Avocados are one of the most healthful foods on earth, but should you eat them daily? After all, eating too much of this fatty fruit could result in weight gain, right? But what if the research showed that eating avocados helps control both your weight, as well as boosting your heart health?
It’s true. The Journal of the American Heart Association recently published a study confirming that the fat from avocados can lead to significant improvement in blood lipids.
In the study, overweight and obese subjects first consumed the Average American diet with 34% of their daily calories coming from fat, 51% from carbohydrate, and 16% from protein. Then after two weeks, they ate either a low fat or a moderate-fat diet without avocado or a moderate fat diet with one additional avocado daily (they ate Hass avocados). After the five weeks, the group that ate the avocado showed significant improvement in total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and non-HDL cholesterol.
Besides the heart-healthy mono- unsaturated fat, the researchers note that avocados contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, and heart-healthy phytosterols, polyphenols and other beneficial phytochemicals.
In another study published in the Nutrition Journal, participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch daily reported a 40% decrease in desire to eat for hours afterwards. Avocados have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control, and are associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake.
Avocados, besides being powerhouses of nutrition (they contain 20 different vitamins and minerals), have a rich and buttery taste and texture, which can satisfy your cravings. They contain more protein than any other fruit, are low in carbohydrates, and contain the healthiest fats.
Top 10 Facts about Avocados
- Avocado refers to the tree and to the fruit. Botanically, the fruit is a large berry containing a single (large) seed.
- This ancient fruit dates back over 10,000 years to central Mexico, and the word “avocado” is believed to be derived from the Nahuatl word for “testicle”, describing the shape of the fruit. Archaeologists believe cultivation started about 5,000 years ago. The first Europeans to eat avocados were, of course, Spanish conquistadores and settlers, who brought avocados back to Europe in the 16th century.
- Today, avocados are cultivated around the world, wherever the climate allows. Mexico is by far the largest producer, and other significant production also comes from Peru, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Indonesia. The trees need subtropical or tropical climates, although some varieties have been developed that are cold tolerant.
- There are hundreds of varieties of avocado, but the most commonly cultivated avocado in the world, producing fruit year-round and accounting for 80% of the cultivated crop is the Hass (spherical), the bumpy-skinned fruit. Another popular avocado is the large green Fuerte (pear-shaped). North Americans will recognize Hass avocados as “California” avocados; Fuerte are “Florida” avocados, much larger than the Hass. A search of AvocadoSource.com shows Ecuador grows about 30 different varieties such as the Capac, Chota, Imbabura, Inca, and Tamayo. Click here for a fun article about shopping around Ecuador’s mercados, and pictures and descriptions of different fruits.
- Avocados are high in fat, necessary for nutrient absorption. Just like olives, avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, especially heart-healthy oleic acid. They’re also high in omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid. Avocado oil is great for eating and for cooking too, since it has a high smoke point. Look for cold-pressed extra-virgin avocado oil.
- A half of a Hass avocado contains about 5 grams of fiber; a half of a Fuerte about 8.5 grams. Hass contain more soluble fiber; Fuerte contain more insoluble fiber. Both types of fiber contribute to good digestion and elimination and helps stabilize blood glucose and lower blood fats.
- Avocados are rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin K (26% of the Recommended Daily Value (RDA), vitamin C (17%), and potassium (14%), even more than a banana. Another important nutrient linked to avocado heart health is beta-sitosterol, a natural plan sterol linked to healthy cholesterol levels. They also contain magnesium, phosphorus and iron.
- Oxidation (exposure to air) makes avocados turn brown, but by brushing the fruit with an acidic agent like citrus juice you can delay the process. If I want to use just half of the avocado, instead of slicing lengthwise, I cut it in half crosswise, leaving in the seed, sprinkle with juice, and then press plastic wrap right on the cut flesh and store in the refrigerator. What are your tips for keeping avocados fresh? Post your comments below.
- A ripe avocado will be firm but not hard. Overripe will feel soft like a tomato. You might want to buy firm avocados, and let them ripen at room temperature, and as they soften, refrigerate to slow the ripening process.
- Don’t throw your seeds away! You can easily get that seed to sprout, and with care, in about 5 to 13 years you’ll have a tree that will bear fruit!
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Eat More Avocados!
On a daily basis, avocados are a wonderful substitute for animal fats in your diet. Instead of butter, mashed avocado is perfect in your baked potatoes. Substitute mashed avocado for mayonnaise in your tuna salad … mayo, afterall, is so last year! Avocado is creamy and mild tasting, contains no artificial stabilizers or sugar, has zero sodium, no cholesterol, and is low in fat and calories compared to mayonnaise. Here’s a great recipe adapted from California Avocado Direct for a egg-free, soy and dairy-free substitute.
Better than Mayo: Avocado Dressing
1 ripe large avocado, sliced or chunked
1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard (optional)
1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
¼ teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Wash the avocado, cut in half, scoop out the flesh, and put in blender. Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil, and blend together. With the blender running on low, add the olive oil slowly until the mixture is light and creamy.
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Feel free to post your favorite avocado recipes/tips in the comments below.
AvocadoSource.com. World Avocado Data. http://avocadosource.com/
AvocadoCentral.com. Avocado Nutrition and Benefits. https://www.avocadocentral.com/nutrition
AvoSeedo.com. A brief history of the avocado. https://www.avoseedo.com/a-brief-history-of-the-avocado/
CaliforniaAvocadosDirect.com. Use Avocado as a Healthy Butter Substitute. http://www.californiaavocadosdirect.com/13/use-avocado-as-a-healthy-butter-substitute.aspx
Journal of the American Heart Association. Effect of a Moderate Fat Diet With and Without Avocados on Lipoprotein Particle Number, Size and Subclasses in Overweight and Obese Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/4/1/e001355
Nutrition Journal. A randomized 3×3 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. https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-12-155
Nutrition Journal. 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. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3545982/
SmithsonianMag.com. What Makes These Avocados Different From All Others? http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/what-makes-these-avocados-different-from-all-others-27947578/
Wikipedia.com. Avocado. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avocado
Wikipedia.com. Hass avocado. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hass_avocado