“Avocados are good for you!” says one source.
“Watch out: they have too many calories!” says another.
Ugh — so much competing information out there about this popular fatty fruit! I decided to look at some reputable sources and compile all the facts I could find about avocados.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT AVOCADOS?
Avocados contain 20 different vitamins and minerals. They’re low in sugar, and a good source of healthy fats and fiber.
Here are some of the most abundant vitamins in a 100-gram serving of avocado. (100 grams equals about 3/4 of a medium California or Hass avocado.) Numbers indicate percentage of the recommended daily amount:
- Vitamin K*: 26%
- Folate: 20%
- Vitamin C: 17%
- Vitamin B5: 14%
- Vitamin B6: 13%
- Vitamin E: 10%
*Vitamin K is often overshadowed by calcium when thinking of nutrients that help maintain healthy bones. However, calcium isn’t absorbed as well — no matter how much you eat– if your diet is short on vitamin K. There appears to be a correlation between low intake of vitamin K and osteoporosis.
Adequate intake of vitamin K has also been shown to lower the risk of stroke. There may also be links between Vitamin K and high blood pressure, as well as memory in older adults.
Potassium is an important mineral that most people don’t get enough of. Avocados are very high in potassium — higher than bananas!
Symptoms of low potassium include weakness and fatigue; muscle cramps and spasms; bloating and constipation; heart palpitations; and tingling and numbness in the hands, arms, legs, or feet.
A 100 gram serving of avocado has 14% of your daily potassium requirement. (A whole banana only has about 9%.)
Avocados and avocado oil are high in monounsaturated oleic acid, which has been associated with reduced inflammation and shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. It’s also a heart-healthy fatty acid.
Avocados are also very high in omega 3 fatty acids, the good kind of fat.
Also thanks to their healthy fats, avocados are known for supporting brain function and healthy memory.
Just be sure not to make it the only fat in your diet. You still need the complementary benefits from good-fat foods like olives, olive oil, clean animal fat, and nuts and seeds.
As you may know, fiber is important for helping you feel full between meals — helping you cut down on snacking — and for keeping your digestive tract moving.
It also aids in improving your cholesterol. Eight controlled studies in people have examined the effects of avocado, and revealed that eating avocados can:
- Reduce blood triglycerides by up to 20%.
- Lower LDL cholesterol by up to 22%.
- Increase HDL (good) cholesterol by up to 11%.
A 100-gram serving of avocado delivers 7 grams of fiber: 27% of the recommended daily amount.
Better nutrient absorption
Vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as some antioxidants need to be eaten with fat in order for your body to absorb and use them. One study showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to either salad or salsa can increase absorption of nutrients by 2.6 to 15 times the amount of those same vegetables being eaten alone.
Avocados also contain substances that have antimicrobial activity, particularly against E. coli, a leading cause of food poisoning.
WHAT’S NOT GOOD ABOUT AVOCADOS?
Some people may have an allergy or sensitivity to avocado. Especially good to know: People with a serious allergy to latex may also experience symptoms after eating avocado. (A number of studies have reported cross-reactivity between latex and other foods, including chestnut, buckwheat flour, fig, banana, passion fruit, celery, potato, tomato, kiwi, and peach.)
Pregnant or nursing?
During my research, I ran across some links that suggested avocados should be avoided during pregnancy or nursing. However, all the information I found was to the contrary. All of the above benefits apply to pregnant women and nursing moms, too.
Too much fat? Too many calories?
Avocados are high in calories, but it’s because of their high healthy fat content. Also, they’re low in carbs and high in fiber: all of which means that they aren’t the kind of fat that’s going to contribute to your being fat. The high fat and fiber content means they’re very satiating, so it’s hard to overdo them. (Just avoid eating them with processed carbs like chips: these can override your body’s “enough!” signal.)
And no: all calories are not alike. What food the calorie comes from changes how your body processes it. “Counting calories alone doesn’t work because ultimately it matters where those calories come from.” – Dr. Ludwig, Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. (Source)
Unless you’re allergic, enjoy that avocado as part of a well-rounded diet. It’s almost like a great big, green, creamy, delicious health pill!
BLT salad with avocado (shown above)
Very veggie tuna salad (most popular recipe!)