By Dr. Mercola
Avocados are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Personally, I eat one almost every day. If you're an avocado fan, which 60 percent of Americans claim to be,1 you're probably aware that they're an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamins and antioxidants.
What you may not know, however, is that these super fruits also have cancer-fighting properties. In one of the latest studies, avocatin B, a type of fat found in avocados, was found to combat acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which is a particularly rare and deadly form of cancer.
Avocado Fat May Kill Cancer Stem Cells
The study, published in Cancer Research, revealed that avocatin B targets leukemia stem cells, which are responsible for causing most cases of AML recurrence.2
In those over 65, the disease is often deadly within five years, and there are few effective treatment options.3 The avocado fat was able to wipe out the leukemia stem cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
The researchers are working on developing a leukemia drug derived from avocatin B, however you can also get cancer-fighting agents just by eating avocados – especially if you peel them properly.
Avocados are rich in cancer-fighting carotenoids, which are most plentiful in the dark-green portion of the flesh that's closest to the skin. In 2010, the California Avocado Commission issued guidelines for getting the most out of your avocado by peeling it the right way.4
"California-grown avocados contain 11 carotenoids. According to USDA's Agricultural Research Service, avocados contain a complex package of phytonutrients, including carotenoids that may provide numerous health benefits.
Carotenoids appear to protect humans against certain cancers, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration. The UCLA research showed that in California avocados, the greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids is in the dark green fruit of the avocado closest to the peel."
To preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants, you basically want to peel the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana:
- First, cut the avocado length-wise, around the seed
- Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed
- Remove the seed
- Cut each half, lengthwise
- Next, using your thumb and index finger, simply peel the skin off each piece
An Avocado a Day May Keep Bad Cholesterol Away
Eating healthy fats, including those in avocado, is important for protecting your heart health and optimizing your cholesterol levels.
Among overweight and obese Americans, those who consumed a moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day had lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels (by 13.5 mg/dL) compared to those eating an average American diet.5
Small dense LDL cholesterol was "especially" lowered, which is an important distinction. Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation.
The fact that eating an avocado a day helps lower this subset of potentially dangerous cholesterol particles is good reason to add it to your diet… In addition, past research has shown avocados might help improve lipid profiles, both in healthy individuals and in those with mild hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol levels).
Healthy individuals saw a 16 percent decrease in total cholesterol level following a one-week-long diet high in monounsaturated fat from avocados.
In those with elevated cholesterol levels, the avocado diet resulted in a 17 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol, and a 22 percent decrease of both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, along with an 11 percent increase of the so-called "good" HDL cholesterol.6
One study even found that eating one-half of a medium avocado with a hamburger significantly inhibited the production of the inflammatory compound Interleukin-6 (IL-6), compared to eating a burger without fresh avocado.7 According to lead author David Heber, MD, PhD, the findings offer "promising clues" about avocado's ability to benefit vascular function and heart health.
Avocados Might Help You Lose Weight and Absorb Nutrients
If the cancer-preventive and heart-healthy properties of avocado haven't convinced you that this is one superfood worth eating, maybe this will: according to research published in the Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you're overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later.8
Those who ate half an avocado with their standard lunch reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal and 28 percent less hungry at the five-hour mark compared to those who did not eat avocado for lunch. The study also found that avocados appear helpful for regulating blood sugar
The monounsaturated fat in avocados is a type your body can easily burn for energy, and because they are so rich in healthy fats, avocados help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods.
One study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that consuming a whole fresh avocado with either an orange-colored tomato sauce or raw carrots significantly enhanced absorption of the carotenoids and conversion of them into an active form of vitamin A.9
A 2005 study similarly found that adding avocado to salad allowed the volunteers to absorb three to five times more carotenoid antioxidant molecules, which help protect your body against free radical damage.10
Avocados Contain Nutrients Many Americans Are Lacking
Avocados provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folic acid. Despite the fact that potassium is available in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, only 2 percent of US adults get the recommended daily amount.11
It plays an important role in heart function, skeletal health, digestion, and muscular function, and is essential for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs in your body.12
Further, consuming enough potassium-rich food is important because this nutrient helps offset the hypertensive effects of sodium. Imbalance in your sodium-potassium ratio can not only lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) but may also contribute to a number of other diseases, including heart disease and stroke.
About 2.5 avocados provide the daily-recommended amount of about 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day. Not to mention, an average avocado contains about 40 mg of magnesium, which is about 10 percent of the recommended daily value.
Magnesium is a mineral used by every organ in your body, especially your heart, muscles, and kidneys. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium and may be deficient. If you suffer from unexplained fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, or even muscle spasms and eye twitches, low levels of magnesium could be to blame.
Better still, avocados are one of few foods that contain significant levels of both vitamins C and E.13 One study also found that a combination of vitamin C and E helped to slow plaque build-up, which could help prevent a heart attack or stroke.14
Avocados are even high in fiber, with about 4.6 grams in half an avocado. Fiber plays an essential role in your digestive, heart, and skin health, and may improve blood sugar control, weight management, and more, so when you eat avocados you're really providing your body with a comprehensive package of nutrition.
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Avocado Super Smoothie Recipe – Delicious!
You've surely tried guacamole and probably avocado on salads and sandwiches… but there are many more ways to enjoy avocados. One of my favorite ways is to blend one-third of an avocado into 12 ounces of water with my Vegan or Pure Power Protein and shredded coconut, along with my organic greens mix and my organic psyllium. You can also try avocado:
- As a fat replacement in baking. Simply replace the fat called for (such as oil, butter, or shortening) with an equal amount of avocado
- As a first food for babies, in lieu of processed baby food
- In soups. For examples, see Lucy Lock's Chilled Mediterranean Soup or her Raw Creamy Carrot Soup
- Added to smoothies or your protein shake
- Baked with a soft-boiled egg in the middle for breakfast
You might also want to try this avocado super smoothie recipe, which is adapted from one posted at the Little Epicurean.15 Try it for breakfast or as a light lunch or snack that will stick to your ribs and give you lasting energy.
Avocado Super Smoothie
- 1 whole avocado
- 1 cup of torn kale leaves, no stem
- 1/2 cup organic blueberries
- 1/2 cup fresh pineapple
- 1 cup of organic baby spinach
- 1/2 sliced cucumber
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut water
Pour coconut water into blender. Add the avocado, kale, blueberries, pineapple, spinach and cucumber. Cover with lid and blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses and serve immediately.
Do You Wish You Could Grow Your Own Avocado Tree?
The seed from an avocado can be used to grow your own tree, although it's not as simple as just planting it in the ground. To get an avocado seed to grow, its "pointy" end needs to face the sun while the flat end needs to be kept wet at all times.
One way to accomplish this is by placing three or four toothpicks into the outer layer of the seed. Use the toothpicks as support structures to 'float' the seed on the top of a glass of water. If done properly, roots should begin to sprout within one or two months.
A Kickstarter campaign has also been launched for a device called the AvoSeedo. It keeps the seed properly immersed in water, and automatically adjusts as the water level in your container goes down. This makes the germination process much easier and more foolproof, because if your seed dries out, the germination process might stop permanently. If you're interested in growing your own avocado tree, you may want to check it out.