Avocados are pleasing to your palate…and your body loves them, too!
If you only indulge in avocados on Cinco de Mayo, you’re missing out on some amazing health benefits.
Making avocados a part of your regular diet can really boost your wellbeing, according to health experts.
Avocados are chock full of nutrition and are among the highest of other fruits and veggies in potassium, folate and other important nutrients. In fact, even avocado oil has become a popular product and is touted for its many health benefits.
Avocados are also incredibly easy to prepare; they’re delicious mashed, sliced or added to your favorite salad.
Today we explore 7 health benefits of avocados, as well as how to pick out a ripe avocado and how to make some delish dishes.
1. Natural Plant Sterols for Heart Health
Plant sterols are known to have certain protective benefits. These include cardiovascular health. Avocados, especially organically grown, non-force ripened ones, are packed with these health boosters.
Sterols are found naturally in grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. A medium-size avocado contains 25 mg per ounce of beta-sitosterol. This plant sterol is used in traditional and modern medicine to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
According to clinical data, the b-sitosterol in avocados can help you to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Regular consumption is needed in order to produce this effect, so be sure to add a little avocado to a meal per day.
Another way avocados help your heart is via their high B-vitamin content, including B-6. Deficiencies in the B category of vitamins, such as folate, have been linked to an increased cardiovascular disease risk. Eating one-half of a medium avocado per day can help lower these risks, experts say.
2. A Reduced Risk of Cataracts
Carotenoids, which convert to Vitamin A, are famous for keeping eyes healthy. As a rich source of carotenoids, avocados are showing promise in eye health.
A series of studies over the past several decades has definitively linked Vitamin A to a reduced risk of cataracts. For example, research shows Vitamin A may reduce cataract risk up to 22% in women 44 and older.
The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are believed to be the protective element here.
Cataracts aren’t as uncommon as you may think. Cataract risk increases as one advances in age. By age 80, more than half of all Americans will have had at least one cataract event.
Cataracts cause a progressive clouding of the vision and are the most common cause of blindness, experts say.
As with most health issues, prevention is your best bet. Eat foods high in carotenoids and you could significantly lower your cataract risk. And your vision may be sharper even if your eyes are already healthy.
3. A 22% Reduced Osteoporosis Risk in Menopausal Women
Here’s a super-healthy reason for people age 35 and older to eat avocados: they may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is often considered a disease of post-menopausal women. And while this group is indeed at greater risk than other categories, the earlier you take measures, the better.
Osteoporosis can mean brittle bones, higher risk of fracture, and a longer time to heal.
But current data shows that Vitamin K, which carotenoids in avocados convert to in the body,could help.
In a series of eight clinical trials, some forms of Vitamin K increased bone density in post-menopausal women. This exciting research could be a breakthrough for those seeking a more fulfilling quality of life into later years.
While trials have largely focused on pharmaceutical Vitamin K preparations, precursors to the vitamin exist naturally in some foods. These include, you guessed it, avocados. In fact, just half a medium avocado provides 25% of your RDA of Vitamin K.
4. A Natural Source of Dietary Fiber
If your physician has advised that you up your fiber intake, avocados may just be your answer!
Avocados are approximately 80% dietary fiber.
One-half of an avocado provides about 4.5 grams of fiber, helping you toward your 25 gram RDA.
You’ve probably heard quite a bit from your doctor and from online sources that eating fiber can mean better health. But exactly why is fiber important?
Interestingly, fiber can do all of the following, according to current research:
- Reduce the risk of certain cancers, particularly colon cancer
- Relieve both constipation and diarrhea (and help with irritable bowel syndrome symptoms)
- Prevent some forms of heart disease
- Lower your risk for diabetes
Choosing foods that contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, including foods like avocados, can help you get more fiber so you stay healthier, experts say.
5. Healthier Blood Pressure
Here’s another gem inside that delicious avocado on your plate: it’s packed with potassium. Potassium regulates quite a few body systems. One of particular interest is its ability to control blood pressure.
The American Heart Association says this positive effect is due to potassium’s effect on sodium.
Potassium can lessen the negative side-effects of too much sodium in the body. Unless you have been advised by your doctor to watch your potassium intake, eating foods high in potassium can be a boost to your cardiovascular health.
In fact, while under some circumstances potassium should be restricted, most of us don’t get enough of this mineral, experts say.
The RDA for potassium is 4700 mg per day for adults (more for pregnant women). But we may be getting as little as 2400 mg daily, according to reports.
A half-cup of avocado contains 350mg, providing a healthy dose of potassium to your day.
6. A Healthier Pregnancy
You’ve probably heard of folate/folic acid for a healthy pregnancy. Avocados contain more folate than any other fruit, making them ideal for pregnant women.
Folic acid supplements have been shown to reduce the risk of certain neural tube defects in a developing embryo. About 400mcg per day are recommended for pregnant women.
Eating avocados can boost your intake of folic acid. Be sure to add plenty of folate-rich foods if you’re expecting!
7. Experience a Boosted Mood Every Day
The folate in avocados can help in another very beneficial way: it may stave off the blues. Foods high in folate reduce one’s risk of depression. That’s because folate helps prevent the buildup of homocysteine, an inflammatory substance.
Homocysteine impairs circulation, including blood flow and nutrient delivery to the brain.
When this happens, other processes can be blocked, including the production of serotonin, dopamine and other anti-depression chemicals.
This means your mood is less stable, according to studies.
While antidepressants can be a positive course of action for some depression sufferers, they can come with side effects. If you need the occasional mood boost, try naturally folate-rich foods such as avocado. You just may find your mornings that much sunnier.
Avocado Nutrition Facts
Avocados are known as one of the most nutritional foods in the world. Can you imagine why?
Listed below is the nutritional content in only one half of an avocado (roughly 68 grams):
- 113 calories, 10 grams of healthy fats, 4.6 grams of dietary fiber, 0.2 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of carbohydrates
- Vitamin K- 14 mg (19% RDV)
- Folate- 60 mg (15% RDV)
- Vitamin C – 6 mg (12% RDV)
- Potassium- 343 mg (10% RDV)
- Pantothenic acid- 2 mg (10% RDV)
- Vitamin B6- 0.4 mg (9% RDV)
- Vitamin E- 1.3 mg (7% RDV)
- Magnesium- 19.5 mg (6% RDV)
Avocados are also an excellent source of trace minerals such as iron and copper, contain antioxidant phytochemicals, and have a great deal of anti-inflammatories like flavonoids and polyphenols.
Want more? Chew on this- avocados are high in monounsaturated fats which protect against dozens of diseases including cancer.
Are Avocados Fattening?
Many health enthusiasts recommend a few slices of avocado in a salad, or a home-mashed guacamole. But others say avocados aren’t an ideal choice as they are high in fat and calories. Who’s right?
Avocados are not a low-calorie food, so if you’re watching calories, make sure to include your avocado servings in your daily calculations. One 3.5-oz. (100 gram) serving of avocado has about 160 calories and 15 grams of fat.
But it’s worth noting that the fat in avocados comes primarily in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids (MFAs). These are thought to lower both total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol.
Upping MFAs can give you a real health boost. (If you’re not sure how much fat you should be getting, ask your doctor; certain health issues may warrant more or less “good” fats.)
And what about the calories?
Most people eat avocados as a garnish or dip. You probably won’t be eating a whole avocado per meal, though if your health status and calorie count permit, go ahead!
Avocado calories pack loads of nutrition in every bite.
No matter how you enjoy your avocados, you’ll discover a new world of good health by incorporating them into your daily regimen!