Avocados are certainly not underrated these days – everyone knows they are a health freak’s favorite food. While most fruits are made up mainly of carbohydrates, avocados are low-carb and high in healthy fats, with study after study over the years showing the powerful health benefits of the green berry (yes, you read that correctly!). Rightly called a ‘superfood’, avocados have graduated from being just an ingredient in guacamole, to making salads way yummier, smoothies creamier, chocolate icing healthier and skin brighter and more toned. Here are 9 scientifically proven health benefits of avocado, as well as some tasty creative recipes to try…
What Are Avocados?
If you’ve been living under a rock, avocado is the fruit of the avocado tree, which is called Persea Americana. It is famous for its high nutrient content, rich texture and subtle but tasty flavor. It is often referred to as a ‘superfood‘ these days, and even its oil is extracted for its health benefits. There are a few different varieties of avocados, some pear-shaped, some round, some green and some almost black. They can weight anything between 8 ounces (220 grams) and 3 pounds (1.4kg), with the most popular type being the Hass avocado. It is cleverly referred to by some as the ‘alligator pear’, which is very accurate in terms of appearance, because it is shaped like a pear and has dark green, bumpy skin, like an alligator. The light green flesh inside the skin is the edible part, with the skin and pit discarded, despite a short-lived trend suggesting the pit was the most beneficial part to eat!
Health Benefits Of Avocado
There has been lots of research, trials and experiments conducted over the years into the health benefits of avocado, and here are 9 scientifically proven ones…
1. Avocados Are Extremely Nutritious
With nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in every serving, avocados rate incredibly high in essential nutrients. They provide high amounts of potassium, lutein and folate, and are a good source of B vitamins, fiber, vitamins C and E, and natural plant chemicals that may play a role in the prevention of cancer. All this while being low in sugar, sodium and saturated fat and high in healthy monounsaturated fat.
Nutritional Value of 1 Avocado (200 grams)
Calories – 322
Total Fat – 29 grams
Saturated Fat – 4 grams
Monounsaturated Fat – 19.7 grams
Cholesterol – 0mg
Sodium – 14mg
Total Carbohydrate – 17 grams
Dietary Fiber – 13 grams
Sugars – 1 gram
Protein – 4 grams
Vitamin A – 6% of RDI
Vitamin C – 33%
Vitamin E – 21%
Vitamin K – 53%
Thiamin – 9%
Riboflavin – 15%
Niacin – 17%
Vitamin B6 – 26%
Folate – 41%
Calcium – 2%
Iron – 6%
Magnesium – 15%
Phosphorus – 10%
Potassium – 28%
Zinc – 9%
Copper – 19%
Manganese – 14%
Having said that, though, avocados, like any food, should not be binged on! There are certain factors, including age, weight, height, gender and medical status that play a role in figuring out how much fat and calories your body needs each day. As a general guideline, it is safe to eat one-fifth to one-quarter of an avocado two to five times per week, depending on what else you are eating during the day.
2. Avocados Are High In Potassium
So high, in fact, that they beat bananas, which are famous for their potassium content! This important nutrient helps maintain electrical gradients in the body’s cells, and is lacking in most people’s diet. Avocado provides 14% of your daily recommended intake of potassium per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), compared to 10% from the same quantity of banana. Potassium has a range of important functions, with one study linking a high potassium intake to reduced blood pressure, meaning it may reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.
3. Avocados Are Full Of Healthy Fats
Some 77% of the calories in an avocado are fat, making it one of the fattiest foods in the natural world. Fat, in moderation, is good, and some fats are better than others. As far as avocados are concerned, most of the fat is oleic acid, which is an extremely beneficial monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil. It has been linked to reduced inflammation and may have positive effects on genes linked to cancer.
The fat in avocados can also help absorb nutrients from plant foods, meaning you can actually increase the nutritional value of the vegetables in, say, a garden salad, by adding avocado to it! To explain that further, some nutrients are fat soluble, which means they need to be combined with certain fats in order for the body to actually use them. So, by adding a healthy fat, like avocado, to vegetables with fat soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E and K and carotenoids, you are aiding the body’s ability to move them from the digestive tract into areas they can be used. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that adding avocado or avocado oil to salad significantly increased antioxidant absorption from carotenoid-rich food.
4. Avocados Are Full Of Fiber
This is another nutrient we like to rave on about here, because of its significant importance in the diet, and the fact that it is lacking in many Western diets. Avocados have a good dose of fiber, which is indigestible plant matter that comes with a range of health benefits, from reducing blood sugar spikes and aiding weight loss, to potentially reducing the risk of heart disease. A 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving of avocado contains 27% of your daily recommended intake of fiber, 25% of that being soluble and 75% being insoluble.
5. Avocados Can Lower Cholesterol Levels
A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that avocado could help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in overweight and obese people. Researchers found that an avocado per day, as part of a specific heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering diet, reduced bad cholesterol more than participants on the same diet, without the avocado. When cholesterol levels become too high, the risk of heart disease and stroke increases, with an unhealthy diet being the usual culprit.
6. Avocados May Play A Role In The Prevention Of Cancer
There is some evidence to date that avocados may have cancer-fighting properties. One study showed that avocation B, which is a type of fat found in avocados, may combat acute myeloid leukemia, a rare and deadly cancer. The study found that avocation B targets leukemia stem cells, which are responsible for most cases of recurrence. Another study showed that avocado might help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, with the phytochemicals in the fruit being used to produce an active chemo-protective ingredient to lower the side effects. Avocado extract has also been shown to stop the growth of prostate cancer cells, with researchers siting the fruit’s carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, as well as its vitamin E content, as the likely growth inhibitor. However, it is important to note that all of these studies were conducted on isolated cells, which are very different to clinical trials. That means scientists are still a long way from proving whether eating avocados plays a real and significant role in preventing or killing cancer cells in a living, breathing human.
7. The Antioxidants In Avocados Can Protect Your Eyes
We’ve already looked at how avocados can help the body absorb antioxidants from other foods, but they are also high in antioxidants themselves. The lutein and zeaxanthin in avocados are extremely important for eye health. These phytochemicals are particularly concentrated in the tissues of the eyes, where they provide antioxidant protection to help reduce damage, including from ultraviolet light. Studies have found that these two powerful nutrients may significantly reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
8. Avocados May Aid Weight Loss
That’s right – these extremely fatty fruits may actually help you lose weight! If you’re a long-time reader of Bembu.com, then you would know by now that fat is not the enemy, and plays an important role in a healthy diet. While being high in fat, avocados also provide the body with a number of other important nutrients, including fiber and protein, both of which fill you up and keep you full for longer. At the same time, they are low in carbohydrates, which is linked to weight loss. One study compared two groups of participants, all on a similar diet, but only one group including avocado. When asked about hunger and satiety, the group eating avocado felt 23% more satisfied and had a 28% lower desire to eat during the next five hours. The results of the study suggest that including avocados in your diet may help you eat fewer calories without even thinking about it.
9. Avocado Extract May Relieve Arthritis Pain
Extracts from avocado, as well as from soybean oil, called Avocado and Soybean unsaponifiables, may reduce symptoms of arthritis in the bones, also known as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common, painful and debilitating condition that affects millions of people in the US, especially in the older demographic. A number of studies have shown the therapeutic effects avocado and soybean extracts can have on the condition, but no studies to date have found whether avocados themselves can have the same effect.
Now to the good stuff! There are many creative ways you can use avocados, from making scrumptious, creamy chocolate frosting or thickening a smoothie, to the old classic of guacamole, and even rich, decadent desserts, like a creamy chocolate tart…
Guacamole – We couldn’t have a list of avocado recipes without including a guacamole one! This is a fresh, delicious option using real ingredients to make a scrumptious dip, including avocados, fresh cilantro, garlic, lime, salt and pepper.
10-Minute Chickpea Guacamole Salad – This protein and fiber-rich salad is delicious, filling and takes just 10 minutes to whip up! It is the perfect lunch or dinner option and calls for chickpeas, avocado, shallots, ground cumin, lime, jalapeno, cotija or feta cheese and cilantro.
Black Bean Corn & Avocado Salad – One of the best options for avocados is salad. You can create one of the most nutrient-dense meals possible by chopping and tossing together salad vegetables, avocado and beans. This recipe includes black beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, jalapeno, cilantro, onions and lime, making it packed full of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Loaded Shakshuka – Shakshuka is a tasty protein-rich, low-carb breakfast, lunch or dinner that is quick and easy to whip up. This recipe includes onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne, tomatoes, eggs, avocado, feta, bacon and parsley.
Avocado, Lime & Basil Smoothie – This is an extremely creative take on the regular breakfast or post-workout smoothie, using avocado, basil leaves, rice milk or almond milk, limes, coconut sugar and ice. It is extremely healthy and refreshing while being creamy and sweet at the same time!
Salted Mocha Avocado Mousse – And now to the scrumptious desserts! Avocado is a fantastic healthy ingredient to make sweet treats creamy and rich, without having to use dairy. This recipe includes avocados, almond milk, cocoa powder, maple syrup, coffee and vanilla extract to make an irresistible guilt-free dessert.
Avocado Chocolate Tart – There are lots of these avocado-based chocolate tarts floating around the internet, but this one has a delicious spicy twist, using cayenne and cinnamon. It tastes totally indulgent, but is packed full of healthy nutrient-dense ingredients, including avocado, raw cacao powder, maple syrup, stevia, vanilla extract, dates, almonds, coconut, cayenne pepper and cinnamon.
Mint Avocado Ice-Cream – Most healthy dairy-free ice-creams are made with a banana base, but this tasty treat uses avocados, along with almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, peppermint extract and dairy-free mini chocolate chips. And it looks just like the unhealthy mint choc chip ice-cream, because the avocado gives it that same beautiful green color and creamy texture!
Carrot Cake Breakfast Bars – Isn’t it great to find a grab-and-go breakfast option that tastes like it should be a guilty treat? This carrot cake-inspired bar is filling, nutritious, and, when prepared the day before, really is a grab-and-go option. The recipe calls for avocado, egg, pumpkin seeds, coconut, carrots, oats, cinnamon, coconut oil and almond butter.