Spotlight on Avocados: Nutrient Profile, Health Benefits, and Diet Tips
6 mins read
With their rich, creamy texture and delightful light-green insides, avocados are an easy fruit to love. The fiber found in them fills up your stomach, keeping you fuller for longer. A growing body of research supports the effectiveness of fiber in reducing the risk of several health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. One medium avocado provides 33 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake. What’s more, avocados are the only fruit that contain monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). Fear not, dear readers—MUFAs are heart-healthy fats that you do want more of in your diet. In fact, MUFAs are proven to improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated fats like donuts or your favorite creamy casserole.
Is avocado toast calling your name yet? Read on to learn more about how this hearty, versatile fruit can benefit you.
Nutrient Profile of Avocados
Want to hear some really good news? Avocados contain zero empty calories and no added sugars, salts, or saturated fats. Now that’s something to smile about. A unique, nutrient-rich food, avocados are a key part of the Mediterranean diet, which calls for foods high in MUFAs, fiber, and antioxidants. Here’s a look at some of the other nutrients found in this tasty green fruit:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
The nutrients found in avocados may be especially important for pregnant and lactating women (and also women who wish to conceive). By weight, avocados contain significantly higher amounts of the nutrients, folate and potassium, compared to other fruits and veggies. They also contain more fiber, MUFAs, and lipid-soluble antioxidants. Many expectant mothers do not get enough of these essential nutrients and compounds in their diets. Getting the right amounts of these nutrients through foods like avocados, nuts, oils, and peanut butter can help pregnant women achieve optimal health; these foods also contribute to better birth outcomes, improvements in early childhood development, and even breast milk quality.
Read more about the nutrients in specific fruits and vegetables: Spotlight On Blueberries
Health Benefits of Avocados
A diet rich in avocados is linked to reductions in total cholesterol, triglycerides (fats in the blood), and low-density lipoprotein levels (LDL). LDL is the “bad” cholesterol in your body; high LDL levels are a marker of heart disease and other serious health conditions. If you or a loved one is affected by high cholesterol, avocados may be your new best friend.
One study followed 45 overweight or obese participants as they began one of three cholesterol-lowering diets over a period of five weeks. At the end of the study, participants’ placed on the “avocado diet” (34 percent fat intake and one avocado per day) dropped their LDL level by a whopping 13.5 points. That’s nearly twice as much as the other two diets assessed in this study.
In a 2013 study published in the Nutrition Journal, researchers assessed the diet quality of 17, 567 adults aged 19 and older. Among the participants’, 347 were deemed regular avocado consumers. In a groundbreaking finding, researchers determined that avocado consumers made healthier lifestyle choices, eating more fruits and veggies than non-avocado consumers. These participants’ also reaped the following health benefits:
- Fifty percent less likely to have metabolic syndrome
- Lower body weight and body mass index
- Increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (now this is your “good” cholesterol)
- Smaller waist circumference
The results from this highly reputable, well-designed study are clear: an avocado a day keeps the doctor at bay.
Tips for Adding More Avocados to Your Diet
Avocados make a great snack—their mild flavor and delicate, smooth texture make them a hit with babies, kids, and adults alike. In fact, more and more moms are opting for avocados for their little one’s first solid food. And it makes sense—they’re healthy, easy to slice up, and pair perfectly with other first foods. Here’s a look at three ways you can make avocados a fun, friendly fruit for the whole family to enjoy:
- Top your protein-packed eggs with a helping of healthy fats: Prepare eggs any style. While they’re cooking, quickly slice up one-half of an avocado and top with pepper and sea salt. Add cooked eggs to your plate and you’ve got protein, MUFAs galore, vitamin D, and plenty of potassium to start your day.
- Mash up an avocado to make nutrient-rich guacamole (skip the chips): In a medium-sized bowl, add mashed avocado, finely chopped onions, diced tomatoes, pepper, and a dash of sea salt; mix until smooth. Dig into this delicious dip with low-calorie veggies like celery or carrot sticks.
- Spread avocado over your toast: Yes, avocado toast really is a thing. But you don’t need to spend nine bucks at the fancy café downtown to get your fix—simply stock up on avocados and whole-grain toast next time you hit the store. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over your slices for a kick of flavor.
Eating a third of an avocado provides your body with just 80 calories but packs a powerful punch of nutrients (20 vitamins and minerals to be exact). This makes avocados a great go-to fruit for everyone in need of a quick nutrient boost.
Comerford, KB, Ayoob KT, Murray, RD, Atkinson SA. The role of avocados in maternal diets during the periconceptional period, pregnancy, and lactation. Nutrients. 2016;8(5):313. doi:10.3390/nu8050313.
Peou S, Milliard-Hasting B, Shah SA. Impact of avocado-enriched diets on plasma lipoproteins: A meta-analysis. J Clin Lipidol. 2016;10(1):161-171. doi:10.1016/j.jacl.2015.10.011.
Fulgoni, VL, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nut J. 2013;12:1-6. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1.
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. An avocado a day may keep cholesterol at bay. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/an-avocado-a-day-may-keep-cholesterol-at-bay. Updated March 2015. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Choose healthy fats. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/choose-healthy-fats. Updated March 2017. Accessed February 5, 2018.
Mayo Clinic. Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192. Updated June 2015. Accessed February 5, 2018.
California Avocado Commission. Nutrition. https://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/nutrients. Accessed February 5, 2018.
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