superfoods

Avocado

Avocados might just be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They are filled with incredibly health promoting fats, and come from the avocado tree that is mainly native to Central America and Mexico.

First and foremost, it must be understood that avocados are a fruit, although there is (understandably) some confusion around this. Avocados are a unique fruit, as they primarily consist of fat instead of carbohydrates, as is the case with most other fruits.

When avocados are ripe (but not too ripe), they have a delicious, creamy, silky texture that is quite versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. All avocados originate from the Persea americana species, although there are several types, mainly varying depending on where they are grown. Mexico is the worlds largest exporter of avocados, so many avocados found in the US are Mexican avocados (1).

However, no matter the origin (although organic are optimal), the nutritional benefits of this superfood are unparalleled.

avocado

Nutritional Information

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Avocado Benefits

1. Avocados Promote Heart Health

Avocados are an extremely high fat food. In fact, almost 80% of this superfood is from monounsaturated fats, which are critical to heart health. The specific type of monounsaturated fat is called oleic acid, which is the same type of fat found in olive oil.

Studies show that oleic acid can reduce systemic inflammation (2), and might even help to prevent certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer (3).

2. Avocados Have Been Shown to Lower Triglyceride and Cholesterol

Avocados are known to be heart healthy because of their ability to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are major markers of a person’s risk of heart disease. Multiple studies have been done on avocado’s ability to lower triglycerides (4), LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure, while also raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol in the blood (5).

3. Avocados Support Healthy Eyes and Skin

Avocados are high in the important antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are key for vision support and overall eye health (6). These antioxidants are known to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, so eating avocados on a regular basis can have major preventative effects as you age.

4. Avocados Promote Weight Loss

While many people think that because avocados are a high-fat food they could not possibly promote weight loss, they are actually weight loss promoting, when incorporated into a healthy diet. 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, we are likely to experience sugar cravings and increased hunger.

One study found that avocado eaters felt 23% more satisfied for longer after meals, and 28% less likely to eat over the next 5 hours (7).

5. Avocados Allow Us To Better Absorb Carotenoids

Many fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids, which are yellow-orange pigments that offer a huge list of health benefits. However, carotenoids (a type of antioxidant) should be taken with fat in order to be effectively absorbed by your cells, and studies have shown that avocado greatly increases the absorption of carotenoids. Foods particularly high in these health-promoting compounds include sweet potatoes, carrots and dark leafy greens.

One study even found that adding avocado to these foods can increase carotenoid absorption by up to 15% (8). So, the next time you are eating carotenoid-rich foods, add half or even a whole avocado to the mix.

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Uses of Avocado

1. Eat It Plain With Sea Salt

The easiest and (some might say) most delicious way to enjoy avocado is to simply eat it plain, sprinkled with a bit of sea salt. Being that avocado is incredibly satisfying and tasty all on its own, you don’t have to do much to spruce it up. Try avocado, sea salt with a slice of raw cheese for a super healthy and satiating snack.

2. Enjoy It With Eggs In The Morning

Sliced avocado alongside eggs at breakfast will not only make your tastebuds happy, but will also help to balance your blood sugar during the day to come. Starting off the day with healthy fats is essential in maintaining balanced blood sugar, and will help ward off sugar and carb cravings for hours to come.

3. Make Guacamole

Who doesn’t love guacamole? Whether you’re enjoying it by yourself or at a dinner party, this all time favorite is a healthy and easy to prepare dish. Simply take several ripe avocados and mash them together with fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, finely chopped onion, chopped tomato, a bit of cilantro and salt to taste. Add a jalapeño or other spicy pepper, if you’d like. To make this dish even healthier, serve it with chopped vegetables instead of chips.

4. Use It As An Exfoliating Face Mask

If you suffer from dry or splotchy skin, try an avocado face mask. Might sound odd, but it can work wonders for your complexion. Mix together one ripe avocado, one egg white, 2 tbsp. of oats and 1 tsp. of fresh lemon juice. Once your mask is well mixed together, apply it to your face and let it sit for about 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Make in a bigger batch to use once or twice per week (keep refrigerated).

5. Make Your Own Baby Food

Once your little one reaches about 5 months of age, they’re ready for nutrient dense, real food (in most cases, but the go ahead from your doctor is a must). Avocado makes a nutritious transition food, and babies love its creamy, smooth texture and mild taste. For bran new eaters (5 or 6 months), puree the avocado with a bit of breast milk until it reaches a runny consistency (drips off of a spoon). For older ones, they can probably handle just regular, mashed, ripe avocado.

Possible Side Effects of Avocado

The good news is, there are really no negative side effects associated with eating avocado. As with any food, certain people could have a sensitivity or allergy (although this is not extremely common), but generally avocado is considered safe for everyone.

Avocado is sometimes used medicinally, for purposes of lowering cholesterol, skin disorders, or as oil to treat osteoarthritis. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is best to stick to food quantities of avocado (unless otherwise determined by a doctor or healthcare practitioner), and if you have a latex allergy, there is a slight chance you could react to avocados.

Avocado FAQs

Are avocados a fruit or a vegetable?

Avocados are a fruit, although there is (understandably) some confusion around this. Avocados are a unique fruit, as they primarily consist of fat instead of carbohydrates, as is the case with most other fruits.

Where are avocados grown?

The avocado fruit comes from the avocado tree, which is native primarily to Mexico and Central America. All avocados originate from the Persea americana species, although there are several types, mainly varying depending on where they are grown. Mexico is the worlds largest exporter of avocados, so many avocados found in the US are Mexican avocados.

What are the health benefits of avocados?

Avocados have a long list of health benefits! They contain more potassium that bananas (9), are packed full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats, offer a large dose of fiber, have been proven to lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels, promote optimal eye health, are used to treat osteoarthritis and can actually help you to lose weight by increasing your satiety (feeling of fullness).

Aren’t avocados really high in fat?

Avocados can definitely be considered a high fat food, but the type of fats found in avocado are monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to improve health markers that are related to preventing your risk of heart disease.

Will avocados make me gain weight?

No. In fact, studies show that avocados can actually help you lose weight due to the fact that they are very satisfying, and can seriously decrease your chances of overeating later in the day. One study found that regular avocado eaters had a 28% lesser chance of feeling the desire to eat for the next 5 hours (10).

What are the various ways to use avocado?

You can simply eat avocado raw and sprinkled with a pinch of salt, or as a side to most any dish. You can also use it as a nutritious homemade baby food (puree with breast milk or formula for very little ones), include it in a smoothie, make it into a decadent chocolate mousse, create your own exfoliating and moisturizing face mask, or use avocado oil on salads and as a dip. The options are limitless!

Is avocado good for my baby?

Absolutely. In fact, avocado makes one of the best transition foods for little ones. Most babies will end up being introduced to solids around 5 or 6 months, and pureed avocado with some breast milk or formula makes for an excellent first food. Once they get a little older, you can simply mash ripe avocados with a fork for babies.

Is avocado good for my pet?

An urban myth exists that avocados are toxic for dogs and cats, but there are no studies that prove this, and some experts actually say it could be a healthy addition to your pet’s diet. However, it is best to discuss this issue with your veterinarian, just to be on the safe side.

Can I freeze avocado?

Avocado can be frozen and kept for about 5 months. If you have many avocados, consider pureeing them before freezing. De-seed and peel your avocados, and add 1 tbsp. of lemon juice, lime juice or white vinegar per 2 pureed avocados (this will keep your avocado from browning, due to oxidation). Store in an air tight container with about 1 inch of space.

Ripe, un-cut avocados will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days. If they are already cut up or if you are storing guacamole, sprinkle the avocado with lemon juice, lime juice or white vinegar to prevent browning.

How can I tell if an avocado is ripe?

When choosing avocados, opt for fruits that are soft but not too soft. If they are too soft, they are likely to have gone bad. If purchasing a lot of avocados, buy some that are ripe (ready to be eaten) and others that are green and will ripen over the coming days. This reduces your chance of having avocados that have to be discarded, as nobody wants to eat an over-ripe avocado.

Why is my avocado/guacamole/etc turning brown?

This happens due to oxidation, and is completely normal. To prevent a browning avocado after it has been cut and you’d like to save it in the refrigerator, simply sprinkle it with a bit of lemon juice, lime juice or white vinegar.

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