Sure, avocados can be seen gracing the packaging of moisturizers and shampoos. But while those mushy green facials are awfully tempting, this tasty little fruit goes more than skin deep. But guacamole is just the beginning...
Bravo to the Avocado — Why It's Super
The avocado has many nutritional benefits, ranging from cholesterol management and high fiber content to alleviating arthritis and potentially lessening the side effects of chemotherapy A potential role for avocado-and soybean-based nutritional supplements in the management of osteoarthritis: a review. Dinubile, N.A. The Physician and Sports Medicine 2010; 38(2): 71-81. Avocado fruit (Persea americana Mill) exhibits chemo-preventative potentiality against cyclophosphamide induced genotoxicity in human lymphocyte culture. Paul, R., Kulkarni, P., Ganesh, N. Department of Research, Jawaharlal Nehru Cancer Hospital and Research Center, India. Journal of Experimental Therapeutics and Oncology, 2011;9(3):221-230. Here are a few key reasons avocado is the way to go:
- Monounsaturated fat: Yup, that's the “good” fat. Monounsaturated fats can improve cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of heart disease, and can benefit brain activity and locomotion Reducing saturated fat intake is associated with increased LDL receptors on mononuclear cells in healthy men and women. Mustad, V.A., Etherton, T.D., Cooper, A.D. Graduate Program in Nutrition, Pennsylvania State University. Journal of Lipid Research, 1997 Mar;38(3):459-68. Dietary fat and heart failure: moving from lipotoxicity to lipoprotection. Stanley, WC, Dabkowski, ER, Ribeiro, RF JR., et al. Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, University of Maryland. Circulation Research, 2012 Mar 2;110(5):764-76 Monounsaturated fatty acids prevent the aversive effects of obesity on locomotion, brain activity, and sleep behavior. Sartorius, T., Ketterer, C., Kullmann, S., et al. Diabetes, 2012 Jul;61(7):1669-79.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E packs an antioxidant punch, protecting body tissue from damage by disabling free radicals (groups of unpaired atoms in the body that can lead to cancer or heart disease) Vitamin E as an antioxidant/free radical scavenger against amyloid beta-peptide-induced oxidative stress in neocortical synaptosomal membranes and hippocampal neurons in culture: insights into Alzheimer's disease. Butterfield, DA, Koppal, T., Subramaniam, R., et al. Department of Chemistry and Center of Membrane Sciences, University of Kentucky, Kentucky. Reviews in Neurosciences, 1999;10(2);141-9. It's also vital to red blood cell formation — another plus, since these cells are responsible for circulating oxygen and getting rid of waste.
- Vitamin B6: Among other awesome functions, Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) assists with the body's formation of glycogen (back-up fuel that's stored in the liver and muscles) and promotes skin health (suddenly those moisturizers make more sense...) A stable isotope dilution LC-ESI-MS/MS method for the quantification of pyridoxal-5'-phosphate in whole blood. van Zelst, BD and de Jonge, R. Department of Clinical Chemistry, University Medical Center Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Journal of Chromatography B, Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences, 2012 Aug 15;903:134-41 Chemoprevention of doxorubicin-induced alopecia in mice by dietary administration of L:-cystine and vitamin B6. D'Agostini, F., Fiallo, P., Ghio, M., et al. Section of Hygiene and Preventive Medicine, Department of Health Sciences, University of Genova, Italy. Archives of Dermatological Research. 2012 Jun 15.
- Carotenoids: When eaten together, avocados may increase the body's absorption of carotenoids from other healthy foods like fruits and vegetables Carotenoid Absorption from Salad and Salsa by Humans is Enhanced by the Addition of Avocado or Avocado Oil. Unlu, N., Bohn, T., Clinton, S., et al. Department of Food Science and Technology and Internal Medicine, The Ohio State University. The Journal of Nutrition, 2005 Mar;135(3):431-36. Carotenoids are high in Vitamin A and have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and eye degeneration Carotenoids and their antioxidant function: a review. Jauregui, C., Carrillo, C., Romo, FP. Department of Animal Nutrition, National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition, Mexico. Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutricion, 2011 Sep;61(3):233-41.
Beyond Guac — Your Action Plan
The first step of adding avocado to a healthy diet (and perhaps the most daunting one) is knowing which fruit to pick. A good rule of thumb is to buy the fruit when it's firm, and let it ripen for a few days before eating. To know when the avocado is ready to eat, squeeze it lightly. It should still be somewhat firm, but with enough give that a knife could smoothly cut through it.
Thanks to its versatility, avocado can easily be used on a sandwich, as a dip or salsa, in chilled soup, in a salad, in sushi, with an omelet, or even as a gelato. Or just scoop it right out of its skin! And even though we know that avocado can be so much more, don't forget the guacamole (yummy, yummy guacamole).
Just keep in mind that there can be too much of a good thing. Due to the fruit's high-fat content (roughly 85% of the avocado's calories come from fat), most experts recommend consuming no more than roughly half of a whole fruit per day. Not into eating them at all? If an avocado is purchased too ripe or forgotten on the kitchen counter, don't let it go to waste! It's easy to turn an abandoned avocado into a homemade face mask or hair treatment.
Check out some of our favorite avocado recipes from around the web:
Breakfast: Egg and Avocado via MarcusSamuelsson.com
Lunch: Avocado Chickpea Salad with Vegan Pesto via Avocado Pesto
Lunch: Broccoli Cauliflower Avocado Soup via Family Fresh Cooking
Dinner: Cayenne-Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa via Martha Stewart
Dessert: Sweet Avocado Ice Pops via Food Republic
Originally posted April 2011. Updated August 2012 by Laura Newcomer.
What's your favorite way to eat avocados? Have you incorporated avocados into your normal eating routine? Share your experiences in the comments!