Ahhh the amazing avocado – it has a nutrition profile that other superfoods could envy! With its myriad of uses for both our health and beauty products, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular foods. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that healthy fats are critical to our health, and avocados truly top the list of “superfoods.” Because of that, avocados are definitely one of my favorite foods! Not only do they offer health-promoting fats, but they are also impressively high in fiber and supply key nutrients for combatting inflammation, aging and weight gain, not to mention incredibly versatile: creamy avocado egg salad boats anyone?
Avocado Is A Berry – Who Knew!
Let’s first take a quick look at the history of avocados, which come from the Persea Americana tree and have been cultivated in parts of Central America, Mexico and South America for thousands of years. Technically, the avocado is a berry, as it contains a large, single seed. The fruit grows well in most tropical climates, and they only ripen after being harvested (in fact, they can stay on the branch for up to 18 months without ripening!).
There are over 1,000 varieties of avocado, and they offer more potassium than a banana.
Before we dive into the nutritional profile and health benefits in more detail though, I’d like to share some interesting stuff about avocado that you might not know:
Symbol of Love and Fertility
Aztecs use the avocado as a symbol of love and fertility, partly because they grow in pairs on the tree, and because they cannot self-pollinate.
They Keep You Young
Due to avocado’s high concentration of fat-soluble vitamins A and E (both of which play a key role in skin health), they have been praised as an anti-aging fruit. But they are also great for the smallest people in your family too! Avocado makes for a wholesome first food for little ones. I gave all my kids plenty of avocado as babies and to this day we all still enjoy avocado as a family. It’s like a classic black dress: it never goes out of style and its nutrition and flavor are simply timeless.
They’re a Nutrition Powerhouse
A 100-gram serving of avocado provides around 160 calories, 2 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbohydrate and about 15 grams of fat. However, most of the carb content of avocado is made up of fiber, meaning that the actual, digestible carb count of an avocado (also known as its net carb) is under 2 grams. So if you are looking for a low carb, high fiber, and nutrient – dense, high-fat food, the avocado is for you.
It’s All About Oleic Acid.
Avocados are most rich in a particular omega – 9 monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid, which is the same fat found in some of the most nutritious foods we know of: olive oil, milk fat, nuts, and eggs. This type of fat is well known for its anti-inflammatory benefits as well as it being one of the most abundant fats in breast milk. Eating foods with oleic acid replaces other omega fatty acids in cell membranes. Since oleic acid is less vulnerable to oxidation damage than omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, replacing these fats with oleic acid protects your cell membranes from free radicals and other oxidative stressors known to increase aging and inflammation. Regardless what diet philosophy you follow, healthy fats like avocado are incredibly important to your health.
Avocado is rich in folate, vitamins E, K, B6, and C, along with potassium and copper. They also contain several unique plant compounds such as carotenoids, persenones A and B, and a type of sugar called D-mannoheptulose. All have their own powerful health benefits. Let’s explore some of them.
This is where I really get excited! The list of avocado’s health benefits is long, but here are 4 of my favorites:
Promotes Heart Health
Contrary to popular belief, a diet with plenty of healthy fats is key for heart health. The type of monounsaturated fat mentioned above that is found in abundance in avocados are especially heart-healthy, and have also been shown to prevent breast cancer. The bulk of avocado’s cardiovascular benefits come from oleic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties, along with the following benefit of decreasing triglycerides and LDL levels.
Lower Triglyceride and LDL Cholesterol Levels
Avocados are also known to be heart healthy because of their ability to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are major risk factors of heart disease. Multiple studies have been done on avocado’s ability to lower triglycerides, LDL “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure, while also raising HDL “good” cholesterol in the blood.
Encourage Weight Loss
Unfortunately, many people avoid avocados if weight-loss is on their mind due to the high-fat content. However, avocados are actually known to promote weight loss, when part of a healthy diet that includes other sources of polyphenolic compounds. Out of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat), fat is the slowest burning macronutrient and therefore keeps us fuller for a longer period of time. Without enough good fat in the diet, both our neurotransmitters and hormones are thrown off which means we are likely to experience sugar cravings and increased hunger. If you are concerned about the fat in your food leading to the fat on your hips, my tip is to decrease your carbohydrate intake as you increase your fat intake. Replacing simple refined carbohydrates with heart-healthy fat like avocado helps reset and boost metabolism by reducing insulin output. When insulin is regulated and blood sugar is stabilized women especially will have an easier time letting go of stubborn weight. This is particularly of interest to us women since our genes predispose us to higher fat storage than men (thanks, evolution!). So if you have been struggling to lose those stubborn pounds, perhaps adding in some avocado might be something to try.
Studies show eating avocado decreases your hunger, allows you to go longer between meals as well as reduce the surge in insulin and blood sugar after meals. One study in the Nutrition Journal shows that the best way to experience this effect is to start your meal with half an avocado. Participants felt 23% more satisfied longer after meals, and 28% less likely to eat over the next 5 hours by doing this. One of my favorite ways to break my fast is doing this same thing – I enjoy half an avocado with a little drizzle of tea seed oil.
Remember that the fat you eat is not the same fat on your hips, thighs and belly. Repeat this to yourself anytime you experience feelings of guilt, indulgence or worry when you eat some healthy avocado fat!
Makes a Nourishing Face Mask
It’s true, the benefits of avocado work as wonderfully on the outside of your body as they do on the inside! Avocado is the perfect addition to your beauty regimen as an exfoliating and nourishing face mask. Especially if you struggle with dry and/or splotchy skin, the fat in avocado can truly work wonders. Try an easy mask by combining one ripe avocado, one egg white, two tablespoons of oats and the juice of one lemon. Apply to your face and let it sit for about a half hour, then rinse with warm water.
Food For Thought
The vast benefits and uses of avocado inspire more culinary creativity in me than any other food! One of my tricks is to dream up my favorite sandwich and then lose the bread. I carve out the flesh of the avocado, spread it or mix it with my protein, fill the avocado shells with it and top it with my favorite sandwich fixins, sauces and extra veggies. This way, I keep it low carb, high fat, and moderate protein – the ultimate combination for a metabolic reset! There are so many ways to consume avocado and I’m thrilled to share a couple of my personal favorites with you.
The composition of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant compounds provide us with endless health and beauty benefits, not to mention they are downright delicious. However you decide to incorporate avocados into your daily life, your health and taste buds will dramatically reap the benefits that you will feel and see immediately!