Avocado is an amazing fruit, with a very low carbohydrate content (it’s not sweet), but rich in healthy fiber and fats. Originally from Central America, it is now grown in all hot or Mediterranean climates.
The word “avocado” is derived from the Aztec word „ahuacatl”, meaning testicle. The fruit is also known as butter fruit or alligator pear and is the only fruit that provides a substantial amount of MUFA – healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.
This fruit belongs to the Lauraceae family, along with other flowering plants such as cinnamon, bay leaves or camphor. The pulp’s buttery consistency and specific taste make it similar to oleaginous fruits, seeds, and nuts. The scientific name of this fruit is Persea Americana, and there are dozens of varieties, including the Fuerto, Hass, Zutano and Bacon varieties.
The fruit contains about 22.5 grams of fat, of which two-thirds are monounsaturated, minerals such as manganese, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, copper, phosphorus and zinc, vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, D, K, E, and phytonutrients, such as: carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, neoxanthin, neochrome, chrysanthemaxanthin, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, and violaxanthin); phytosterols (stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol and campesterol); flavonoids (epigallocatechin 3-0-gallate and epicatechin); dietary fiber and folic acid.
Health benefits of avocado
Due to the large number of nutrients that promote our body’s health, it is easy to see why this fruit has such a long list of health benefits, once introduced into our diet.
Osteoporosis prevention: 1 fruit contains approximately 50% of the daily recommended intake for vitamin K, a substance that is frequently overlooked, but which is crucial for bone health. This vitamin is usually overshadowed by vitamin D and calcium when thinking of essential nutrients for maintaining healthy bones, nonetheless, eating a diet with adequate vitamin K can support bone health by increasing Ca absorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium. Additionally, the fruit helps children’s skeletal system develop optimally.
Reduces risk of cancer: a 2007 research published in the journal Seminars in Cancer Biology found that phytochemicals in this fruit can selectively induce cell cycle arrest, inhibit growth and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in precancerous and cancer cell lines. Hence, it is the phytochemicals in this amazing fruit that encourage cancer cells to stop growing and die out.
Good for the heart: it maintains cardiovascular health, due to its folate and vitamin B6, two essential substances that adjust homocysteine levels (a substance linked with an increased risk of heart disease). In addition, as this fruit contains glutathione, vitamin E and monounsaturated fat, it protects the heart and sustains the cardiac activity. Moreover, it contains 25 milligrams per ounce of a natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol. Frequent consumption of beta-sitosterol and other plant sterols has been seen to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Furthermore, this fruit is a good source of potassium, an important mineral that helps keep blood pressure under control, prevents hypertension, heart failure or heart disease.
Boosts eye health: adding this fruit to your daily diet can protect the tissues of the eye from the formation of cataracts and macular degeneration and sun damage. It is the carotenoid called lutein, which inhibits and prevents macular degeneration.
Regulates insulin: the monounsaturated fats are beneficial for reducing high triglyceride levels and may help improve insulin function and blood glucose levels. Also, consuming this fruit helps adjust blood sugar levels and control diabetes by reducing insulin resistance in the body.
Hair and skin care: this fruit is full of nutrients that are beneficial for maintaining healthy skin. It enriches chapped, dry or damaged skin (this is why avocados are used in many cosmetic masks). Lycopene and beta-carotene and are two of the organic substances found in large quantities in this fruit. Both of these compounds have been associated to improving the health and tone of your skin and eliminating signs of premature aging. Moreover, it helps treat various dermatological diseases (especially psoriasis), due to its significant hydration effect on the skin.
Improves digestion: the fruit maintains the health of the digestive system due to soluble (25%) and insoluble (75%) fiber content. These two kinds of fiber are essential for digestion because they bulk up stools and help ensure the smooth passage of food through the intestinal tract.
Pregnancy: According to 2013 study by the California Avocado Commission, the fruit is a great choice for moms-to-be. It contains a considerable amount of folate, which is important for preventing birth defects like neural tube defects and spina bifida (1 fruit is approximately 23% of the recommended daily dose of folic acid).
Other health benefits
The fruit protects healthy cells of the body from free radicals, with the help of the phytonutrients (flavonoids and polyphenols) provided and thus lowering the chance of developing inflammatory and degenerative diseases.
It has the ability to protect the liver against hepatitis and cirrhosis, according to Japanese researchers, in a study coordinated by Professor Hirokazu Kawagishi.
Fights against halitosis, cleaning the intestinal system and adjusting a number of toxins in the body, as well as removing the dry mouth phenomenon.
Delays the aging process of the body, due to the antioxidants in composition (especially glutathione), which boost the immune system, protect cells and balance the nervous system’s functions.
Prevents memory loss and acceleration of mental illness in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, because this fruit is a rich source of vitamin E, a compound which stimulates the protein forming process and which neutralizes free radicals that destroy brain cells.
Helps underweight people gain weight in a harmonious and healthy way (100 g contains 200 calories), developing muscle tissue and not fatty tissue (caused by saturated fats consumption).
Side effects of avocado
Allergies to this fruit, while uncommon, do exist. They are usually connected with latex allergies. It is not advisable to eat the fruit breast-feeding, because it may reduce milk production.
Choose the fruits without blemishes, bruises and scratches. If it is too soft it is not good. If it is under-ripe and hard, it means that you will need to ripe it at home. If ripe, its surface has to be soft just a little. To ripen this fruit at home, put it in a paper bag with a banana or an apple. Leave it for a day or two and you will notice that it is ripe.
It is not recommended to freeze avocado dishes. After cutting it in half, in order to last longer, sprinkle with plenty of lemon juice and keep it in the fridge. If you still see black parts in the pulp, remove them and eat only the yellow-greenish side. Peel it as close to the fruit as possible, because there we find a high concentration of antioxidants and vitamins. It is a perishable fruit and therefore it is better to consume it quickly after peeling.
It can be used raw, as such or in salads, seasoned with pepper and Himalayan salt, maple syrup and various spices and herbs. In addition, you may use it as a replacement for fat content (oil or butter) or just as a replacement for mayonnaise. It can be used as dessert as well, in different cake recipes or protein shakes prepared in blender.
All this makes it an ideal fruit in your diet, which is worth using at least once a week.