In my opinion, avocados should be ranked as one of the top five healthiest foods on the planet, along with another rich source of essential fatty acids, useful coconut oil. Both are probably two of the least understood foods because they’re so unique in their makeup of nutrient-dense healthy fats, dietary fiber and minerals.
Avocados are truly an amazing food for many reasons, but until recently, you wouldn’t know it. Years of being scared away from fat-containing foods have led many people to overlook avocados. Today — thanks in part to the low-fat diet risks that have been revealed — we know that avocados offer critical, healthy fats in addition to much more: various antioxidants, multiple trace minerals and vitamins too.
Did you know that avocados are actually part of the fruit family?
Despite their growing popularity over the past decade, Americans still seem unsure how to use avocados, resorting to simply putting them in salads, sandwiches and Guacamole Dip. Granted, avocados are a fantastic addition to these dishes, but I have also come to appreciate that, in most countries, they’re regularly used in desserts! Around the world, they’re used in similar ways as coconuts and commonly paired with raw cocoa — furthering their health benefits even more. Their mild flavor, texture and creamy consistency make avocados a fantastic ingredient in some of my favorite treats like Chocolate Mousse.
New to avocados and unsure of how much to have or how exactly to use them? As you’re going to learn, for a couple hundred calories, avocados make a filling addition to any meal or snack, while providing heart-healthy fats, about half your day’s fiber, folate, vitamin A, potassium and more. Packed full of essential nutrients, avocados provide health benefits such as improved heart health, hormone balance, better digestive health and so much more that we’ll dig into below.
Avocado Nutrition Facts
So, here’s the deal about avocados: They truly are one of the top superfoods to add to your diet. In fact, I know of few other foods that are so jam-packed with essential nutrients — especially when you consider how great avocados taste! In terms of calories, one medium-size avocado has around 215 total calories. But, don’t let that scare you. Because of the healthy fat, fiber and phytochemical content, this super nutrient-dense food should only help you lose weight.
Although the “official” avocado serving size is about one-fifth of a whole fruit (30 grams), according to certain studies the average consumption is about one-half an avocado at one time (68 grams). According to the USDA, this serving size provides about:
- 113 calories
- 4.6 g dietary fiber
- 10 grams fat
- 6 grams carbohydrates
- only 0.2 gram total sugar
- 14 milligrams vitamin K (19 percent DV)
- 60 milligrams folate (15 percent DV)
- 6 milligrams vitamin C (12 percent DV)
- 343 milligrams potassium (10 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams pantothenic acid (10 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligram vitamin B6 (9 percent DV)
- 1.3 milligrams vitamin E (7 percent DV)
- 19.5 milligrams magnesium (6 percent DV)
To dive in further, avocados contain the following key nutrients and benefits:
- Monounsaturated fats — Shown to reverse insulin resistance and regulate blood sugar levels, avocados and avocado oil are some of the richest sources of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) in the world! MUFAs are the main dietary form of fat in the Mediterranean diet, which for decades has been linked to protection against heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline and many other disorders.
- Fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K — Our bodies not only require these vitamins to function properly, but they also work together in an integrated way with essential minerals (such as magnesium and zinc) to impact metabolic factors (such as carbon dioxide and thyroid hormone).
- Water-soluble vitamins B and C — I’m not sure if you knew this, but B-complex vitamins and vitamin C are not stored in your body. This means that you need to replenish them every day. Avocados are one of the better vitamin C foods and sources of B vitamins, which reminds me of my mantra: “An avocado a day keeps the medical doctor away!”
- Important trace minerals (like magnesium, potassium, iron and copper) — One interesting fact many people are unaware of is that you would need to eat two bananas to meet the potassium content in just one whole avocado, which makes avocados an excellent source to prevent low potassium.
- Loads of fiber – Avocados contain more soluble fiber than most foods and help stabilize blood sugar levels, facilitate proper bowel regularity and maintain proper weight control.
- Protein — Avocados are on the list of top protein foods. Having the highest protein and lowest sugar content of any fruit, avocados offer a unique balance to building lean muscle mass and burning fat.
- Antioxidant phytochemicals (such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein) — To help protect against various diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, it’s a good idea to eat a diet rich in phytochemicals like avocados. Antioxidant phytochemicals prevent oxidative damage (also called free radicals) that have the power to change DNA and result in cell mutations.
- Folate — Because of its high supply of the crucial nutrient folate, avocado benefits include preventing certain birth defects like spinal bifida and neural tube defects. Research has even suggested that folate-rich foods can help prevent strokes!
- Phytonutrients (polyphenols and flavonoids) – Anti-inflammatory compounds like phytonutrients are key to reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders that can affect every part of the body — including joints, the heart, brain, internal organ systems, skin and connective tissue.
8 Avocado Benefits
1. Improved Heart Health
Avocados (and especially avocado oil) promote heart health by balancing blood lipids because of their fatty acid composition. In terms of their chemical makeup, avocados are about 71 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, 13 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids and 16 percent saturated fatty acids.
Diets that are moderately high in healthy fats — especially MUFAs — are known to block the development of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries that cuts off blood flow) better than diets that are high in insulin-spiking carbohydrates. On top of containing MUFAs, other factors like high levels of fiber, beta-sitosterol compounds, magnesium and potassium have been shown to help reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure in multiple human studies.
Thankfully, after years of being forgotten, there is a growing body of clinical studies explaining why healthy sources of fat like avocado are so important to maintaining cardiovascular health. For example, researchers from Mexico administered an avocado-enriched diet to both healthy adults and people with high cholesterol and compared how they fared before and after eating avocados.
After just one week, it was discovered that when healthy people with normal lipid levels ate avocados their total cholesterol levels dropped 16 percent. The results observed in the high cholesterol group were even more profound. Not only did total cholesterol drop 17 percent, so did LDLs (22 percent) and triglycerides (22 percent), while their HDLs actually rose 11 percent!
2. Lower Risk for Metabolic Syndrome
Eating avocados has been found to be clinically associated with lower metabolic syndrome in U.S. adults. Metabolic syndrome is a term for a cluster of conditions that increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Some of the conditions that avocados have been observed to help with include: hypertension, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and excess body fat around the waist.
Essentially, eating avocados helps regulate hormones associated with risk factors for diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, including insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol. Interestingly, up until the Nutrition Journal published the results of a survey from 2001–2008, no epidemiological data existed describing the effects avocado consumption has on metabolic disease risk factors. Thankfully, we now have a considerable amount of proof that avocados support healing! After evaluating the eating habits of 17,567 U.S. adults, researchers discovered some interesting facts:
- People who regularly eat avocados also eat a more balanced diet on average than non-avocado consumers.
- In fact, “Avocado consumers had significantly higher intakes of vegetables; fruit, diet quality, total fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, dietary fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium; vitamin K, and lower intakes of added sugars.”
- Results from the study also showed that body mass index (BMI), body weight and waist circumferences were “significantly lower” while “good cholesterol” HDL levels were higher in people who regularly ate avocados.
All in all, the researchers discovered that avocado consumers were 50 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome than people who don’t normally eat them!
3. Healthy Skin, Eyes and Hair
Rich in fat-soluble vitamins and monounsaturated fats, avocados are fantastic for glowing skin, bright eyes and shiny hair both when eaten or used topically. Truth be told, avocados may be nature’s best moisturizer, especially considering their price tag and that they’re completely free from added synthetic chemicals.
Avocados are a high-antioxidant food that contain lutein, a type of carotenoid that protects eye health and preserves healthy, youthful looking skin and hair. Carotenoids are the group of antioxidant phytochemicals found in veggies like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes that are known for blocking the effects of environmental toxins like pollution and UV light damage.
Research shows that dietary carotenoids provide health benefits related to decreasing the risk of diseases, particularly certain cancers of the skin and age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration. Lutein appears to be beneficial for eye disease prevention because it absorbs the type of damaging blue light rays that enter the eyes and skin, changing DNA and causing free radical damage.
To promote a healthy, shining complexion, simply rub the inside of an avocado peel on your skin and use avocado oil as your primary moisturizer. Mix in some therapeutic essential oils and you can easily make a cost-effective lotion instead of pouring out money for that store-bought stuff filled with irritating chemicals! Avocado can also be used to make homemade hair masks to replenish, moisture and add shine.
4. Cancer Prevention
Several studies have surfaced recently touting avocado as a cancer-fighting food. The Journal of Nutrition and Cancer published the results of a study, for instance, claiming that the phytochemicals in avocados are so powerful that they could prevent the use of chemotherapy in people with oral cancer!
Researchers from Ohio State University are taking this theory one step further and attempting to figure out exactly how this phenomenon happens. A preliminary study published in 2011 suggests that the specific phytonutrient combination within each avocado may hold the key to its anticancer effects. Research suggests that phytochemicals extracted from avocados help induce cell cycle arrest, inhibit growth, and induce apoptosis in precancerous and cancer cell lines. Studies indicate that avocado phytochemicals extracted with 50 percent methanol help in proliferation of human lymphocyte cells and decrease chromosomal changes.
Another reason that avocados are being linked to reduced risks for both cancer and diabetes is their MUFAs. These have been shown to offer better protection against chronic diseases compared to other types of fatty acids because of their ability to lower inflammation. Beta-sitosterol is also highly protective of the prostate and linked to better immune function and lower prostate cancer risk, while carotenoid antioxidants are beneficial for preventing skin cancer — making eating avocados a great way to fight skin cancer with food.
5. Help with Weight Loss
Contrary to what most people believe, diets lower in carbohydrates (especially high-glycemic, refined carbs) and higher in healthy fats are known to accelerate weight loss — so if you are looking to lose weight fast, avocados are your friend. Fats are super filling and increase satiety hormones that help you eat less overall. They allow you to go longer between meals without getting hungry and help prevent overeating, snacking and sugar addiction. That’s one reason why increasing MUFAs in the diet is related to better weight management and healthier BMI status.
Ever eat a big salad without much dressing, nuts or avocado and feel hungry within a couple hours? That’s because low-fat diets tend to leave you unsatisfied and pose other risks like nutrient malabsorption, insulin spikes, reproductive problems and mood-related issues.
Researchers in charge of a 2005 study sought out to dispel the myth that avocados are fattening and therefore should be avoided in energy-restricted diets. They examined the effects of avocados, a rich source of calories coming from monounsaturated fatty acids, as part of an energy-restricted diet on weight loss, serum lipids and vascular function in overweight and obese subjects.
They found that consumption of 30 grams a day of fat from avocado within an energy-restricted diet didn’t compromise weight loss at all when substituted for 30 grams a day of mixed dietary fats. The diet high in avocado resulted in significant weight loss in addition to other health improvements. Measurements including body mass, body mass index and percentage of body fat decreased significantly in both groups during the study, but only the avocado group experienced positive changes in fatty acid blood serum levels.
6. Better Digestive Health
As you now know, avocados are one of the best fruit sources of fiber. Depending on the size of the avocado, one whole fruit has between 11–17 grams of fiber! That’s more than nearly any other fruit and most servings of vegetables, grains and beans too.
High-fiber foods are important for anyone with digestive tract issue because fiber helps shift the balance of bacteria in the gut, increasing healthy bacteria while decreasing the unhealthy bacteria that can be the root of some digestive disorders. Fiber also helps add bulk to stool, makes it easier to go to the bathroom, and helps pull waste and toxins through the intestines and colon.
Fats are also essential for digestion and nutrient absorption because they nourish the lining of the gut. A low-fat diet can result in constipation or symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a fluctuating disorder of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by abdominal pain and change in bowel habits.
7. Protection from Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
According to a large group of studies, weight maintenance with a MUFA-rich diet improves fasting insulin levels in insulin-resistant subjects. Ingestion of a MUFA-dense food (such as avocado or virgin olive oil) can help decrease glucose and insulin concentrations for hours compared with carbohydrate-rich meals.
Consumption of dietary MUFAs promotes healthy blood lipid profiles, mediates blood pressure, improves insulin sensitivity and regulates glucose levels, all while preventing obesity, oxidative damage and negative effects on metabolic functions.
8. Better Hormonal Balance and Cognitive Function
Fatty acids play an important role in regulating central nervous system functions, reproductive health and cognitive processed because they impact hormone levels and help balance hormones naturally. As a consequence, your moods are also benefited when you eat enough healthy fats. Eating whole-food, natural fat sources is one key to following an anti-depression diet, while also boosting fertility and your mood, because various neurotransmitters and hormones are synthesized from fatty acids within the diet.
While studies suggest that consuming trans-fats can raise depression risk, the opposite is true of natural MUFAs. An inverse associations between consuming MUFAs and PUFAs has been found related to depression risk. In other words, higher-fat diets might lower depression, anxiety and other mental disorder risks because they facilitate proper thought-processing, hormone-production and stress-reduction mechanisms happening within the brain.
How to Buy and Use Avocados
If you’re a little hesitant about adding avocados to your daily natural health regimen, don’t be. At the end of the day, it’s quite easy to increase your avocado consumption.
- Use it as a fat replacement in baking.
- Dice it as a nice topping for your soups or bone broth.
- Put it in the food processor to make dessert whips, puddings, smoothies and countless other recipes.
- Mash or whip it until completely smooth for a baby’s first food instead of processed food in a Gerber jar.
- Put it on top of a salad.
- Use it in making homemade guacamole.
- Put it on your skin as a natural moisturizer.
Healthy Avocado Recipes
As you can see, avocado health benefits are something everyone should take advantage of. Packed with creaminess and flavor, here are some creative ways to start using avocados at home daily — whether with breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks.