Avocados have some unique health benefits that other fruits don’t have. This tasty fruit with its bright-green edible flesh originates from southern Mexico and comes in a number of varieties. One of the most popular in the United States is the “Hass” avocado. Regardless of which you choose, avocados have some unique health benefits you don’t find in other fruits. Here are a few of the many reasons to check for avocados when you next visit your local produce stand.
Most fruits and vegetables aren’t a good source of fat – but the avocado is an exception. Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are the type of fat you find in other heart-healthy foods like nuts, nut butters, and olive oil. These fats have favorable effects on lipids by helping to lower LDL-cholesterol and raise HDL-cholesterol, the form of cholesterol that helps remove fat from your arteries. Therefore, replacing monounsaturated fats with other forms of fat may lower your risk for stroke and heart disease.
Avocados are also a natural source of vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin that helps protect cells against oxidative damage. A vitamin E rich diet may lower the risk of heart disease by preventing oxidation of LDL-cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL-cholesterol is believed to be a critical step in the development of heart disease.
Next time you eat a burger, add a slice of avocado. One study found eating a plain hamburger made with lean meat boosted the release of an inflammatory chemical called IL-6 that’s harmful to your blood vessels. Adding a slice of avocado to a burger reduced the release of IL-6 by about 40%. Plus, adding avocado to a burger in this study was linked with better blood flow. Avocados are a source of a number of compounds with anti-inflammatory activity. These include carotenoids, flavonoids, phytosterols, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Absorb More Nutrients from a Salad
Adding chopped avocado to a salad helps boost the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. To absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K, you need a source of fat. Fat is also important for the absorption of antioxidants called carotenoids. Avocado provides a healthy source of fat to help maximize the benefits you get from eating a salad. They also make a salad more filling by slowing down gastric emptying so you stay fuller longer. You can even make an avocado salad dressing in your blender or food processor to top a fresh garden salad.
Despite their abundance of healthy fats, avocados are still a delicious source of fiber. One medium avocado has around 12 grams of fiber, enough to make a significant dent in your daily fiber requirements. Are you getting enough fiber? Most people aren’t. Avocados make it a little easier to meet your daily fiber goals.
Less Tummy Fat?
An interesting study published in Diabetes Care showed eating a diet rich in monounsaturated fats prevented accumulation of belly fat in insulin-resistant people eating a high-carbohydrate diet. There’s some evidence that diets rich in monounsaturated fat like the fat in avocados help keep belly fat in check. Combine this with the anti-inflammatory benefits of avocados and you may have an easier time maintaining your waistline.
How to Enjoy the Health Benefits of Avocados
In Brazil and Vietnam, people combine avocados with dairy to create avocado ice cream and avocado milkshakes. Word has it that avocado milkshakes are deliciously creamy and satisfying and not hard to whip up in a blender. For more antioxidants, add raw, unsweetened cocoa powder. For a healthy spin on breakfast, add avocado to your next morning smoothie for added creaminess.
Craving a brownie? People are adding avocado to brownies as a replacement for butter or oil. It’s a good way to satisfy a craving while getting a dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Avocado mousse, pudding, and cheesecake are other better-for-you dessert options and are easy to make.
Other Ways to Use Avocados
Use avocados to make spicy guacamole dip in your blender or food processor. This popular Mexican dip makes a tasty sandwich spread that’s healthier than mayonnaise. Avocados are a natural addition to sandwiches too. Add a few slices to your next wrap or sandwich.
Skip the mayo when making your next tuna or chicken salad. Substitute mashed avocado and plain Greek yogurt for the mayo you currently use. It’s just as creamy and better for you too. Works well in egg and tuna salad too.
How about raw avocado soup that you whip up in your blender? Sprinkle nuts and seeds on top for more heart-healthy fats.
Add avocado to your next omelet to make it more filling and satisfying.
The Bottom Line?
Enjoy the health benefits of avocados. They’re one of the only fruits that are rich in monounsaturated fats to protect your heart and slim your belly. Whether you use them to make a smoothie or as a guilt-free way to make a better-for-you dessert, avocados are the ideal summertime food.
American Heart Association. “Monounsaturated Fats”
Am J Clin Nutr June 1999 vol. 69 no. 6 1322s-1329s.
World’s Healthiest Foods. “Avocados”
Acta Cardiol. 2004 Oct;59(5):479-84.
Food Funct. 2013 Feb 26;4(3):384-91.
Diabetes Care. 2007 Jul;30(7):1717-23. Epub 2007 Mar 23.
University of California Avocado Information Site.