What Are the Health Benefits from Avocados?
I was once challenged by the query: Pick one food to bring with you to a deserted island. I didn’t even blink. My answer was and still is the avocado. Now this might not be a surprising response to my fellow Californians. Afterall, we tend to be crazy about avocados. Avocado toast anyone? My love for the avocado was not a love at first sight story. In fact, it took years for my parents to convince me that the avocados from our 100-year-old tree were delicious food. Once I fell, I fell hard. There is nothing like it. It wasn’t long after that I realized the amazing versatility and health benefits an avocado can add to our diets.
The texture and flavor of this fruit (yes, it is indeed a fruit) is incredibly satisfying. It is also a universal food. It can be consumed plain, used as a dip or added to various recipes for a creamy texture. I add it to soup, smoothies, chicken or tuna salad, and many more dishes. It can also be used in baking as a one-to-one substitute for butter or shortening. The best part is its texture, which means it is an easy food to consume. The avocado was the first food I introduced to my kiddo. It is also easily consumed by older individuals who struggle with consuming tough textures or foods that require a significant amount of chewing. If you can’t stomach the meat of this fruit, try avocado oil. This oil has a high smoke point which makes it an easy choice when sauteing or roasting food. My motto is – when in doubt, add an avocado.
Avocado: A Superfood
I didn’t realize the full nutrition potential of the avocado until I was in school studying to be a registered dietitian. It’s often identified as a superfood due to its diverse nutrient content. If you’re on the fence about the avocado, this quick nutritional breakdown might convince you to try it.
The avocado is:
- Low in sodium
- High in fiber
- Low glycemic index food
- Protein source
- Contains the following vitamins and minerals: vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium and magnesium
- High vitamin B content including folate, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid
- Contains monounsaturated fats: These types of fat maintain a reasonable level of LDL cholesterol also known as “bad” cholesterol. Also, its fat content will help you absorb your fat-soluble vitamins.
- Let’s not forget about phytonutrients and carotenoids!
Due to this wide array of nutrients, the avocado has been studied for its health benefits…
The research indicates that consuming avocado for its health benefits may help:
- Improve heart health by boosting HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol (1)
- Reduce risk of cancer due to sterol content in the avocado seed (2) (keep reading for more about the seed…)
- Reduce excess food intake by improving satiety (3)
Finding the Perfect Avocado
There are hundreds of avocado types and the variety likely depends on the region in which it grows. Many of the avocados that are available today are hybrids of the original avocados that originated in Mexico, Guatemala or West Indies. The good news is you can’t go wrong with any type of avocado. The nutritional content of each is only slightly different from the other. Most of you probably consume the Hass variety. This is probably the most popular variety especially in California. It is spherical in shape with a pebbly skin and creamy fruit texture. As it ripens, the skin will darken in color. This is not the case for all avocado varieties.
Some of you may wonder how to select an avocado that is ready to consume. A chef once told me to remove the stem and check for a bright green hue. This will give you a preview as to how it looks on the inside. My other trick is to feel the fruit and make sure it’s not too hard or too squishy. I look for an avocado that is just becoming tender to the touch. And like any other fruit, you want to avoid bruises or indentations in the skin. If you can only find hard avocados, put them in a paper bag in a dark cool place. This will help speed up the ripening process. If you can only find ripe avocados, store them in the refrigerator to slow the ripening process. Otherwise, feel free to keep them at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
One more thing… Don’t waste the seed. The safety of eating the seed is up for debate. However, you can boil the seed, cut it into small pieces and let it steep in water. The result is avocado tea. Feel free to treat the avocado tea as you do your traditional cup of chamomile or black tea. You may add honey or oat milk. I prefer to drink it plain.
My Favorite Avocado Recipes
If the idea of avocado tea is a little too adventurous for you, here are other recipes that include avocado…
“Let It Shine” Avocado Tuna Salad
- 2 avocados
- 2 cans tuna (drained and flaked)
- 2 stalks celery (finely diced)
- 1 cup baby spinach (finely chopped)
- 1 garlic (clove, minced)
- 1 ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lemon (juiced)
- Sea salt & black pepper (to taste)
- Cut your avocados in half and discard the pits. Scoop about 3/4 of the avocado flesh out of each avocado half so that just a bit of avocado remains in the shell. Place the avocado flesh you carved out in a large mixing bowl and mash with a fork.
- Add tuna, celery, baby spinach, minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
- Use a spoon to pack the tuna salad back into the avocado halves. Enjoy!
“Avocado in Disguise” Chocolate Smoothie
- ¼ avocado
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 1 banana
- 2 tbsp raw cacao
- Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Conclusion on Eating Avocado for its Health Benefits
The avocado is one of my absolute favorite foods – and for good reason! It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals. Its known to improve good cholesterol and satiety. It’s an easy and versatile food that can be added to most people’s diet, even if they have a difficult time with textures. So is consuming avocado for its health benefits a good idea? Absolutely!
- 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;12:1. 2013 Jan 2. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1
- Alkhalaf M, Alansari W, Ibrahim E, ELhalwagy M. Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities of avocado (Persea americana) fruit and seed extract. J King Saud Univers Sci. 2019;31(4):1358-62. doi:10.1016/j.jksus.2018.10.010
- Zhu L, Huang Y, Edirisinghe I, Park E, Burton-Freeman B. Using the avocado to test the satiety effects of a fat-fiber combination in place of carbohydrate energy in a breakfast meal in overweight and obese men and women: a randomized clinical trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(5). doi:10.3390/nu11050952