Avocados are so much more than the main ingredient in guacamole. They’re nutritional powerhouses and versatile must-haves in the kitchen and beyond.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Avocados originated in the Americas. The first evidence of their use was found in Puebla, Mexico, some 10,000 years ago. The trees and fruit held spiritual significance in Mayan, Aztec, and Incan societies too. They believed avocados gave them strength. According to the California Avocado Commission, archaeologists have found avocado seeds buried with mummies in Peru that date back to 750 B.C. When Europeans arrived, they saw people from South America to Mexico growing avocados as a food staple in their family gardens.
One-half of an avocado (the average serving) contains 4.6 grams of fiber and important B vitamins, such as folate and vitamin B-6. It also has 345 mg of potassium, which is far more than the amount in half of a banana.
Avocado oil is 71 percent monounsaturated fats. These are the “good” fats that may benefit your heart, normalize blood clotting, and even help control blood sugar levels if you eat them in place of carbohydrates. Extra virgin avocado oil has a very high smoke point. It doesn’t begin to smoke or burn until it reaches 520 degrees Fahrenheit (271 degrees Celsius). This makes it a good oil for high-heat cooking methods like broiling, grilling, sautéing, searing meat, and stir-frying.
Despite being green and often thought of as a vegetable, avocados are categorized as a fruit. That “nut” inside is actually the seed. If you have a green thumb, you can save the seed and grow your own avocado tree.
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that adults get 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Avocados can help you reach that recommended amount but should be eaten in moderation. All high-fat foods, even those that are high in good fats, should be consumed thoughtfully.
Carotenoids are compounds with high antioxidant activity, which may ward off cell damage. Scientists are studying carotenoids to see if they can help ward off cancer. Preliminary studies indicate that they may have the potential to help prevent breast, gastric, oral, and prostate cancers. Paired with healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, these compounds are more likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream where they can deliver their benefits.
Eating avocado instead of saturated fats, such as those found in meats and dairy products, can lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, according to research. LDL cholesterol can lead to hardening of the arteries, one of the leading risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
To make this healthy switch, consider replacing the butter on your morning toast with avocado or using it in place of mayonnaise on your favorite sandwich.
Avocados may reduce the pain and damage of arthritis. Studies have indicated that certain extracts of avocado and soybean might be able to help treat symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA), including pain, stiffness, and decreased joint function. Research has also found that these extracts reduce the need for common anti-inflammatory drugs in people with OA. At this point, the long-term effects of using these extracts to treat OA are uncertain.
Damage from the sun’s rays can lead to premature aging of the skin, such as wrinkles. Research has suggested that eating avocado or applying it directly to skin may reduce existing UV damage. In addition, eating foods containing carotenoids similar to those found in avocado may enhance DNA repair. Damage to DNA over time has been blamed for skin cancer, dark spots, and skin that is thinner and less elastic. This means you might be able to get antiaging benefits without shelling out for pricey serums or creams.
A small study from 2001 also found that a cream containing vitamin B-12 and avocado oil might have potential as a treatment for the skin condition psoriasis. An added benefit of this possible treatment is that it would have little to no side effects.
Good news if you already eat plenty of avocados: You’re more likely to be a healthy person. Research indicates that regular avocado eaters also eat more vegetables, less sugar, and have better overall diets. They have lower body weight, waist circumference, and BMI too. Metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes, is 50 percent lower in people who eat avocados.
Several animal studies over the years have suggested that eating avocado may promote liver health in people with various liver problems, including fatty liver disease and liver issues related to diabetes. Specifically, the antioxidants found in avocado oil or extract may protect liver tissue against oxidative damage, which can lead to abnormal changes in the structure and functioning of the liver.
There is not yet direct evidence of how eating avocados could impact liver health in humans. Research has suggested that the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and LDL-lowering potential of this fruit mean it’s likely a wise addition to a low-fat diet for most people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
If you’ve never given avocado much thought, now’s the time to experiment. Avocado is buttery and smooth, with a rich, nutty flavor. Most people think solely of guacamole when they think of avocados, but they can be used in so much more. Try them in an orange-avocado salad, or swap out a high-fat dessert for avocado pudding cups.
Avocados are inexpensive, easy to find, and easy to use in a variety of dishes.
- Avocados have been eaten for 10,000 years — and for good reason.
- They may help lower cholesterol and reduce cancer risk, osteoarthritis pain, and liver damage.
- Avocados nourish your body and provide energy, nutrients, and fiber.
- Avocado-based creams might help with skin issues, such as sun damage and psoriasis.