Avocados are actually a fruit rather than a vegetable and one of the most nutrient dense. In fact, avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit in the fruit basket, around 4 grams of protein per serving – but protein is only a small part of what an avocado offers. Here are five powerful reasons to add more avocado to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner table.
Avocado is Chock Full of Healthy Fats
Controversy exists over what fats are the healthiest and which are possibly harmful, although we know that we need a certain amount of fat in our diet. The low carb and Paleo crowd believe that saturated fat is okay while the American Heart Association still recommends limiting the amount of saturated fat you consume. The American Heart Association stands behind polyunsaturated fats, the type you find in vegetable oils as studies suggest they lower LDL-cholesterol. The low carbers and Paleo point out that polyunsaturated fats are easily oxidized and can trigger inflammation, a driving force behind heart disease. Who’s right? Well, neither will argue that there are the health benefits of monounsaturated fat, the kind you find in avocados, certain nuts, and olive oil.
Why monounsaturated fat? Studies show consuming monounsaturated fats improves cholesterol levels and this, in turn, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies show that monounsaturated fats reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity. That’s a boon for metabolic health! Avocados aren’t the only source of monounsaturated fat – you also find this healthier form of fat in olive oil and nuts, particularly macadamia nuts.
In fact, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, as part of a study, found that a diet that contained avocados lowered LDL-cholesterol more than diets consisting of 24% fat and 34% fat where the fat consisted of other forms, including a diet high in olive oil. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats but a higher fat diet with avocado was more effective at bringing down LDL. So, avocados help bring down LDL-cholesterol but the oils are more stable than polyunsaturated oils, satisfying the criteria of both the Paleo crowd and the American Heart Association!
You might think that bananas are the ultimate potassium-rich fruit but avocados have more! In fact, an avocado has almost twice the quantity of potassium than a banana does. Why is this important? Most Americans don’t get enough dietary potassium. Shockingly, a study showed only 4.7% of people get enough potassium in their diet routinely. That’s mostly because not enough people eat their fruits and vegetables, one of the best sources of potassium. Instead, they eat processed foods that aren’t a good source of potassium and lack other vitamins and minerals as well. Potassium is important for heart health and for blood pressure control. In fact, recent studies show that getting enough potassium may be more beneficial for blood pressure control than cutting back on sodium. Now, you know how to make a big dent in your body’s potassium requirement – eat an avocado each day.
The Satiety Factor
It’s always nice when you feel satisfied after a meal without overeating. A study carried out in the Nutrition Journal showed avocados can help you feel more satiated. In the study, overweight participants who ate an avocado with lunch were fuller and more satisfied for 3 to 5 hours after the meal. Salads are always filling but one way to increase their satiety benefits is to add a few slices of avocado. The healthy fats in the avocado slow stomach emptying and boost satiety. Plus, avocados have a creamy texture that makes a salad more enjoyable. You might discover, thanks to the creaminess of avocado, that you need little or no salad dressing.
Better Nutrient Absorption
There’s another reason to add avocado to your next salad. Vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, some of which are fat soluble, particularly beta-carotene, a type of carotenoid. The healthy fats in avocados enhance absorption of these fat-soluble nutrients, important for heart, eye, and immune health, so you get more benefits from the veggies you eat. Yes, it’s another reason to add avocado to salads and even chop them up and mix some in with vegetables.
Antioxidants are the “search and rescue” team that sniffs out free radicals and neutralizes them. Thank goodness! Without these knights in shining armor, cells would be damaged. Avocados contain significant quantities of the antioxidant vitamins, vitamin E and C, to help protect your cells. Plus, vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin, making it well suited for protecting cell membranes against injury.
How to Enjoy Avocado
If you haven’t eaten avocado lately, why not? You can cut one open, chop it up and add it to soups, salads, wraps, and sandwiches or get creative and make avocado soup. Did you know you can also cook avocados on the grill? Just slice one open, remove the pit, brush it with olive oil and drop it on a sizzling grill. Grilling brings out the creaminess of an avocado even more and adds character by giving it grill marks. Don’t forget about guacamole sauce, especially if you love Mexican. You can even slice an avocado open, remove the pit, and add a touch of salad dressing and enjoy it as is. Avocado will also make your favorite smoothie even creamier.
The Bottom Line
Fat won’t make you fat, especially if it’s heart-healthy fat from avocados. Next time you’re at the grocery store, grab a few and get ready to enjoy their creamy goodness. They make almost any meal special!
Penn State News. “An avocado a day keeps the cardiologist away
Medical Daily. “Most Americans Don’t Get Enough Nutrients, But They Consume Over-The-Top Levels Of Fat And Sodium: Study”
Nutrition Journal 201312:155. August 17, 2013.
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013 May; 53(7): 738–750. Published online 2013 May 2. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.556759.
National Institutes of Health. “Vitamin E”
Mayo Clinic. “Dietary fats: Know which types to choose”
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