You can find avocados almost everywhere — from grocery stores and farmers markets to chocolate pudding recipes.
Once considered a delicacy, this green tree fruit is now a common addition to tables and menus all over the world.
The avocado is an evergreen, tropical tree with green, pear-shaped, nutrient-dense fruit. The term avocado refers to both the tree and the fruit.
Avocados come in hundreds of different varieties. And the tree is a member of the flowering plant family, Lauraceae.
The fruit itself is technically a berry containing one large seed. But keep in mind that the scientific definition of a berry (a fruit derived from the ovary of a single flower) varies from common usage. Botanists will tell you that eggplant is a berry and a strawberry is not. So I wouldn’t jump at a berry cobbler made by a botanist!
While they aren’t sweet, avocados are a satisfying and versatile food with a creamy, buttery texture. And they have a rich flavor from the high-fat content.
You may have never heard the term “Persea Americana.” But I’m sure you have heard of avocados. Chances are you have eaten one or two. Probably more.
Avocados are becoming trendier by the minute. Why? What’s behind the avocado hype? It looks like this could be more than a trend. Avocado is a healthy, whole food. And because of this, it is probably here to stay.
If you are not on the avocado bandwagon yet, it is time to learn why you should be. If you are already an avocado addict, you may not realize the avocado health benefits you are getting. Read on to find out what they are.
Avocado is often added to various dishes for flavor and texture. It is the main ingredient in guacamole, after all!
Avocados vary in shape and color. They can be round or shaped like a pear. They can be green or black. They can weigh anywhere from 220 grams to 1400 kilograms.
The most popular type of avocado is the Hass variety. Avocados are sometimes called “alligator pear.” This is because of its bumpy alligator-like skin.
The flesh of the avocado is yellow-green. People eat the flesh of the avocado fruit.
The skin and the seed are usually thrown out, though the seed can have medicinal properties. It may be worth it to keep the seed.
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The avocado seed can help with the following health conditions:
- Hypercholesterolemia (also called high cholesterol for short)
- Hypertension (the medical term for high blood pressure)
- Inflammatory conditions
An official serving of avocado is one-fifth of the fruit. This is 30 grams. However, the average consumer eats half an avocado. This is 68 grams.
People often call avocado a “superfood.” This is due to its unique nutritional composition. Avocados have a high content of antioxidants. They also have a rich biochemical profile.
Avocado is a type of fruit. Most fruit consists of carbohydrates. Avocados are instead high in good fat.
Avocado oil consists of 71% monounsaturated fatty acids (called MUFA for short). It contains 13% polyunsaturated fatty acids and 16% saturated fatty acids.
Saturated fatty acids help enhance the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals. This means it can increase the absorption of other nutrients in the avocado and other foods consumed with it.
Research shows that avocados are good for the heart. Several clinical studies are demonstrating that avocado consumption supports cardiovascular health.
One meta-analysis looked at the effect of avocado intake on cardiovascular disease risk. Seven of the studies analyzed found that avocado intake significantly increases HDL cholesterol. This is high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading health problem around the globe. Accumulating studies show that consuming fruits such as avocado reduces the risk of heart disease.
Researchers have widely studied avocado. These studies have demonstrated the potent protective action of avocado on the heart and blood vessels. They believe that avocado can help through the following steps:
- Protects the function of the interior lining of blood vessels
- Regulates metabolism of fats
- Inhibits function of the platelets
- Alleviates ischemia and reperfusion injury
- Reduces oxidative stress
- Attenuates inflammation
- Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors. It includes high blood glucose, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity. These lead to an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These are some of the leading causes of death in the world.
- Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes by three and five-folds, respectively. Several studies have found that avocado can have the following benefits to heart health:
- Lowers lipid levels~
- Fights against diabetes
- Fights against obesity
- Prevents blood clots
- Prevents thickening and hardening of arteries
- Protects the heart
Avocado health benefits are extensive and include:
Avocado eaters tend to be healthier. A 2013 study in the Nutrition Journal found that avocado consumers tend to have higher nutrient intake and lower rates of metabolic syndrome. They also have lower weight, lower BMI, less belly fat, and higher levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good”cholesterol).
Avocados can help you better absorb antioxidants. Some nutrients are fat-soluble. That means you should consume them with fats so your body can properly absorb them. A 2005 study in The Journal of Nutrition found that eating carotenoids with avocado or avocado oil increased their absorption.
Avocados may help prevent and treat cancer. A 2015 study in Cancer Research found that avocatin B, a compound derived from avocado, can help kill leukemia cells. A 2015 research review of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that phytochemicals (plant compounds) in avocados make them potentially beneficial for preventing cancer.
Avocados can reduce your risk of heart disease. A 2015 study of the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating one avocado per day as part of a moderate‐fat, cholesterol‐lowering diet reduced LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad”cholesterol).
Avocados may aid in weight loss. A 2013 study of the Nutrition Journal found that people eating avocado with a meal felt 23% more satisfied. And they had a 28% lower desire to eat in the next five hours versus people who didn’t eat an avocado.
Avocados may boost brain health and memory. The fruit is rich in oleic acid (or OEA), an omega-9 fatty acid that’s linked to improved cognition. A 2009 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that these types of acids can enhance memory.
Avocados may help lower the risk of depression. Eating monounsaturated fats reduce depression. (And balancing fat intake helps in controlling depression.) And the high amount of folate helps in maintain your brain’s feel-good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin.
Avocados can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A 2016 study of Advances in Neurobiology found that the “diverse array of bioactive nutrients” present in avocados play a key role in the prevention and cure of these types of diseases.
Avocados can keep your eyes healthy as you age. The fruit is rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help protect and maintain healthy cells in your eyes. According to a 2017 study of the journal Nutrients, avocado can help boost macular pigment with age.
Avocados can help prevent gum disease. A 2006 study of the Journal of Periodontology found that key ingredients in avocados may enhance protective effects against periodontal disease.
Avocados can help ease osteoarthritis. A 2010 review in the journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine found that key ingredients in avocados can help patients with arthritis of the hip or knee.
Avocados can combat metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is an assortment of linked issues including high blood sugar, high serum cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high body mass index, which lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A 2017 study of the journal Phytotherapy Research found that the “lipid‐lowering, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, anti‐obesity, antithrombotic, antiatherosclerotic, and cardioprotective effects of avocado” can help protect against this syndrome.
Any Down Sides to Avocados?
Avocados are high in fat and calories. So if excess weight is a concern, you may want to create some limits on how many you eat. A small amount can go a long way.
And if you’re prone to migraines or are allergic to latex, avocados might not be the fruit for you.
For those suffering from migraine, certain foods, circumstances, or environmental factors can trigger episodes.
Avocados sometimes appear on lists of such foods due to the high levels of tyramine (a substance formed when proteins break down) they contain when overripe.
In addition, avocado have some of the same allergens found in latex. So if you have a latex allergy, you may want to watch out to see if avocados trigger any of the same symptoms.