Avocado might not be the favorite of those who diet because of its high content of calories, but this lush fruit is hard. Some people consider it a vegetable but it is actually a fruit. In fact it is a large berry belonging to the flowering plant family of Lauraceae which also includes cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel. This fruit is native to Mexico and Central America and is widely cultivated in the tropical and Mediterranean climate. Avocados are basically pear shaped, egg shaped or spherical fruits with a bright green-skinned fleshy body and centrally located single seed. They have smooth to crinkled skin with colors ranging from black to green. Unlike other fruits, avocados do not ripen on the tree but need 4 to 7 days after picking along with proper temperature and humidity to soften. This fruit is also referred to as ‘alligator pear’ because of its pear like shape and deep green roughly textured skin.
The buttery texture and versatile taste of avocado fruits make them suitable to be eaten alone. Cooking often makes them bitter. However, they can easily form part of salads, smoothies, juices and jams or as a meat substitute in sandwiches. In fact, they are considered as one of the healthiest foods as they contain more than 25 vital nutrients, vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients.
Types of Avocados
Avocados can be broadly classified into 3 types depending upon the place of origin, with each type having several varieties.
- Mexican or Semi-tropical: These are small fruits of around 6 to 10 ounces. They turn glossy purple paper-thin on ripening.
- Guatemalan or Sub-tropical: These are medium sized pear shaped fruits with a hard green shell that turns purple black or coppery purple on ripening.
- West Indian or Tropical: These are large round fruits weighing up to 2 pounds with a smooth glossy skin.
There are several varieties of avocados which differ in taste and appearance. Some of the popular varieties are Hass, Bacon, Guerte, Pinkerton, Nabal, Gwen, Reed etc. California avocados such as the Hass are small and have a buttery, nutty taste while the Florida varieties are larger with a mild fruity flavor and less fat content.
Avocado Benefits for Health:
The wide variety of nutrients in avocados provides you with numerous health benefits. In fact, studies have proved that those who eat this creamy fruit are healthier than their counterparts.
1. Cardiovascular Health:
Vitamin B6 and folic acid contained in avocado regulate the homocysteine levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. It also contains Vitamin E which prevents oxidization of cholesterol and potassium which regulates blood pressure. Phytosterols reduce cholesterol absorption while dietary fiber regulates blood sugar. Avocado is a great source of monounsaturated oleic acid which has been found to reduce the dangerous low density lipoprotein (LDL) and increase the beneficial high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. All these nutrients in avocado play an important role in maintaining a healthy heart.
2. Eye Health:
Avocado is an excellent source of carotenoid lutein, an antioxidant that protects the eyes from oxidative damage – thus preventing loss of vision, cataracts and macular degeneration.
3. Anti- inflammatory Properties:
Inflammation is primarily responsible for causing most non-contagious diseases. The phytonutrient compounds in avocados such as polyphenols and flavonoids have anti -inflammatory properties which reduce the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders.
4. Lowers Cholesterol:
A compound called beta-sitosterol in avocados has been found to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels. Avocados also contain oleic acid which helps reduce cholesterol levels. In a study it was observed that consumption of avocado rich diet resulted in a decrease in total cholesterol levels, including a 22% decrease in LDL cholesterol and 11% increase in HDL cholesterol.
5. Brain Health:
Avocado has been placed at the top of the brain healthy foods that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It contains folate which prevents the formation of brain tangles that are responsible for causing Alzheimer’s. The brain healthy omega-3 fatty acids along with natural Vitamin E prevent Alzheimer’s disease from progressing and can even reverse it in its earlier stages.
6. Prevents Cancer:
According to certain studies, regular consumption of avocado can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. They contain oleic acid which is effective in preventing breast cancer.
7. Aids Digestion:
The nutrients and enzymes contained in avocado help in reducing inflammation in the stomach and lining of the small intestine. They also improve the nutrient and carotenoid absorption capacity of the body.
8. Cures Bad Breath:
Avocado is considered a great natural mouth wash and a remedy for bad breath. This is because it cleanses the intestine, which helps in preventing coated tongue and bad breath.
9. Beneficial for Diabetes:
The monounsaturated fats in avocado can prevent or reverse insulin resistance which is a source of type 2 diabetes while the high soluble fiber helps to prevent blood sugar spikes. Avocado is particularly beneficial for diabetics as the oleic acid in this fruit is known for its ability to lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol while raising the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats can reduce high triglyceride levels and improve insulin function. Thus, consumption of avocado can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease which is high in diabetic patients.
10. Beneficial in Pregnancy:
Folic acid is vital for pregnant women to help the fetus develop its brain and other organs. Health experts often prefer natural folate instead of synthetically extracted folic acid. Avocados are rich in folate, providing about 23% of the recommended daily value of this B vitamin. The high amount of folate helps in preventing birth defects such as neural tube defects and spina bifida.
11. Prevents Arthritis:
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are painful conditions characterized by joint inflammation and soreness. The high levels of monounsaturated fats, phytosterols and antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C and several carotenoids help in reducing inflammation that often leads to arthritis. The phytosterols such as stigmasterol, campesterol and beta-sitosterol are involved in the prevention of excess pro-inflammatory prostaglandin E2 (PE2) synthesis by the connective tissue.
12. Weight Management:
Avocados are generally considered fattening because of their high content of calories. However, it can be considered for weight loss since research has shown that the monounsaturated fatty acids are likely to be used as slow burning energy rather stored as body fat. These healthy fats along with abundant dietary fiber promote the feeling of satiety, thus reducing your appetite. Avocado is the best food for underweight people due to high amounts of calories. It helps to gain weight in a healthy manner unlike other calorie dense foods. It does not contain excess saturated fats and sugar. Thus, this fruit is beneficial for weight management.
Avocado Benefits for Skin:
Avocados contain almost all the nutrients that are vital for healthy skin. Being the world’s most perfect and nutritious food, avocados offer some amazing benefits for your skin.
13. Avocado for Flawless Skin:
The high content of Vitamin A in avocado helps in the removal of dead cells from the body. Vitamin C, being an antioxidant, is involved in the creation of elastin and collagen which bind your skin cells together and maintain skin firmness. Avocados also contain an amino acid called glutamine which cleans and protects your skin from environmental damage.
14. Great Moisturizer for Dry Skin:
Besides being an antioxidant, Vitamin C is a great natural moisturizer that can improve the condition of dry skin. The high content of oleic acid maintains moisture in the epidermal layer of the skin, making it soft and moisturized. Avocado oil for skin is a great moisturizer which can soften dry skin and is often used as an ingredient in massage lotions. Being easily absorbable, it can penetrate deep into the layers of the skin to clean and restore nutrients. Avocados have humectant qualities that can draw water from the skin and plump it up, making it more useful. You can prepare your own body moisturizer by simply mashing 1 or 2 avocados and adding honey or any essential oil. Apply it on your skin and leave for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.
15. Prevents Skin Ageing:
The antioxidants in avocados help eliminate the toxins that are responsible for premature ageing and wrinkling of the skin. Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant which helps in preventing free radical damage from oxidizing fats in your skin cells which lead to skin ageing. You can apply mashed avocado as a facial mask for about 20 minutes. This will remove the accumulated toxins as well as prevent premature skin ageing.
16. Treatment of Sunburns:
Vitamin E in avocados plays an important role in reducing the harmful effects of UVA and UVB radiation from sun exposure on skin. Avocado oil can be used as a natural sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. This oil can also alleviate the pain and chafing caused by sunburns. You can also apply avocado directly to the spot to ease the pain and treat sunburn.
Avocado Benefits for Hair:
Adequate nutrition is vital for the maintenance of hair health and proper growth. Being an amazing source of vital nutrients, avocados provide the following benefits to your hair.
17. Avocado for Shiny Hair:
Avocados are a good source of healthy fats like omega-3 and biotin (Vitamin B) which can provide you with shiny hair. The healthy oils in avocado moisturize and soften dry and brittle hair while Vitamin E imparts a natural shine to your tresses. To obtain these benefits, you can mix a mashed avocado with an egg and any essential oil of your choice; and massage this mixture on your hair and scalp. Leave for about 20 minutes, and shampoo and condition as usual.
18. Treatment of Hair Loss:
Hair loss is caused due to vitamin deficiency, external stresses or damage from exposure to extreme heat, sun or cold. Excessive usage of chemically loaded hair products or styling tools like hair dryers or curling irons also contributes to hair loss. Using avocado conditioner or avocado hair mask is an effective natural remedy for hair loss. You can prepare a hair mask by blending 1 ripe avocado with 1 egg, 1tablespoon yoghurt and 1 tablespoon jojoba oil. Apply this paste on damp hair concentrating on the hair ends and wrap your hair with a plastic cap for about an hour. Shampoo and condition as usual.
19. Avocado Conditioner:
Avocado conditioner makes your hair soft and more elastic as the high fat content of avocados can combat dryness and breakage. You can prepare the avocado conditioner at home by mashing avocados and adding enough water to obtain a paste like consistency. Apply this conditioner after shampooing your hair and leave for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
Avocado Nutritional Value:
Avocados are definitely one of the most nutritious foods because of their wide variety of essential nutrients comprising of vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, minerals like copper, iron, phosphorus and potassium as well as fiber, protein and beneficial phytochemicals like beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein. Its nutritional profile can be explained as follows.
|See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients: Avocado (Persea americana),Refuse seed and skin, Nutrition value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||14.66 g||48%|
|Dietary Fiber||6.7 g||18%|
|Pantothenic acid||1.389 mg||28%|
|Vitamin A||146 IU||5%|
|Vitamin C||10 mg||17%|
|Vitamin E||2.07 mg||14%|
|Vitamin K||21 µg||17.5%|
Calories: Avocados are extremely rich in calories with one medium avocado or 7 oz. serving providing about 320 calories. An ounce of avocado contains 45 calories. They are also a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids which help reduce LDL cholesterol and boost HDL cholesterol levels.
Dietary Fiber: A medium sized avocado provides about 13 grams of fiber. The daily recommended amount of fiber is 25 to 30 grams for adults.
Potassium: Fresh avocados are a rich source of potassium with a 100 gram serving of this fruit providing 485 mg or 10% of the daily recommended levels of this mineral.
ORAC: The total antioxidant strength of avocados is 1933 µmol TE/100 grams.