An Avocado a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

avocado benefits

Story at-a-glance -

  • Eating avocados may help protect your heart and optimize cholesterol levels.They are rich in healthy fats that your body can easily use for energy.
  • Besides containing high amounts of fiber, protein and healthy fats, avocados contain high amounts of several essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, potassium, folate and vitamin K
  • Avocados are extremely versatile, whether they’re used as a base for guacamole, sliced in salads or chopped up and added to scrambled eggs

By Dr. Mercola

Sometimes people have more than one serious health complication. If those problems happen to be three or more of the most prevalent risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides and a large waistline, they merge into a single disorder known as metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome represents one very serious illness, affecting 40 percent of the U.S. population over age 40.

Scientists from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), conducting a review of 129 scientific studies on the topic of avocados and metabolic syndrome, now call this malady "the new silent killer."1 Dr. Charles H. Hennekens says:

"The major factor accelerating the pathway to metabolic syndrome is overweight and obesity. Obesity is overtaking smoking as the leading avoidable cause of premature death in the U.S. and worldwide."2

Parvathi Perumareddi, doctor of osteopathic medicine and assistant professor of integrated medical science at FAU, explained:

"The pandemic of obesity, which begins in childhood, is deeply concerning. Adolescents today are more obese and less physically active than their parents and already have higher rates of type 2 diabetes.

It is likely that the current generation of children and adolescents in the U.S. will be the first since 1960 to have higher mortality rates than their parents due mainly to cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke."3

It's something you have control over, however. The review concluded that metabolic syndrome is preventable in most cases using dietary measures. In fact, the featured study revealed that one way you can help prevent metabolic syndrome is by eating avocados.4

Avocados: 'It Would Be Hard to Eat Too Much'

Here's why registered dietician Cynthia Sass, with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health, calls avocados worthy of superfood status: They can effectively combat nearly every aspect of metabolic syndrome.

According to Sass, the "impressive range of studies" the researchers perused also covered the nutritional impact the firm, velvety flesh of this pear-shaped green-black food, technically a fruit, can make on several other areas of the body, not just metabolic syndrome symptoms.

It's possible that more than just the fruit itself may be good for you; researchers found possible benefits from consuming the leaves, peels, oil and even the large pit at the center of avocados (although Sass suggested that sticking to the peeled, pitted flesh would be best until further studies can be done).

Time online notes that avocados not only help stave off belly fat — the worst type of fat to carry — but eating them offers such high amounts of healthy fat compared to other fruits, eating too much would be very difficult to do. Further, it's versatile and filling, as well, Sass noted:

"Fortunately avocado is very satiating. It's almost like they have a built-in stop-gap. This is yet another example of how not all calories are created equal. Avocado blends well with both sweet and savory ingredients, and provides the satisfaction factor that makes dishes decadent."5

Combine avocados with salsa or fruit chutney to make guacamole; mash them with a bit of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper for a quick vegetable or pita dip, or a delicious addition to egg salad. Serve mashed avocado on poached or lightly cooked over-easy eggs or slice, salt and eat them all by themselves.

The beauty is that it's not just about the versatility and flavor of avocados; the nutritional profile is incredible.

Additional information from the study about this plant-based food, Science Daily said, was that they're also "lipid-lowering, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, anti-obesity, antithrombotic, antiatherosclerotic and cardioprotective."6

Avocados and Cholesterol

If you don't get any other concept about how avocados can literally change your health, this might move you: The high fat content in avocados is a good thing — it's not "bad" fat. In fact, it's good, necessary fat from oleic acid, which is the same monosaturated fatty acid contained in olive oil.

Oleic acid is associated with decreased inflammation, which helps stave off such diseases as cancer.7

Further, neither avocados nor avocado oil are hydrogenated or loaded with trans fats or other unhealthy oxidized fats like most canola, safflower, corn or other vegetable oils you're urged to cook with may be. Avocado oil can even be drizzled over salads and used in recipes calling for other oils.

Avocado oil also has a relatively high smoke point compared to olive oil, making it a better choice for cooking,8 although coconut oil is best for that purpose.

While some people remain concerned that eating high-fat foods like avocados may adversely affect their cholesterol levels, the opposite is actually true (plus, cholesterol is not the evil it's made out to be).

According to the review, people who eat avocados have higher levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol than those who do not. Eating avocados may also lower triglyceride levels compared to eating high-carb diets or diets without avocado.9

Beneficial Nutrients That Make Up Avocados

The California Avocado Commission reports that avocados contain about 22.5 grams of fat, and two-thirds of that is monounsaturated. Other essential nutrients include fiber, vitamins, folic acid, vitamin E and more potassium than you'd find in a banana.

SELFNutritionData reports that avocado also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, ion, zinc, phosphorous and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin). In regard to the dietary reference intake (DRI), 100 grams (3.5 oz.) of avocado contain:10

Vitamin K: 26 percent

Folate: 20 percent

Vitamin C: 17 percent

Potassium: 14 percent

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): 14 percent

Vitamin B6: 13 percent

Vitamin E: 10 percent

Niacin: 9 percent

According to Authority Nutrition:

"This is coming with 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. Although it contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of those are fiber so there are only 2 'net' carbs, making this a low-carb friendly plant food."11

Avocados for Your Heart, Arthritis, Blood Sugar Levels and Weight Loss

Research shows several other positive aspects about avocados: One of the most interesting is that people who eat more of them generally weigh less and have smaller waistlines than people who don't, even if their overall caloric consumption is smaller.

The fiber content can also be thanked for this aspect of avocado consumption. It's both soluble, which amounts to 75 percent, and insoluble fiber, the former of which is linked to good gut bacteria, which affects your body's optimal function.12

Avocados also were found to be more filling than other foods. In one study, participants were divided and each half given a meal to eat, one of which contained avocados.

Afterward, a questionnaire revealed that 23 percent of those in the avocado group felt more satisfied and had a 28 percent lower desire to eat within the next five hours.13

All these factors are what help make avocados an incredibly healthy food to add to your diet. One study notes that avocados contain high amounts of lutein, zeaxanthin and phytosterols, and explains:

"Eight preliminary avocado cardiovascular health clinical studies (have) consistently demonstrated positive heart healthy effects on blood lipids profiles.

This is primarily because of avocado's … monounsaturated fatty acids and high-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA and PUFA) content, but its natural phytosterols and dietary fiber may play potential secondary … roles.

Avocados also have a diverse range of other nutrients and phytochemicals … In particular, avocado's potassium and lutein may help promote normal blood pressure and help to control oxidative/inflammatory stress."14

More and More Avocado Advantages

Antioxidants absorption is another important element to eating this nubby green fruit. In fact, when you add it to salsa or salad, you'll absorb three to five times more fat-soluble carotenoids because of the avocado's lipid content. This, in turn, may help protect your body against free radical damage.15

In other words, when you eat carotenoid-rich foods along with healthy fat avocados, your body becomes better able to absorb more of their fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha- and beta-carotenes, as well as lutein, zeaxanthin and other antioxidants.

The antioxidants have been noted for their prominent roles in keeping your vision healthy. One study shows the antioxidants protect your macula, located near the center of your eye where your vision is clearest, from short-wavelength visible light, and help prevent age-related macular degeneration as well as cataracts.16

Here's another benefit that's very important: Avocados carry a very light load of chemical pesticide spray residue in comparison with other plant-based foods, so it's not necessary to try to find (or grow) organic varieties. They are a fruit, but unlike so many others, avocados don't contain high levels of fructose. Instead, the healthy fat they offer rivals that of coconut oil, organic raw butter, and raw nuts such as pecans and almonds.

Did you know that avocado oil is also good for your hair and skin? It makes your skin softer and more supple, and renders your hair smoother and less frizzy and tangled than without it, especially if your hair is dry. In fact, it has many of the same properties as coconut oil.

Post your comment