8 Benefits of Avocado

May 18, 2016
by Thrive Market
8 Benefits of Avocado

Good news guac lovers—avocados are your best friend for more reasons than just being your go-to party ingredient. The super fruit (yes, it’s really a fruit) is densely packed with nutrients that provide incredible healing powers, from lowering cholesterol levels to providing you with great skin and hair.

Avocados are so high in nutrients, in fact, that they are often referred to as a “superfood”—especially since they are so easy to add to almost any meal. So, while your taste buds may already be in love with this mighty green giant, your body is also singing its praises.

What’s so great about avocados?

Avocados are full of vitamins and minerals that keep you healthy and feeling good. In every serving of avocado, you’ll find almost 20 vitamins and minerals, some of which include:

  • Potassium that helps to control blood pressure
  • Lutein, great for preserving eyesight
  • Folate, an essential vitamin during pregnancy
  • B vitamins to fight off infection and disease
  • Natural plant chemicals that may aid in the process of staving off cancer
  • Monounsaturated fats that lower bad cholesterol

The potent nutritional values of avocados are also quite impressive and help lead to a balanced diet. Eat just one a day and you’ll get these daily recommended values:

  • 21% Vitamin E
  • 33% Vitamin C
  • 41% Folate
  • 53% Vitamin K
  • 26% Vitamin B6
  • 19% Copper
  • 28% Potassium (even more than a banana!)

Avocados are also a good source of healthy fats and one of the only fruits that are high in protein—they contain 18 of the necessary amino acids humans need to get from food.

Even the pit of an avocado offers loads of fiber and antioxidants (some medications even incorporate extracts). They’re actually seeds, which means they’re antimicrobial, help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and are good for the heart. Curious about how to eat them? Check out this recipe for a chocolate pear smoothie that adds a chopped up avocado pit to the mix.

With the abundance of nutrients, eating avocados on a regular basis can lead to a slew of health benefits. Here are eight reasons to go nuts:

Lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading international cause of death is heart disease, killing more than seven million people every year. In addition to high blood pressure, genetic factors, and other lifestyle habits, one of the biggest culprits in developing heart disease is high cholesterol and triglycerides. Since avocados naturally lower these levels, eating the fruit can actually can reduce your risk for heart problems over the course of your lifetime.

In several studies testing the health benefits of eating an avocado a day, researchers found that those that did so had:

22% lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
11% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol
Significant reduction in total cholesterol levels
20% less blood triglycerides

Additional studies have shown that avocados incorporated into a low-fat vegetarian diet can go even farther toward keeping your heart healthy.

Nutrient absorption

Even if you juice and hit the salad bar every day, doing so is virtually pointless unless your body has the ability to absorb the nutrients and move them through the digestive tract.

Important vitamins like A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble nutrients and therefore have to be eaten with some type of fat in order for the body to break them down and use them. Adding slices of avocados or using avocado dressing or avocado oil in your meals can significantly increase your body’s ability to get the full effect.

Improved eye health

Avocados do more than help your body absorb nutrients and antioxidants—they are also great sources of them. Two important antioxidants found in avocados are zeaxanthin and lutein, both of which are essential in keeping the eyes healthy.

Research shows that these two ingredients alone can greatly reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye disorders that commonly affect elderly populations.

Weight loss

While dieters sometimes shy away from avocados because they are high in calories and fats, the reality is that eating these fruits may actually help you to lose weight. This may be related to the fact that avocados are low in sugar and high in fiber, both of which make you feel fuller for longer periods of time.

One study shows that those who added half a fresh avocado to their lunch were less hungry even three hours after lunchtime.

Lower risk of diabetes

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 40% of Americans will be affected by type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. With no cure for the disease currently available, the key to controlling diabetes is to keep blood sugars in check as much as possible.

In one particular study, researchers found that those who included the fruit in their diets on a regular basis had lower blood sugar levels after eating lunch than their counterparts who did not include it. While avocados can increase a meal’s carbohydrate and calorie content, they may also be helpful in regulating the level of sugar in the blood—a major key to dealing with diabetes.

Stronger bones

As individuals age, it’s likely that bones will weaken, putting most adults at risk for osteoporosis. Avocados are high in copper, folate, and vitamin K, all of which are used to keep the bones healthy and strong. Include avocado with other fortifying fruits and vegetables like spinach and collard greens to maintain optimal strength.

Fight off infection

Anyone is susceptible to contagious infections and viruses—but your diet can actually help you fight the things that keep you down. Avocados are full of all B vitamins and high levels of vitamins E and C (which some experts believe may be the biggest marker for overall health), meaning your immune system gets a huge boost by eating just one a day.

Healthier, younger looking skin and hair

Skin’s thickness, tone, density, and general appearance may be improved with regular avocado intake. The fruit’s plentiful amounts of vitamin C are used to create collagen and elastin, which allows the skin to bounce back and prevents sagging that keeps skin firm, even as you age. The large amounts of vitamin E can also prevent damage that leads to premature aging, and monounsaturated fatty acids help to moisturize the skin.

Avocado can also moisturize and strengthen the hair. Pollution, heat, and chemical treatments can take their toll over time, but avocado has been proven to have the same effects on hair that it has on the rest of the body. Avocado oil in particular acts as a moisturizer that penetrates through the cuticle and may also promote hair growth, prevent dandruff, and revitalize each strand. Try this quick recipe for a deep conditioning hair mask using avocado and coconut oil!

Easy ways to add avocado to your diet

There are easy ways to add avocado to your diet to reap the healthy benefits.

  • Slice and grill an avocado, and top with fresh lemon juice and sea salt to accompany a fish or meat dinner
  • Make avocado pudding by mashing 1 avocado with ¼ cup maple syrup and 2 T raw cacao powder
  • Blend ½ avocado with 1 cup coconut water, a lime quarter, and ½ cup of pineapple chunks for a refreshing smoothie
  • Add avocados to your egg whites or scrambled eggs
  • Finish your sandwiches with a coat of avocado mayo
  • Slice up an avocado and tomato and put on toast for breakfast, lunch, or dinner
  • Replace regular cooking oils with avocado oil
  • Use avocado as a substitute for butter

For three more amazing ways to  eat avo, including a green smoothie and a creative caprese, watch this video:

How to ripen and cut avocados

If you grow impatient waiting for your avocado to ripen, have no fear—there are several ways to speed up the process. Try placing the avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple, tomato, or banana. Then place the bag on a windowsill that gets direct sunlight, or place it in the refrigerator and your fruit will be ripe in no time.

When cutting an avocado, first slice vertically to remove the pit. Leave the fruit intact while you slice it into small sections, then simply scoop it into a bowl or on a plate.

Avocado recipes

Of course, besides just being a good topper, avocados turn traditional recipes into creative feasts. Here are five dishes to try any time you want a superfood boost.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Avocado

This creation gives whole new meaning (and taste) to baked potatoes. It’s topped with sauteed greens, tahini-turmeric dressing, and of course sliced avocado.

Vegan Kale Nachos

Nachos can be healthy too, when you use crispy kale as your base and top with vegan queso (made from cashews!), jalapenos, tomatoes, and a good helping of sliced avocado.

Green Smoothie Bowl

This colorful breakfast treat is even supermodel approved. Molly Sims makes hers with avocado, spinach, and kale for the bright green color and strawberries and bananas for a sweet pop. The best part is, it only takes 5 minutes to make!

Green Spring Rolls

Make the perfect app with these fresh spring rolls, made with pea shoots, thinly-sliced avocado, rice paper, and a creamy cilantro dressing.

Ahi Grapefruit Poke

This Hawaiian staple offers a tasty combination of flavors, with hearty sashimi tuna, tangy grapefruit, spicy ginger, red pepper flakes, and creamy avocado.

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