Avocado Health benefits & Nutritional Information
The avocado is an extremely unique fruit. Most fruit consists primarily of carbohydrate, while avocado is high in healthy fats. Numerous studies show that it has powerful beneficial effects on health.
The health benefits of avocado include weight management, protection from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, treating osteoarthritis and enhancing the absorption of nutrients for the body. It also reduces the risk of cancer, liver damage and Vitamin K deficiency-related bleeding. Avocado helps in keeping eyes healthy and protecting the skin from signs of aging and the harmful effects of UV rays. It also helps in maintaining blood sugar levels and has antioxidant properties. It even helps to increase circulation, boost cognitive abilities, and build stronger bones.
Avocado: Origin, Varieties And Other Information
Avocado has high fatty acid content but contains extremely low levels of cholesterol. Many people tend to stop eating avocado due to its high calorie content, thinking that it may add to their weight. However, the amount of calories is very small when compared to butter, and other high calorie dietary items. Also, much of the fat content comes from unique sources, like phytosterols, which are beneficial for a number of reasons. This article discusses the various health benefits of avocado and its nutritional content, but first, let’s learns a bit more about this valuable and beneficial fruit.
Avocados are also known as Alligator Pears, which is mainly due to its shape and the leathery appearance of its skin. It is a fruit that is grown on Persea Americana, which is an evergreen tree from the Lauraceae family. Although it doesn’t resemble these relatives, avocados are closely related to cinnamon and bay laurel. It is usually tall and can grow up to a height of 65 feet. The approximate weight of avocados is between eight ounces and three pounds, depending on the variety of avocado. It is harvested early and then allowed to ripen gradually when it is sold commercially. This is why avocados are called climacteric fruits, which only ripen after harvesting, just like bananas.
Avocados are available in many varieties, but the most popular of all is the creamy Hass variety. Avocado trees grow well in tropical, sub-tropical and equatorial areas, but like so many other fruits, the cultivation of avocados is the easiest in the Mediterranean climate. That being said, avocados originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico, where evidence in caves dates back to at least 10,000 B.C. Ancient Central American and South American cultures were known to use avocados that had grown wild, but it is unclear if cultivation began until the last few thousand years. It only appeared in other parts of the world in the last 500 years, but has quickly gained popularity for its unique appearance, taste, and apparent health benefits.
Due to its various health benefits, this fruit is now grown in number of countries. It has a very thick skin that protects it from pesticides. This is the reason you don’t need to buy organic avocados. It is one of the safest crops in terms of its low exposure to pesticides.
It is usually eaten raw, as a dessert whip, or in the form of salads with little pepper and salt. The most popular use of avocados in many western countries is in the form of guacamole, a traditional Mexican and Central American dip that is also good as a topping on hamburgers and sandwiches. Also, you may use avocado as a replacement for fat content (butter or oil) while baking or just as a replacement to mayonnaise in sandwiches. In that case you add the same amount of avocado as any other fat. This is a way to reduce your unhealthy calories intake. For instance, 3.5oz avocados contain 14.66g fat. Whereas same amount of butter contains 81g fat. Therefore, avocados can be substituted for butter while baking, so you can cut down on the calories and still have a delicious treat.
Nutritional Value of Avocado
Avocados are considered a “Super Food” and have a special position in the food calorie pyramid. Avocados are rich in various nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Avocados are also a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids, and they have low sugar content. They are a good source of energy and contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals. Avocados contain calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus andzinc. They also contain minerals such as vitamin C, B6, B-12, A, D, K, E, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. Furthermore, they are a great source of dietary fiber, and a single serving can provide more than 40% of the daily requirement.
Avocados are rich in potassium and successfully balance the potassium to sodium ratio which is vitally important to overall health. According to CAC (California Avocado commission), a medium-sized Hass avocado contains almost 22.5 grams fat. Two-thirds of this fat is of the monounsaturated variety, and they are also very low in fructose. Perhaps most importantly, avocados have a unique collection of organic compounds like phytosterols, carotenoids, flavonoids.
Benefits of Avocados
1. Helps Digestion
It is believed that avocados are soothing for the intestine and therefore aid in digestion. They contain soluble and insoluble fibers that help to keep digestive systemrunning smoothly. These two types of fiber are very important for digestion, because they bulk up stools and help to ensure the smooth passage of food through the intestinal tract. Furthermore, they stimulate gastric and digestive juices so nutrients are absorbed in the most efficient and rapid way.
Finally, they reduce the symptoms from conditions like constipation and diarrhea. All in all, the huge amount of fiber found in avocados (40% of daily requirement per serving) makes this a very important food for optimizing your digestive health.
2. Dental Care
Consumption of avocados also helps in preventing bad breath, which is primarily caused due to indigestion or an upset stomach. Halitosis can be eliminated by improving digestive health, and the antibacterial and antioxidant flavonoids found in avocados also kill the bacteria in your mouth that can result in bad breath as well. Avocados have also been connected with preventing oral cancers.
3. Skin and Hair Care
Avocados are packed with nutrients that are beneficial for maintaining healthy skin. It enriches skin that is dry, chapped or damaged. Avocados are added to a variety of cosmetics due to their ability to nourish the skin with essential vitamins and make it glow. It is also used for nourishing dry and damaged hair. Many people use avocados to prepare skin and hair masks. Above all, avocado oil helps in treating plaque psoriasis. Beta-carotene and lycopene are two of the organic compounds found in large quantities within avocados. Both of these have been connected to improving the health and tone of your skin and eliminating signs of premature aging.
4. Liver Health
Avocados are very good at reducing liver damage. It has certain organic compounds that help in improving liver health. Liver damage is normally caused due to Hepatitis C. Findings of a recent research study suggest that avocados may play a major role in toning up and protecting your liver from a wide variety of conditions.
5. Healthy Eyes
Avocados help to keep your eyes healthy. They contain carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to protect your eyes against cataracts, eye diseases related to age, and macular degeneration. Those conditions are often caused by free radicals that accumulate in the tissues of the eyes. The antioxidant activity of those special carotenoids neutralizes the effects of those dangerous free radicals.
6. Healthy Heart
The health benefits of avocados include a healthier heart. Beta-sitosterol, which is found in avocados, helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Research studies suggest that the intake of avocado may enhance antiatherogenic properties of HDL cholesterol, which helps in protecting your heart from atherosclerosis, also known as arteriosclerotic vascular disease. The significant levels of potassium also make avocados a powerful fruit in the fight against hypertension. Potassium is a vasodilator, which relaxes the tension of blood vessels and arteries, thereby reducing the chances of clotting, heart attacks, and strokes.
7. Kidney Health
Your diet plays a very important role in maintaining the balance of minerals and fluids in those who suffer from chronic kidney disorders. Potassium is one of the minerals that helps in maintaining a normal heart rate. Avocados are a good source of potassium and their inclusion in your diet may provide other benefits as well. It is important to make sure that potassium levels are not too high as that can also be dangerous for the heart. Potassium is a key aspect of maintaining fluid balance through chemical channels for cells and organs. This balance of fluid is also vital for the functioning of the kidney, which handles the movement of fluid and toxins through the body.
8. Vitamin K Deficiency
A Vitamin K deficiency is not very common, but is frequently seen in neonatal care. It may lead to a bleeding disorder known as Vitamin K deficiency-related bleeding (VKDB). This occurs mostly due to an insufficient intake of vitamin K during pregnancy. Inclusion of avocado in the diet of a pregnant woman may help in lowering risk of VKDB in the newborn child, since avocados are one of the rare fruits that have a very high amount of vitamin K (almost 40% of the daily requirement in a single serving)
9. Treats Morning Sickness
During pregnancy, morning sickness is very common. Avocados help to overcome nausea and queasiness during pregnancy since it contains vitamin B6, which is commonly connected to reducing nausea and vomiting.
The anti-inflammatory properties of avocados are perhaps its most valuable attribute, and between the wide range of phytochemicals, flavonoids, carotenoids, phytosterols, fatty alcohols, and omega-3 fatty acids, avocados are one of the best foods for reducing the inflammation in tissues, joints, and muscles. Arthritis affects tens of millions of people around the world, and by consuming a proper amount of avocados, studies have frequently shown the symptoms and associated pain of arthritis can be efficiently reduced.
11. Anti-Cancer Properties
Health benefits of avocados include a lower risk of cancers, including breast cancer and prostate cancer. Avocados contain carotenoids and monounsaturated fat, which both contribute to the significant reduction of cancer. Avocados also contain Glutathione, an antioxidant that protects the cells from cancer and the dangerous effects of free radicals. The list of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in avocados is impressive, and it is almost difficult to determine which one has the largest impact. Studies have been widely done on oral, skin, and prostate cancers, and the results show that instead of metastasizing, the organic compounds in avocados cause cancerous cells to undergo apoptosis (automatic cell death). Research is ongoing in terms of avocados and cancer.
12. Antioxidant Properties
Avocados contain both vitamin C and E, which help to enhance antioxidant properties of the human body. Vitamin C recycles vitamin E and helps to reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Avocados also contain antioxidants like epicatechin, violaxanthin, neochrome, and about a dozen others. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism. They are responsible for dozens of serious conditions in the body, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, cognitive disorders, and many more.
13. Healthy Skin
Avocados contain many vitamins and minerals that help in maintaining healthy skin. Carotenoids found in avocados are associated with reducing UV-induced inflammation of the skin due to exposure to sun. Oil made from avocados helps in protecting the skin against sunburn damage. The high levels of beta carotene in avocados can be enzymatically split into pro vitamin A, which has long been connected to protecting the skin from a variety of conditions and the damaging effects of the sun.
14. Avocados For Weight Loss
Regular exercise, along with a healthy diet, is very important in weight management. Avocados are fruits that provide nutritional value to the body and support weight control. Findings of a recent study suggest a number of beneficial effects of avocado on weight management.
Anti-Aging: Consuming avocados is also associated with healthy aging. It contains compounds such as xanthophyll, which have antioxidant properties. Research studies suggest that an intake of xanthophyll may decrease signs of the aging process on various parts of your body.
15. Bone Health
Avocados contain carotenoids such as zeaxanthin and lutein, which are associated with a reduced risk of cartilage defects (symptom of osteoarthritis). Intake of foods such as avocado and soymay help in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis. Furthermore, the levels of essential minerals in avocados are significant, including zinc, phosphorous, copper, and trace amounts of calcium and selenium. All of these are connected to lowered risks of osteoporosis and improvements in bone mineral density.
16. Nutrient Absorption
Avocados are best eaten along with other fruits and vegetables. This is due to the fact that nutrients present in fruits and vegetables get enhanced when eaten along with avocados. The absorption of carotenoid antioxidant molecules, which helps to protect the body against free radical damage, increases three to five times when a salad is eaten along with avocado. Therefore, adding sliced avocado to mixed salad is a good way to make a healthy meal even better. This makes avocados a great element as an appetizer, since it prepares the digestive tract to function at its highest level during the meal to come.
17. Maintains Blood Glucose Levels
Apart from the fruit, the leaf extracts of avocados also provide health benefits. A Study conducted on non-diabetic and diabetic rats suggest that the leaf extracts may help in lowering blood glucose levels. For diabetic patients, the metabolism of starch-based foods into simple sugars like glucose can cause the spikes and plunges that are so dangerous for diabetics. Fiber helps to slow the breakdown of food into usable sugars, so it is absorbed by the body in a more balanced way. Furthermore, the majority of carbohydrates in avocados are made up of 7-carbon sugars, a relatively rare form of sugar that actually inhibit the enzyme hexokinase. This helps avocados control the way that glucose is metabolized by the body, thereby protecting the overall health of diabetic patients.
18. Useful for Athletes
Athletes require a lot of energy and must maintain optimal nutrition to fuel their body. Avocados provide vital nutrients to athletes to maintain required energy levels and good health. Moreover, they contain phytochemicals that are a natural fuel source for your body.
Avocado – Health Concerns - Cautions
Avocados may cause migraines, a common type of headache. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light are generally the symptoms of a migraine. Care must be taken and consumption of avocado should be avoided if these symptoms are experienced.
How to Select and Store Avocado
Avocados are readily available in stores all over the world. Fresh, ripe avocados with no dark spots should be chosen. Do not refrigerate avocados unless they are ripe. If a portion of the fruit has been used then the remainder may be stored in refrigerator for future use. Unripe avocados can be stored at room temperature.