Health Benefits Of Avocado Fruit
Avocado fruit benefits for skin, hair, weight loss, and its advantages in pregnancy are well understood now. Read on to know more avocado benefits and how to eat avocado every day.
By Arun Sharma
Avocado has been a part of human history for more than 10,000 years now. Evidence indicates the earliest existence of the avocado tree in modern-day Mexico and Central America. So, it is believed that the ancient Mayan, Toltec and Aztec civilisations were, perhaps, aware of the health benefits of avocado and avocado nutrition facts. In fact, the word ‘avocado’ is derived from Spanish ‘aguacate’ which, in turn, comes from two Aztec words ‘Ahuacatl’ and ‘ahoacaquahuitl’.
Today, avocado is cultivated in not only in America, but also in countries across the world such as Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Israel, Sri Lanka and India. And, its consumption is increasing. So, let's take a look at avocado fruit's benefits.
Types of avocado
There are three different races of avocado:
- Mexican (Persea americana; variety drymifolia)
- Guatemalan (Persea americana; variety guatemalensis)
- West Indian (Persea americana; variety americana)
The trees of the Mexican race can tolerate very cold weather. The Guatemalan avocado trees grow well in cool climate but aren’t as cold tolerant as the Mexican variety. But, the West Indian race needs warm climate; it does not tolerate cold weather at all.
Over the years, more than 500 different types of avocado have been developed from these three original varieties. Some of the commonly available avocado varieties are:
In India, avocado is grown in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Sikkim and Maharashtra and the preferred varieties are Fuerte, Green, Hass and Pinkerton.
Bioactive compounds present in avocado
Apart from the nutritional value of avocado because of the presence of various minerals, vitamins, sugars and fat, the berry also contains bioactives like various polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids and phytosterols.
These have anticancer, antioxidant, cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory properties, and can regulate post-meal insulin level and cholesterol absorption and metabolism.
Health benefits of avocado
It is not without reason that avocado is called a superfood. Loaded with essential nutrients, avocado not only a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen but also boosts health. Let’s look at some avocado fruit benefits.
- Good source of daily fibre: One of the advantages of eating avocado is supplying yourself with an abundance of dietary fibre. The carbohydrates in avocado are made up of 80 per cent dietary fibre. Of these, 30 per cent is soluble fibre and 70 per cent insoluble. The soluble fibre absorbs water and is broken down into a gel-like substance by the colon bacteria. It reduces blood sugar and cholesterol, and improves digestion. The insoluble fibre is not broken down, so it adds bulk to stool, which helps make bowel movements easier and regular.
- Enhances carotenoid absorption: Carotenoids are converted to Vitamin A within the body. They also act like antioxidants and help our body fight cancer and cardiovascular diseases. However, the presence of fat is necessary to solubilise carotenoids and make them available to the digestive system for absorption. Avocado’s unsaturated oil and water matrix helps increase the availability of carotenoids for absorption by the gut.
- Lowers risk of metabolic syndrome: This syndrome refers to the existence of five risk factors — hypertension, high blood sugar, high triglyceride level, large waistline and low HDL cholesterol level. These can increase an individual’s chances of developing a heart attack, diabetes and stroke. According to a study, consuming avocado provides the body with increased mono and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This improvement in diet quality lowers the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
- Helps manage type 2 diabetes: An increasing number of middle-aged and young Indians are developing diabetes. This is because Indians have more fat in their body compared to muscle mass. In a study by Garber et al, it was found that including avocado in the diet significantly lowered plasma triglycerides and maintained the level of blood lipids and glycemic control.
- Promotes weight loss: Avocado is rich in dietary fibre which induces a feeling of satiety. So, eating a meal which includes avocado results in a lower desire to eat for the next few hours. This way, avocado causes weight loss. In their study, Heskey et al found that dietary fibre ferments in the gut and changes to short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Along with having a positive effect on gut hormones, SCFAs also affect the genes responsible for fat deposition.
- Decreases risk of cartilage defects: With ageing, our muscles, ligaments and cartilage and bones suffer wear and tear. When cartilage, which act as shock absorbers between joints, gets damaged, we suffer from joint pain and reduced range of motion. Christiansen and colleagues found that avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASUs) protect the cartilage. They have anabolic, anticatabolic and anti-inflammatory properties. ASUs reduce pain and stiffness, improve joint function and prevent the progression of osteoarthritis symptoms.
- Decreases risk of cancer: Even after year of research, various forms of cancer are still difficult to treat. A study by Lee and colleagues found that avocatin B, a carbon lipid derived from avocado, caused the death of ROS-dependent leukemia cells.
- Decreases risk of neurodegenerative diseases: Avocado benefits for brain include decreasing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The high levels of phytochemicals present in avocado suppress the free radicals and prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
Avocado benefits in pregnancy
The mother’s diet plays an important role in keeping both her and the foetus healthy. In fact, what the mother eats while she is pregnant determines her child’s health and immunity. Being rich in nutrients and other essential compounds, there are quite a few benefits of eating avocado during pregnancy.
Avocado’s contain a high amount of potassium and folate, which are necessary during pregnancy. Also, eating avocado provides the would-be mother with a rich supply of fibre, monounsaturated fats and lipid-soluble antioxidants, which prevent the risk of constipation, obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, and diabetes. All these affect the quality of breast milk as well.
However, it is a must to wash an avocado well before eating. According the Food and Drug Administration (USA), the skin of avocado may contain traces of Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. If not washed well, these pathogens could get transferred to the edible flesh through the knife used to cut open the avocado. Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis in pregnant women, newborns and those with weak immune system, while Salmonella can cause diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps.
It’s not just avocado fruit which boosts health, there are health benefits of avocado oil as well. Avocado oil contains compounds like polyphenols, tocopherols and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Avocado oil benefits for skin
When applied to the skin, avocado oil, including other plant oils, remains on the surface (corneum stratum). Avocado oil benefits for skin include keeping the skin hydrated, increasing the synthesis of collagen and speeding up the wound healing process. Avocado oil is rich in beta-sitosterol, beta-carotene, lecithin, minerals and vitamins A, C, D and E. These are good for repairing dry, damaged and chapped skin cause by ultraviolet rays radiation.
Avocado oil benefits for hair
Avocado oil is considered good for hair growth as it contains Vitamins E, B and other compounds that repair hair damage and strengthen hair roots. Avocado oil is light, so it easily penetrates the scalp to moisturise it and reduce dryness. However, being a light oil, it does not make the hair greasy.
How to eat avocado
Avocado has a muted taste. So, it can be consumed alone or in combination with other vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Here’s how you can make avocado a part of your daily diet.
- How to eat avocado for breakfast: Being the first meal of the day, and nothing works better for breakfast than a light yet filling fare. You can incorporate avocado into a smoothie, sandwich or salad, or have it baked or with eggs. An avocado breakfast is both nutritious, and guarantees post-meal satisfaction and satiety.
- How to eat avocado for lunch: The main meal in most cultures around the world, a hearty lunch provides our brain and body with the energy to work through the afternoon. Loaded with healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, avocado should be a part of a healthy lunch. You can have avocado soup, avocado and egg/bean salad, or avocado with chicken or tuna, or any other avocado dish for lunch.
- How to eat avocado for dinner: Being the last meal of the day, having a good dinner serves many purposes. It provides our body with energy to last up to breakfast, maintains proper metabolism and ensures restful sleep. Some of the ways you can have avocado for dinner are avocado pizza, avocado fried rice, avocado pasta, and avocado with fish in lettuce wrap
How much avocado should you eat every day
As avocado is a highly nutritious fruit, there is a limit to how much avocado we should eat every day. Popular opinion says that an individual should consume at least half or a maximum of one avocado a day.
But, Dreher and Davenport say in their article, “…the official avocado serving is one-fifth of a fruit (30 g), according to NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) analysis the average consumption is one-half an avocado (68 g), which provides a nutrient and phytochemical dense food consisting of the following: dietary fiber (4.6 g), total sugar (0.2 g), potassium (345 mg), sodium (5.5 mg), magnesium (19.5 mg), vitamin A (43 μg), vitamin C (6.0 mg), vitamin E (1.3 mg), vitamin K1 (14 μg), folate (60 mg), vitamin B-6 (0.2 mg), niacin (1.3 mg), pantothenic acid (1.0 mg), riboflavin (0.1 mg), choline (10 mg), lutein/zeaxanthin (185 μg), phytosterols (57 mg), and high-monounsaturated fatty acids (6.7 g) and 114 kcals or 1.7 kcal/g.”
Butter fruit juice benefits
Also known as butter fruit or alligator pear, avocado juice benefits include preventing the formation of kidney stones, prostate cancer and loss of muscle mass. The high amount of potassium in avocado juice helps preserve bone mineral density. Being rich in Vitamin B6, avocado juice helps in the formation of red blood cells during pregnancy and preventing morning sickness.
Avocado fruit uses
The avocado fruit lends itself to a wide variety of uses. It is used as a condiment in soups, salads and smoothies, ice cream and shakes. In Java, avocado purée is mixed with coffee. To decreased wastage and extend its shelf life, avocado is processed to make dehydrated and frozen pulp. Oil is extracted from avocado and is used for various purposes such as cooking and as salad dressing.
Apart from the fruit, avocado leaves are used in traditional medicine to make remedies to relieve cough. Powdered avocado seeds are consumed to relieve high blood pressure. Dyes are produced from the bark of avocado tree.
How to select and store avocado
While we know how to select other fruits, not many of us know how to pick the right avocado. However, the way to select the best avocado isn’t complicated at all.
If you pick an avocado with a stem, try to flick the stem, as you would do with other fruits. If it comes off the fruit easily, then you have picked the right avocado.
With your thumb, apply a little pressure to the portion where the stem was attached. A perfectly ripe avocado would give in a little but come back to its normal shape. If your finger makes a dent, then the fruit may be overripe.
While choosing an avocado, do keep in mind that the colour or texture of the skin is not a true indicator of the fruit’s ripeness.
To prevent a ripe avocado from becoming overripe, you can store it in a refrigerator. This will slow down the ripening process.
Like apples, cut avocados oxidise when exposed to air. So, if you want to store the cut fruit, rub a little lemon juice or white vinegar on the flesh. Then cover it with a wrap and keep it in the refrigerator. This will prevent the avocado flesh from turning brown.
5 interesting avocado facts
- Although avocado is commonly referred to as a fruit, it is a berry.
- Avocados do not ripen on the tree. An enzyme produced by the avocado tree prevents the fruit from ripening.
- While humans can eat avocado, it is poisonous to birds and cattle. It can cause stomach upset in cats and dogs.
- The avocado, cinnamon and bay laurel trees belong to the same family, Lauraceae.
- An avocado contains almost double the amount of potassium found in a banana.
About the author:
Written by Arun Sharma on 6 November 2019
The author was associated with the healthcare industry before becoming a full-time writer and editor. A doting father to two preteens, he believes in experiential learning for his children. Also, he loves mountain trekking and nature trips.
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