Last Updated on September 13, 2020
The avocado: a versatile superfood packed with tons of potential health benefits. You can find it in a salad or on toast. Guacamole wouldn’t be complete without it. Try spicing up your dinner with a poke bowl that highlights the goodness of avocado.
The avocado has long been a popular health food, but what is the science behind all these health claims? Why is consuming avocados a good thing?
Before we get to the science behind this unique food, let’s get to know avocado better first.
What Is the Avocado?
Botanically considered as a fruit, the avocado has been thought to originate about 7000 years ago in Southern Mexico and Colombia. In as early as the 16th century, the Aztecs and the Incas had introduced this superfruit to the Spanish conquistadors. When the English colonists came, they nicknamed it “alligator pear” for its appearance (green, bumpy skin) and its resemblance to pears.
There are many avocado varieties, which differ in shape and color. Among these, the Hass avocado is the most popular variety because of its long harvest and delicious flavor.
The Avocado Nutrient Bonanza
Today, the avocado is popular with health food enthusiasts. The reason behind its popularity and staying power doesn’t come as a surprise. This humble fruit is jam-packed with nutrients, along with healthy fats and low carbs.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one serving of a raw California avocado, without the skin and the seed (about 136 grams), contains approximately:
- 227 kilocalories
- 2.67 grams of protein
- 21 grams of fat (total lipid)
- 11.8 grams of carbohydrates
- 9.25 grams of dietary fiber
- 17.7 milligrams of calcium
- 39.4 milligrams of magnesium
- 73.4 milligrams of phosphorus
- 690 milligrams of potassium
Aside from these vitamins and nutrients, avocado also contains beta and alpha carotenes, lutein, vitamin E, and vitamin A, among others.
Avocado Health Benefits
Avocados aren’t just about the good fats, and it’s not just about avocado flesh when it comes to delivering the goods.
May have anti-inflammatory properties
It’s all in the seed. Now, we’re not telling you to go gnaw on an avocado seed to reap its benefits. Although there are some food bloggers who have incorporated the seed into their diet. They do this by dehydrating the seed and grinding it. They then mix it into smoothies and baked goods.
A 2018 study explored the anti-inflammatory potential of a colored avocado seed extract (CASE). The findings suggest that the extract reduces inflammation. It also suggests that the CASE may be used as a compound to develop medications that can combat diseases brought about by chronic inflammation. This can include cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis.
May help with cardiovascular health
There are eight preliminary clinical trials on avocados and their effect on cardiovascular health. According to one trial, 50% of the subjects had significantly lower cholesterol levels. More recent findings have supported this study, with results showing a reduction in total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-C levels. LDL cholesterol, when oxidized, may trigger inflammatory responses. Adding avocado to your diet may help reduce the occurrence of oxidized LDL particles.
Consuming avocados can also increase your body’s supply of lutein. Lutein is a nutrient commonly associated with preventing eye-related conditions. New research shows that this nutrient also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which can have an effect on resolving coronary artery disease.
May help with weight management
Looking to shed off a few pounds? Avocados may be able to help you with that. This fiber-rich superfood (about 7 grams for every 100-gram serving) is also teeming with monounsaturated fat goodness. Plus, avocados help you feel fuller longer.
May promote better diet quality and nutrient intake
Avocados as a steppingstone toward a better diet? Research published in the Nutrition Journal suggests that avocado is associated with better diet quality, nutrient intake, and a lower risk of metabolic syndrome in adults.
May lead to better cognitive health
A study done in older adults showed the potential effects of avocado on cognitive functions such as memory and problem-solving skills. The findings suggest that after the six-month trial, subjects showed improvement in memory and spatial working memory. The subjects’ attention also showed improvement.
This is probably due to the lutein found in avocado, as lutein found in the brain and in the macula are related to better cognition.
May help regulate cholesterol levels
Eating an avocado a day can actually do you a world of good. New research from Penn State suggests that an avocado a day may actually be effective in keeping bad cholesterol away. This, in effect, may lower susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases.
Bad cholesterol may refer to either of the two: low-density lipoprotein or the small, dense LDL particles. Eating an avocado a day may lower the levels of LDL and oxidized LDL in your body.
We know that oxidation is bad for our body. In this sense, oxidation may pave the way for diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. When LDL is oxidized, it can lead to a chain of processes that can end up with the production of plaque in the body’s artery wall. As per the research, avocados may help counter that effect.
Are teeming with antioxidants
According to the Dietitians Association of Australia, avocados are packed with nature’s antioxidants. They are rich in beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These fat-soluble nutrients play a crucial role in maintaining eye health. Avocados are also rich in vitamin E and vitamin C. That’s a lot of natural goodness packed into one fruit.
Choosing the Right Avocado
Picking the right avocados can be a bit tricky, and so is handling and storing them. Keep these tips in mind when looking for avocados:
Picking the Right Avocados
Remember these two indicators of an avocado’s ripeness: color and feel.
- Check the color of the skin. Darker skin may be riper than fresher avocados, but remember that color isn’t always an indication of ripeness. Ripe avocados will be quite firm to the touch but will yield when you exert gentle pressure.
- Check the skin for indentations or signs that the fruit might have been bruised.
- See molds on the skin? That one’s a no-go.
As with other food items, avocados should be handled with care.
- Make sure that your utensils and cutting surfaces are disinfected to avoid cross-contamination.
- Wash your avocados thoroughly in warm water, and then dry them thoroughly before slicing them.
- When storing cut avocados, sprinkle the cut surface with an acidic substance such as lemon, lime juice, or white vinegar. This is to keep them from discoloring.
- Store it in an airtight bag or container, and then refrigerate it.
- For uncut fruit, they can be stored in the fridge for around two to three days as long as they remain uncut.
Want to speed up ripening? Here’s what you can do:
- Place your avocado in a paper bag, and store it at room temperature. Your avocado will be ready to eat in about two to five days.
- Want a faster way? You can try putting an apple or a kiwi in the bag with the avocado. Apples and kiwis give off ethylene, a natural substance that induces ripening.