Why Are Avocados Good for You?
Avocados are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat with a creamy and satisfying taste and many benefits for your health and appearance.
Ahead is just about everything you could want to know about avocado fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrition and just why they are so good for you.
6 Nutritional Benefits of Avocado
1. Fats in Avocado
The most common reason given for not enjoying eating avocados is because they are high in fat.
Fortunately, this type of outdated nutritional thinking is being replaced by an understanding that healthy fats, like those found abundantly in avocado, are vital for good health and even for losing weight.
While 100 grams of avocado usually has around 15 grams of fat, the majority of this is monounsaturated oleic acid. This is the same beneficial monounsaturated fat found in olive oil that makes the Mediterranean diet so good for you.
Recent research has demonstrated that a diet high in oleic acid can actually reduce high levels of potentially damaging LDL cholesterol at the same time as increasing protective HDL cholesterol. In fact, eating avocado has been specifically associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and a healthier cardiovascular system.
Oleic acid has also been shown to be much more likely to be used by the body as a slow burning energy source than stored as body fat when compared to saturated fat. Delicious avocado oil is an even better source of oleic acid and makes a much healthier replacement cooking oil.
See the page on avocado and weight loss for even more reasons why avocados are so good for your waistline.
Avocado nutritional benefits include a broad spectrum of antioxidant carotenoids such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and the less well-known beta-cryptoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, violaxanthin, neoxanthin and neochrome.
These antioxidants provide important protection for your body’s cells from free-radical damage that leads to the visible signs of aging and diseases like cancer.
The strongest concentrations of these carotenoids are found just below the avocado skin, so make sure you eat as much as possible of the greener pulp there.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two other special antioxidants found in good levels in avocados. They are uniquely important for protecting the macula area of your eyes that is responsible for short range vision and detail and allowing you read the words on this screen.
Having a diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in the elderly) and cataracts later in life.
3. Avocado Vitamins
Vitamin C, itself a powerful antioxidant, is one of the many vitamins found in avocados that makes them so good for you.
There is around 15 mg of vitamin C in a cup of avocado, which is a quarter of the recommended daily allowance. Like most RDAs, this may be enough to prevent deficiency but it’s not likely to provide many health benefits.
Higher levels of vitamin C in the foods you eat will help protect against heart disease, improve circulation, boost your immunity and enhance collagen production for beautiful skin. Here’s a good list of the best vitamin C foods if you’d like to get more of it into your diet.
Vitamin E is also another strong antioxidant that avocados are rich in. Being fat soluble, it is particularly beneficial for preventing cholesterol oxidation that contributes to heart attacks and strokes.
Vitamin E can also enhance your appearance by allowing your skin to retain more moisture and protecting it from free radical damage that leads to wrinkles, sagging skin and other visible signs of aging.
A cup of chopped avocado contains around 3 mg of mixed vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols. It’s in this mixed form that the nutrient has been shown to have the most health benefits and avocado vitamin E is far superior to the alpha-tocopherol found in most multivitamins.
Most B vitamins are in avocados but they are highest in B5 at around 1.5 mg in 100 grams (which is 15% of the recommended daily allowance), B6 at close to 0.4 milligrams (which is 19% of the RDA) and folic acid at more than 120 mcg (which is 30% of the recommended intake).
All of these B vitamins are important for good health but natural folate can be particularly hard to get from foods. This is because so many of the supermarket foods we eat have it processed out of them.
Research shows that folic acid reduces homocysteine levels in the blood (a consistent marker for cardiovascular disease) and people with a good intake of this nutrient have a considerably lower risk of developing heart disease.
Folate is necessary for proper cellular growth and regeneration and is believed to have a role in preventing Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer. This nutritional element is also very important for pregnant women to prevent fetal deformities in unborn babies so avocados are a good food to eat during pregnancy.
Avocado is good for vitamin K as well, with around a third of the RDA in one cup of the fresh fruit. This vital nutrient is involved in blood clotting, building healthy bones and proper calcium metabolism and vitamin K deficiency can be a factor in many diseases.
It’s doubtful many people realize just how many vitamins are in avocado and just how good for you they really are. With so much vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins and vitamin K, avocados really do deserve their nickname of ‘the big green vitamin pill’.
4. Mineral Content
Like most fruit and vegetables, the mineral content of avocados can vary significantly depending on the soil they are grown in. While avocados are not a crop usually associated with pesticide problems due to their thick outer skin, there is another reason why you may choose to buy organic avocados where possible.
Organic produce is usually grown in better soils that haven’t been so depleted of minerals by intensive conventional farming. The majority of comparisons I’ve read on organic versus conventional produce shows a higher (often significantly higher) mineral content for organically produced fruits and vegetables.
While amounts will vary, the highest levels of minerals in avocado on a recommended daily allowance basis are usually for manganese, copper, magnesium and potassium with lower, but still useful levels, of phosphorus, zinc, iodine, calcium and iron.
Having avocado in your diet can help reduce high cholesterol levels with their significant phytosterols content. Phytosterols, like beta-sitosterol found in avocados, are compounds that are structurally similar to cholesterol and can block its absorption during digestion.
Phytosterols also have anti-inflammatory properties and can be useful in helping to prevent diseases of inflammation like arthritis and heart disease. There have been positive studies recently associating beta-sitosterol with an increase in the body’s immune response.
Hass avocados, in particular, are a good source of phytosterols, but unrefined avocado oil is even richer in these beneficial nutrients. Switching from heavily processed and pro-inflammatory cooking oils like canola oil to inflammation reducing avocado oil would be a significant step to better health for many people.
6. Dietary Fiber
While it doesn’t taste like it, avocado is a good source of dietary fiber with approximately 8 grams per cup. This fiber content is primarily insoluble fiber for improving your digestion with some soluble fiber for regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol.
All the fiber in avocados, along with their healthy fats, is why they tend to fill you up so well and reduce hunger and cravings much more than quickly digested foods like grains or sugary fruits.
By eating avocados regularly you are giving your body a lot of what it needs to look and feel its best.
For a quick summary, the many nutritional elements in avocado provide:
- Slow burning and protective monounsaturated fats for a healthy heart.
- Anti-inflammatory and cholesterol reducing phytosterols.
- Powerful antioxidants to reduce free radical damage that leads to aging and disease.
- A broad spectrum of vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin E, Vitamin K and B vitamins like B5, B6 and folic acid.
- Valuable minerals like manganese, copper, magnesium and potassium.
- And beneficial levels of dietary fiber in one of the most enjoyable ways to have it.
Also remember, if anyone asks you why are avocados good for you, then please share this information with them so more people can see and feel the benefits of one of nature’s healthiest foods.
Photo 1: Matt Pettengill / Photo 2: Jennifer Turek / Photo 3: Gareth Bogdanoff