It basically entails preparing your favorite guacamole and adding it to halved, hard-boiled eggs. Mix them with the yolks, if desired, for even more nutrition.

Where to Purchase and How to Choose Avocados

If you have a local farmers market, that is always your best bet, as these will be fresher and (potentially) local. For most avocado varieties, the greener they are, the less ripe they are (in other words, they are harder and still need time to ripen). If you are buying avocados to last for a week, choose several that are ripe and others that are still green or harder, and these will ripen on their own in a few days’ time.

Ripe avocados will be mostly black with a soft feeling when you gently squeeze it in your hand. An overripe avocado will feel mushy and be brown when you cut into it, instead of green.

Avocados can absolutely be considered a superfood, and they are a perfect food to regularly include in the diet of babies, children, and adults alike. They offer healthy fat and fiber and plenty of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. They also provide important health benefits such as increased cardiovascular health and weight-loss support. Incorporate them in dips, smoothies, desserts, or alongside most main dishes. However you eat avocados, it’s hard to go wrong.

 

 

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here