Avocados are an amazing food. But until recently, you’d never know it.
Avocados were almost a casualty of the fat-phobia that swept the nation back in the 80’s. That fat-phobia has not yet died its much-deserved death, but there are promising signs that it’s sputtering out. That is good news for those of us trying to redeem the reputation of this (and other) glorious high-fat foods that are really, really good for your health.
Besides being good for your heart, avocados are healthy in many other ways…
- They reduce inflammation and regulate blood sugar.
- They control blood pressure, improve vision, and strengthen the immune system.
- Their high fiber keeps your digestive system on track and keeps you feeling full longer.
- Plus, the high levels of vitamin C and vitamin E that they contain are excellent for your skin.
Avocados contain more potassium per gram than bananas!
High in Good Fat…
Though avocados are high in fat, it’s precisely the kind of fat that our bodies need. It is a whole-food source of saturated fat that is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which will reduce cholesterol and cut the risk of heart disease.
Each cup of avocado contains about 3 grams of protein and very little sugar. It also is high in vitamin K, vitamin B5, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. The bonus is that it is not a heavily- sprayed agricultural crop, so it is not part of the “dirty dozen” (heavily-sprayed crops) and therefore can be eaten safely, even if it is not organic.
As many health advocates have pointed out, saturated fat is necessary in the diet and is proving to be even beneficial.
The wonderful integrative neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, brilliantly makes the case for the importance of saturated fat and cholesterol for brain health in his New York Times best-seller, Grain Brain.
Speaking of brain health, Dr. Kelly Brogan, MIT-trained psychiatrist, is using grass-fed, pastured, organic meat combined with healthy fats and other nutrient-dense REAL FOOD, to heal the brains of those who have had many psychiatric issues. Her New York Times best-selling book, A Mind of Your Own, gives the alarming statistics of anti-depressant use and the withdrawal effects when trying to remove these drugs from the body.
The type of fat found in the avocado also makes a difference. This luscious fruit is largely made up of monounsaturated fat, specifically oleic acid, an omega-9 fat that is found in high amounts in olive oil and macadamia nut oil and many other nuts.
But for the many who still consider cholesterol numbers important, it’s worth noting that research at the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Mexico found that 45 volunteers who ate avocados every day for a week experienced an average 17% drop in total blood cholesterol. Far more important, their cholesterol ratio also changed: their levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides both went down, while their HDL (“good” cholesterol) went up.
Avocados are highly protective of the prostate. They are also high in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance shown to significantly lower blood cholesterol. In the December, 1999, issue of the American Journal of Medicine, researchers pointed out that beta-sitosterol was shown to reduce cholesterol in 16 human studies.
Protection Against Cancer and Diabetes…
Much more important than its ability to lower cholesterol, monounsaturated fat of the kind found in avocados has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and diabetes. Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and reprinted on the American Diabetes Association website demonstrated that people following a “modified low-carb diet” high in monounsaturated fat lost more weight than a matched group of people following the standard National Cholesterol Education Program diet.
Monounsaturated fats are also a key component of the Mediterranean diet, which, in every major study, has been linked to lower rates of heart disease.
Good for Your Eyes and Skin…
Avocados also contain lutein, a valuable member of the carotenoid family that is a natural antioxidant that helps your eyes stay healthy while maintaining the health of your skin.
According to David Herber, MD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California in Los Angeles,
“California avocados rank highest in lutein, which acts as an antioxidant, and beta-sitosterol, which blocks cholesterol absorption, compared ounce-per-ounce to other fruits. These attributes make the avocado an important fruit to choose, along with other fruits and vegetables, to protect your heart.”
Great Source of Fiber…
Avocados are also a great source of fiber (between 11 and 17 grams per avocado!) and potassium. They also contain folate, vitamin A, beta carotene, and beta cryptoxanthin, another healthy carotenoid.
Avocados are so handy!
My hubby and I, while traveling, have been known to split an avocado in half and eat it with a little Himalayan salt sprinkled on it. It’s one of the few healthy foods that can be purchased at convenience stores across Texas, and we are grateful for that. Although we plan our meals and snacks, it is nice to have an option in a pinch.
A whole avocado can be used as a mini-meal right out of the skin. It contains a couple of hundred calories, tons of heart-healthy fat, ⅓ to ½ of the day’s fiber; plus it’s filling and delicious. An added bonus is that avocados have almost zero effect on blood sugar.
Nutritional and Beneficial!
But note, there’s a bit of a difference in the nutritional composition of California and Florida avocados. According to the USDA food database, a California avocado has about 20% fewer calories (289 compared to 365 for the Florida variety), 13% less fat, and about 60% fewer carbohydrates.
California avocados are also the only avocados that contain a significant amount of lutein and zeaxanthin, two important carotenoids that are becoming the superstars of eye nutrition and are being studied for their ability to prevent macular degeneration.
On the other hand, Florida avocados have 20% more potassium, plus a bit more calcium and phosphorus.
If you’re still worried about fat and calories go with the California version; but either way, you can’t miss with this delectable superfood.