Avocado (Makhanphal in Hindi) has become incredibly popular among health conscious individuals. Discover the amazing health benefits of avocado and know how avocado can protect your heart, lower your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of diabetes. This pulpy and irresistible fruit is completed packed with an array of nutrients. Explore all the nutrition facts, you should know about avocado. Learn different ways to enjoy avocado daily in this article.
Avocado is packed with an array of nutrients, which makes it an extremely healthy fruit. Most of the fruits are rich in carbohydrates, but avocado is one such fruit that is rich in fat. The nutrient and phytochemical content of one avocado fruit is similar to 42.5 grams (1.5 ounces) of tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds or pistachios, thus making avocado heart healthy. Furthermore, avocado is a moderate energy dense fruit because approximately 80% of the fruit consists of dietary fiber and water. Such a healthy composition makes avocado ideal for weight loss. Besides this, its high dietary fiber content makes it a perfect fruit for individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol levels.
Health Benefits of Avocado
As compared to other fruits available in the market, avocado is high-priced, but the health benefits that it provides makes avocado totally worth the cost. This compact fruit is not just rich in vitamins and minerals, but it is also a great source of healthy fatty acid and health-promoting polyphenols. The presence of so many nutrients in one fruit makes it very beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, heart problems and altered lipid profile. Various studies have shown positive impact of consuming avocado on health. Let’s have a look:
This smooth and creamy textured fruit is completely packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that avocado contains vitamin A, niacin (vitamin B3), folic acid (vitamin B9), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K1. Besides this, avocado also contains minerals such as potassium and magnesium and Choline.
Abundant Source of Dietary Fiber
Studies have shown that one-half an avocado (68 grams) provides approximately 4.6 grams of dietary fiber. Out of the total dietary fiber content, 70% is insoluble and 30% is soluble dietary fiber. Such high dietary fiber content makes avocado very beneficial for people who want to lose weight.
Eating avocado (as a part of calorie-restricted diet) provides satiety (feeling of fullness) and thus, delays hunger pangs. In addition to this, fiber present in avocado also helps to relieve constipation by increasing the bulk of the stools.
Rich in Healthy Fat
Avocado is very rich in monounsaturated fatty acid, a healthy fat that reduces ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ cholesterol as well as total cholesterol levels. It protects the heart. Two common monounsaturated fatty acids present in avocado are OLEIC ACID and PALMITOLEIC ACID.
Studies have also found that as compared to other vegetable oils, avocado contains less amount of saturated fatty acid. Furthermore, it was found that oleic acid and palmitoleic acid act as antioxidants and preserve high levels of HDL – high-density lipoprotein (healthy cholesterol).
In addition to this, avocado also contains β-sitosterol (plant cholesterol) that reduces the levels of LDL – low-density lipoprotein (unhealthy cholesterol) by blocking cholesterol absorption in the intestine. The amount of saturated fat decreases and monounsaturated fat increases, as avocado fruit ripens.
Packed with Antioxidants
Research has found that avocado is very rich in antioxidants and consuming such an antioxidant rich fruit protects the body against harmful effects of oxidative stress.
Avocado contains significant amount of vitamin C and vitamin E. Both vitamin C and vitamin E are potent antioxidants that protect the heart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Studies have further showed that the antioxidant content of avocado decreases when the pulp is exposed to the air (oxygen). Therefore, it is recommended that you should cut an avocado just before eating. If the time gap between cutting the fruit and consumption is more, a lot of antioxidants will be lost.
Filled with Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals are health-promoting chemicals that are present in plant sources. Studies have found that avocado contains different phytochemicals such as CAROTENOIDS (LUTEIN, Β-CRYPTOXANTHIN, ZEAXANTHIN, and CAROTENES), PHENOLICS and PHYTOSTEROLS.
Studies have shown that avocado is an abundant source of phytochemicals and consuming avocado daily is a great way to add phytochemicals to the diet. Darker the color of the fruit indicates presence of the more phytochemicals.
In addition to this, the total absorption of Carotenoids in the gut depends upon the presence of fat. As avocado already contains good amount of healthy fat, the absorption of Carotenoids enhances naturally. These phytochemicals have further shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Avocado can also help restoring health. The regular intake of avocado can play an important role in management of some diseases.
High cholesterol levels
Research has shown that individuals who added avocado to their diet lowered their total cholesterol level, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (unhealthy) as well as triglyceride levels as compared to individuals who did not add avocado to their diet. (1)
This may be due to presence of Phytosterols (plant sterols) in avocado. Studies have shown that avocados are the richest source of Phytosterols as compared to other fruits and one-half avocado contains 57 milligrams of Phytosterols whereas, one serving of other fruits contains less than 3 milligrams per serving.
Studies have further found that the ability of avocado to block intestinal cholesterol activity is much stronger than supplements and foods fortified with Phytosterols. Thus, the presence of natural Phytosterols in avocado makes it an ideal fruit for individuals with high cholesterol levels. (2)
Studies have found that though avocado is rich in fat, eating it daily (as a part of calorie-restricted diet) may promote weight loss. A research published in 2005 found that 30 grams of fat (oil or margarine) when replaced with 200 grams of avocado that provided the same amount of fat, that is, 30 grams, helped in weight loss and reduced the body fat percentage. (3)
Many people do feel hungry even after eating their lunch. Such hunger pangs cause them to eat some snacks or desserts, which in turn leads to weight gain. A study observed that adding approximately one-half avocado at a lunch meal provides satiety (a feeling of fullness) and reduces hunger pangs. Individuals who ate avocado at lunch meal had 40% less desire to eat and 26% increase in satisfaction over a 3 hours period as compared to those who did not consume avocado. Therefore, adding one-half avocado during lunch meal would be beneficial and help in weight management. (4)
Research has shown that avocado and soybean unsaponifiables (a natural extract made from avocado and soybean oil) may play a beneficial role in osteoarthritis. Studies have further found that avocado soybean unsaponifiables may reduce the progression of joint space loss. In addition to this, studies also observed that there was a decrease in the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis such as pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness, especially in individuals with hip osteoarthritis. This effect of avocado soybean unsaponifiables may be attributed to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. (5, 6)
Research also found that increased oxidative stress and low plasma levels of vitamin E are a major risk factor for osteoarthritis. In addition to this, studies have found that vitamin C may reduce the loss of cartilage (elastic tissue that covers the ends of bone) whereas, correcting serum vitamin E levels may also be beneficial. As avocado is rich in vitamin C and vitamin E, making avocado a part of daily diet may help the individuals with osteoarthritis. (7, 8)
Avocado is a very rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin. Research has found inverse association between increase in the intake of lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenoids and decrease in the eye disorders such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. One such fruit that contains all the three nutrients is avocado. Thus, more the consumption of avocado, lower is the risk of eye disorders. (9)
Avocado is abundant in health promoting phytochemicals. Research has shown that these phytochemicals protect against cancer. Phytochemicals present in avocado kills the cancer causing agents, inhibits the growth of tumor and thus, reduces the overall risk of cancer.
Oxidative stress and inflammation play an important role in the development of cancer. Studies have shown that, avocado is rich in antioxidants that scavenges the free radicals and fights oxidative stress.
An inverse relation was found between intake of glutathione rich foods and the risk of pharyngeal cancer. It was found that avocado contains five times more glutathione as compared to other fruits. Thus, avocado can be surely added to daily diet in order to reduce the risk of cancer. (10, 11)
A high blood pressure puts you at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Studies have found that avocado is a very rich source of potassium and magnesium. In addition to this, it also contains naturally low levels of sodium makes it more beneficial.
Such a composition makes avocado a perfect fruit for individuals with hypertension. Both potassium and magnesium causes vasodilation, that is, relaxation of the muscular walls of the vessels that widens the blood vessels and thus, reduces high blood pressure.
Studies have found that avocado reduces total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (unhealthy) as well as high blood pressure. All these factors are associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Research further showed that including avocado per day as a part of moderate-fat helps in reducing the risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases. (11)
Improves Absorption of Nutrients
Different colored vegetables are very rich in carotenoids. carotenoid rich vegetables have shown to protect against cardiovascular diseases, cancer, cataracts and so on. To improve the absorption of these carotenoids it is advised to add fat to these vegetables because fat helps in better absorption of carotenoids.
Because of this reason, salad dressing is added to raw salads. However, these dressings in turn are very rich in fat, which further promotes weight gain. Research has shown that adding avocado or avocado oil to these vegetables improves the overall absorption of carotenoids without raising the overall content of unhealthy fat. (12)
Ways to Consume Avocado
Eating avocado daily is a great way of adding vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and dietary fiber to your daily diet. Here are some different ways of enjoying avocado:
- Eat it whole
- Make your own avocado smoothie
- Delicious avocado dip (guacamole)
- Replace your butter and apply avocado dip/ spread on bread
- Make your avocado own hummus
- Enjoy avocado milkshake
- Cold avocado soup
- Add avocado to pulao
- Make your sandwich healthy by adding creamy avocado pulp
- Fresh avocado salad
- Eat it raw with some crushed pepper and lemon juice
- Replace mayonnaise with healthy avocado spread
- Replace mashed potatoes with mashed avocado and add some herbs to it
Note: Always remember do not heat or cook avocado. This may lead to loss of antioxidants and other important nutrients that are sensitive to heat.
Color & Appearance
Avocado is a ‘guilt-free super food’ that contains array of nutrients and provides loads of health benefits. The fruit is usually oval or pear-shaped. The flesh of avocado is yellow in color at the center and green in color at the skin. The outer skin or peel is dark green in color. Avocados that are very dark green verging on brownish or black shade are usually over-ripe. Therefore, while purchasing avocados pay special attention to its color. In addition to this, smaller avocados are ready to eat and better as compared to large and bright green fruit.
Taste & Flavor
Avocado is a thick dark green colored fruit with smooth, pleasant and creamy texture. This naturally occurring creamy texture of avocados is due to the presence of fat that binds all the flavors without tasting oily. The smoothness in ripe avocados is very similar to cream cheese. Thus, many healthy recipes can be prepared by replacing cream cheese with avocado. When you eat something buttery and creamy, you tend to feel full sooner than normal. Similarly, avocado has a buttery and delicate flavor that provides early satiety (feeling of fullness). Its creamy texture and buttery flavor makes it a perfect ingredient for dips and spreads.
History & Origin of Avocado
Avocado is a tropical fruit because it is believed to have evolved within geographically tropical latitudes. It is widely grown in hot, humid tropics and semi-tropics.
Avocado (Makhanphal) got its name from the Aztec word ‘AHUACATL’ meaning testicle (because of fruit’s shape). Avocado, also known as Persea Americana is a member of the family LAURACEAE. The seed remains found in ancient human settlements suggest that avocado could have been used as early as 8000- 7000 BC.
For thousands of years, avocado was under cultivation in North, South and Central America. It was then introduced in California, in the year 1871. 25 different varieties of avocado were commercially packed and shipped in California by 1950s. Around 1970s, avocado industry became huge. Today, the world production of avocado is more than 3.5 million tons. (13)