The Health Benefits of Avocados

The Health Benefits of Avocados

Background

The Avocado, also called an alligator pear, is a very popular food and I thought it would be worth taking a few minutes to discuss its health benefits.

Avocado’s are thought to have originated in southern Mexico, the world's largest producer of avocados.

They are a flowering plant from the avocado tree Persea americana, and the edible part is technically a large berry, making them a fruit. Some folks may consider them to be a vegetable. For most purposes, this distinction is not significant. There are different types species including west indian, guatemalan and mexican.

Around the world, avocados are grown in tropical climates near the equator and do not grow well in places where there is a frost or freeze.

The green pulp or flesh is the part that is consumed; the outer skin or peel as well as the inner seed are discarded.

Avocado can be prepared in a variety of ways including used as a spread on toast, as an ingredient to almost any food and perhaps most famously, as guacamole dip.

Nutritional Content

avocado nutrition facts.png

 

Avocados are 77% fat, 19% carbs and 4% protein.

Avocados are packed with nutrition. One serving, which is defined here as a cup, contains:

  • 234 calories
  • 21 grams of fat, of which a whopping 14g are monounsaturated, 2.7g polyunsaturated, 3.1g saturated
  • 12 grams of carbohydrates, 10 of which are dietary fiber
  • 2.9 grams of protein

Vitamin & Mineral Content

Because of their high fat content, they are rich in fat soluble vitamins not found in other fruits including B vitamins, Vitamins A, D and E.

The following vitamins and minerals are found in avocados:

Minerals

  • Potassium (21%)
    • Higher than bananas!
  • Copper (14%)
  • Manganese (11%)
  • Magnesium (10%)
  • Phosphorous (8%)
  • Zinc (6%)
  • Iron (4%)
  • Calcium (1%)
  • Selenium (1%)

Vitamins

  • Vitamin K (39%)
  • Folate (30%)
  • Vitamin C (24%)
  • Pantothenic acid (21%)
  • Vitamin B6 (20%)
  • Vitamin E [alpha tocopherol] (16%)
  • Niacin (13%)
  • Riboflavin (11%)
  • Thiamin (7%)
  • Vitamin A (4%)

Other Compounds

  • Fiber
  • Carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin)
  • Phytosterols (β-sitosterol)
  • Tocopherols
  • Squalene

Benefits

Unlike many foods, researchers have actually looked at the health benefits of avocados!. Avocado consumption has been shown to

  • Improved cholesterol health
    • Reduce total cholesterol levels, triglycerides (by up to 20%), LDL cholesterol (up to 22%) and raising HDL, the good cholesterol (by up to 11%)
  • Half as likely to develop metabolic syndrome (prediabetes)
    • Lower body mass index
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Increase antioxidant absorption
  • May help with cancer
    • Inhibit side effects of chemotherapy
    • Inhibit growth of prostate cancer cells
  • Arthritis
  • Meal satiety, which could contribute to weight loss

The following health benefits can be stated about avocados. These recommendations are based on the nutritional content of avocados and not research specifically on avocados themselves.

  • Potassium intake (21%)
    • Important for normal muscle activity (heart, skeletal and smooth)
    • May lower risk of stroke, high blood pressure, kidney stones
  • Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
    • Cardiovascular: lower blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate
    • Reduces coronary heart disease death, fatal heart attack, sudden cardiac death
    • Reduces stress, improves memory, decreases depression
  • Fiber
    • Normalize bowel movements, maintain gut health, lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar control and help maintain a healthy weight.
    • May also help with hypertension, inflammation and colorectal cancer
  • Carotenoids
    • Eye health, lower risk of cataracts, macular degeneration
  • Phytosterols
    • Helps with immunity, may help with cancer, HIV, infections
    • Weight loss
  • Vitamin K (39%)
    • Primary function in body is to stop bleeding via the coagulation cascade
    • Appears to help alzheimer's, coronary artery disease, osteoporosis and osteopenia, risk of fracture, hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer)
  • Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) (30%)
    • Role in nerve, brain function, DNA and RNA synthesis, red blood cells
    • Supplemented in pregnancy to prevent birth defects
    • May help with heart disease, alzheimer's dementia, depression and cancer

Summary

  • Avocados are an increasingly popular food worldwide
  • They are nutritionally dense, packed with healthy fats, vitamins and minerals
  • Research on avocado consumption shows lower cholesterol, blood pressure, risk of metabolic syndrome, arthritis pain and may help with cancer
  • Research on the nutritional components also shows:
    • high potassium content which helps with muscle function,
    • MUFA which lower risk of stroke, heart disease
    • Fibers which help with gut health, inflammation and healthy weight
    • Carotenoids which help with vision and phytosterols which are also healthy
  • Avocados may really be a superfood!

Resources/ References

Paul R, Kulkarni P, Ganesh N. Avocado fruit (Persea americana Mill) exhibits
chemo-protective potentiality against cyclophosphamide induced genotoxicity in
human lymphocyte culture. J Exp Ther Oncol. 2011;9(3):221-30.

Nuray Z. Unlu, Torsten Bohn, Steven K. Clinton, Steven J. Schwartz; Carotenoid Absorption from Salad and Salsa by Humans Is Enhanced by the Addition of Avocado or Avocado Oil, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 135, Issue 3, 1 March 2005, Pages 431–436

Alvizouri-Muñoz M, Carranza-Madrigal J, Herrera-Abarca JE, Chávez-Carbajal F,  Amezcua-Gastelum JL. Effects of avocado as a source of monounsaturated fatty acids on plasma lipid levels. Arch Med Res. 1992 Winter;23(4):163-7.

Arranza J, Alvizouri M, Alvarado MR, Chávez F, Gómez M, Herrera JE. [Effects  of avocado on the level of blood lipids in patients with phenotype II and IV dyslipidemias]. Arch Inst Cardiol Mex. 1995 Jul-Aug;65(4):342-8.

López Ledesma R, Frati Munari AC, Hernández Domínguez BC, Cervantes Montalvo S, Hernández Luna MH, Juárez C, Morán Lira S. Monounsaturated fatty acid (avocado) rich diet for mild hypercholesterolemia. Arch Med Res. 1996 Winter;27(4):519-23.

Pieterse Z, Jerling JC, Oosthuizen W, Kruger HS, Hanekom SM, Smuts CM, Schutte AE. Substitution of high monounsaturated fatty acid avocado for mixed dietary fats during an energy-restricted diet: effects on weight loss, serum lipids, fibrinogen, and vascular function. Nutrition. 2005 Jan;21(1):67-75.

Colquhoun DM, Moores D, Somerset SM, Humphries JA. Comparison of the effects on lipoproteins and apolipoproteins of a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids, enriched with avocado, and a high-carbohydrate diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992  Oct;56(4):671-7.

Lerman-Garber I, Ichazo-Cerro S, Zamora-González J, Cardoso-Saldaña G, Posadas-Romero C. Effect of a high-monounsaturated fat diet enriched with avocado in NIDDM patients. Diabetes Care. 1994 Apr;17(4):311-5.

GRANT WC. Influence of avocados on serum cholesterol. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1960 May;104:45-7.

Fulgoni VL 3rd, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US  adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Nutr J. 2013 Jan 2;12:1.

Lu QY, Arteaga JR, Zhang Q, Huerta S, Go VL, Heber D. Inhibition of prostate cancer cell growth by an avocado extract: role of lipid-soluble bioactive substances. J Nutr Biochem. 2005 Jan;16(1):23-30.

DiNubile NA. A potential role for avocado- and soybean-based nutritional supplements in the management of osteoarthritis: a review. Phys Sportsmed. 2010 Jun;38(2):71-81. Doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.06.1785. Review. Erratum in: Phys Sportsmed. 2010 Oct;38(3):128.

Blotman F, Maheu E, Wulwik A, Caspard H, Lopez A. Efficacy and safety of avocado/soybean unsaponifiables in the treatment of symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. A prospective, multicenter, three-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Rev Rhum Engl Ed. 1997 Dec;64(12):825-34.

Wien, M., Haddad, E., & Oda, K. (2013). A randomized 3x3 crossover study to evaluate the effect of Hass avocado intake on post-ingestive satiety, glucose and insulin levels, and subsequent energy intake in overweight adults. Nutrition Journal, 12(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-155

Duarte, Patrícia Fonseca, Chaves, Marcia Alves, Borges, Caroline Dellinghausen, & Mendonça, Carla Rosane Barboza. (2016). Avocado: characteristics, health benefits and uses. Ciência Rural, 46(4), 747-754.

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