The other night, I was in charge of putting together a salad for a special dinner as my mom cooked swordfish for dinner. As a certified nutrition nerd, I decided to explain all the nutrients in the salad to everyone at dinner. It was a fabulous, simple salad: spinach (folate), onions (prebiotics), mushrooms (vitamin D), carrots (beta-carotene), pumpkin seeds (magnesium), olive oil (essential fatty acids) & balsamic vinegar, and the best ingredient: avocado.
A friend asked about the nutritional value of avocado, and as someone who personally eats around a half an avocado everyday, I jumped on that question. He was just so thrilled to hear me approve of eating avocados on a daily basis. Avocados get a bad reputation because they’re high in fat or calories. That creamy, fatty flesh is precisely what makes avocados so good for you! Guacamole deserves to be enjoyed without any guilt (not that any other food should cause guilt either).
It’s that fat that makes the avocado such an amazing super food. Nearly all the fat in avocados is monounsaturated fat. The heart-healthy fat has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL (healthy) cholesterol. One study found that only after ONE week on a diet that included avocados, there was an 11% increase in HDL cholesterol.
Fat-soluble nutrients require fat to be absorbed. When you top a salad with avocado, you’re boosting the absorption of all the other nutrients in the meal, such as beta-carotenes or lutein. One study found that people eating a salad with a half an avocado absorbed 4 times more alpha-carotene, 13 times more beta-carotene, and 4 times more lutein. Carotenoids, such as lutein, protect against eye damage like cataracts or macular degeneration. Lutein has also been shown to have cancer-protective activity, especially prostate cancer. Adding avocado is a simple way to increase nutrient absorption, so those phytonutrients in the leafy green are able to work their magic in your cells!
Talk about a nutrient-dense food. Avocados are high in vitamin E, folate, C, carotenoids, and have more potassium than a banana. They’re surprisingly high in fiber, and they contain glutathione – a powerful antioxidant that helps act as a vacuum cleaner to clean up free radicals and support natural detoxification processes. It’s also a beauty food – those essential fats and vitamins are great for your skin and hair. Finally, these great fats keep your brain working well. Every single cell in your body has a membrane made of fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats keep the membranes flexible and working optimally.
They’re an especially great food for pregnant women, babies, and children who need that extra fat content and nutrients to support brain growth and development.
A recent study also found an association between eating avocados and eating a healthier, nutrient-packed diet. Avocado eaters had lower BMIs, weighed less, and had higher HDL levels and were at lower risk for metabolic syndrome. It’s not necessarily the avocados that caused these health benefits, but avocados are definitely linked with a healthier diet!
An Avocado a Day
I eat about a half an avocado everyday, and I never get sick of it. Put a bowl of guacamole in front of me, and I’ll gladly go at it.
Avocados are in season now, so grab a few next time you’re at the store. Wait until they’re soft, then dig in. Make sure to scoop out the entire flesh because many of the nutrients are concentrated right under the skin.
Chop them up and top your omelet or salad with them. Throw them on a spicy chili. Avocados even freeze really well, and it may sound strange, but they work great in a smoothie because they add a creamy, rich texture. Of course, you can never go wrong with guacamole – just mash a few avocados with some garlic, lemon juice, and spices and serve at your next party. You can even blend it with a banana and cocoa powder for a creamy avocado-banana pudding. Seriously, try it out.
So, go ahead, and dig into this nutrient-dense fruit.
What’s your favorite way to eat avocado?