The Incredible Avocado
Okay, stop the presses!
Regardless of what you’ve heard before, here is the straight scoop about avocados …
It’s a FACT: Avocados are actually GOOD for you. They truly are one of the top superfoods to add to your lifestyle. In fact, there are few other foods that are so jam-packed with vitamins and essential nutrients, especially when you consider how great avocados taste. This is one food that actually is good for you while tasting awesome, a rarity to say the least!
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 can help you LOSE weight. Yes, you read that right! You have to be smart about how you eat it, but we’ll give you some insight and if you follow it correctly, you will be a happy camper 🙂
Some Avocado Details…
The avocado is technically considered to be a fruit, although much like the tomato, most of us lump it into the vegetable category. The average avocado consumption a person will eat is about one-half of an avocado fruit at a time (which equates to approx. 68 grams).
Some of us here at Raw Food Guru will eat a whole avocado as an actual meal! Throw on some tomatoes, some yummy seasonings like basil, oregano, lemon pepper and sea salt, a light splash of olive oil with apple cider vinegar and maybe a parsley garnish, that will fill you up and make you feel fabulous. And guess what? If that is your entire lunch or snack, it’s only 226 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrates. Eating substantially less, while eating top quality food (real food) will make you feel fuller longer!
According to the USDA, this serving size provides the following nutritional value:
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)
Let’s dive in further. Avocados benefits include the following key nutrients:
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 (known as “MUFAs”) in the world! Unlike saturated, or “bad,” fats, MUFAs are actually good for you and help the heart and brain. 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.
Carotenoids: Avocados contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can improve memory and brain activity. Oleic Acid, in turn, helps the body with carotenoid absorption. Carotenoids are chemical compounds that give certain fruits and vegetables their bright yellow, orange or red color. Beta-carotene is one of the most common carotenoids. Carotenoid benefits include lowering inflammation, promoting healthy growth and development, and boosting immunity, among others.
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: Because B and C vitamins do not stay stored in the body, you need to replenish them daily. Avocados are one of the better vitamin C foods and sources of B vitamins, and they offer staying power, kind of like a vitamin that is time released!
Important trace minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, iron and copper: Did you know? It takes two bananas to meet the potassium content in just one whole avocado, which makes avocados an excellent source to prevent low potassium!
Lots 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.
Big Time 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.
Mega Antioxidant Phytochemicals: Compounds like beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein found in avocados serve to protect against various diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. Antioxidant phytochemicals prevent oxidative damage (also called free radicals) which 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, the brain, internal organ systems, skin and connective tissue.
Types of Avocados:
In the U.S. there tend to be two kinds of avocados found in the local supermarket: the California avocado and the Florida avocado. California avocados are the Hass variety. A Hass avocado has a bumpy texture and turns from green to purple-black when ripe. Florida avocados are larger and have a smooth skin. A California avocado has more calories than a Florida avocado.
Avocados are a nutrient-dense fruit that contain about 20 vitamins and minerals. Given its nutritious make-up, there are many avocado benefits. These include better heart and digestive health; healthy skin, hair and eyes; cancer prevention and weight loss, among others.
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 make-up, 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 monounsaturated fat, or 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 thrown under the bus, there is a growing body of clinical studies explaining why healthy sources of fat like avocado are so important to maintaining cardiovascular health.
In fact, clinical trials have been conducted, which shows how an avocado-enriched diet helps reduce high cholesterol, compared to 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. that is insane!
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 other avocado benefits include help with: 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. In fact, according to various studies, people who regularly eat avocados also tend to eat a more balanced diet on average than non-avocado consumers.
Avocado consumers also tend to have significantly higher intakes of vegetables; fruit, diet quality, total fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, dietary fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, and lower intakes of added sugars.
Studies also show that the body mass index (BMI), body weight and waist circumferences were significantly lower in those who eat avocados, while “good cholesterol” HDL levels were higher in people who regularly ate avocados. In fact, it was found that avocado consumers were 50 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome than people who don’t normally eat them. Pretty crazy, right? You would never guess that something so rich and flavorful can be that good for you!
Healthy Skin, Eyes and Hair:
Rich in fat-soluble vitamins and monounsaturated fats, avocado benefits also include glowing skin, bright eyes and shiny hair both when eaten or used topically. Truth be told, avocado benefits for skin include possibly being 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 a carotenoid called, Lutein, which 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. Research also shows that adding avocado to a meal helps further carotenoid absorption.
The Journal of Nutrition and Cancer published the results of a study that claimed the phytochemicals in avocados are so powerful that they could even PREVENT the use of chemotherapy in people with oral cancer. That is mind-blowing! Further research suggests that phytochemicals extracted from avocados help induce cell cycle arrest, inhibit growth, and induce apoptosis in precancerous and cancer cell lines!
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. So as you can see, eating avocados a great way to fight skin cancer with food!
Help with Weight Loss (Yes, We Said 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.
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.
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.
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.
First, make sure the avocado is ripe. The best way to tell is to squeeze the avocado, which should give a firm, but gentle, yield to pressure. If you are forced buying them unripe, you can take them home and ripen them in a bag. It doesn’t take long and when they do ripen, be sure to use them right away, to ensure freshness.
- 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 smoothies, toppings and countless other recipes.
- An amazing first food for babies! That’s right, avocados are seriously great in small bits for children.
- Throw it on top of your favorite salads, tostadas or tacos.
- Use it in making homemade guacamole.
- You can even use it on skin as a natural moisturizer!
As you can see, avocado health benefits are something everyone should take advantage of. Packed with creaminess and flavor, you can incorporate avocados into nearly anything you love. Homemade salsas, soups, salads, you can even make chocolate avocado mouse and vegan avocado ice cream, which is awesome!
So don’t be afraid. Jump into the fab world of avocados, fight all sorts of diseases and enjoy good health while enjoying yummy taste!
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