Rich and creamy, the avocado has earned a place as a superfood. This nutrient-dense beauty, which has nicknames like avocado pear and alligator pear, packs more than twenty nutrients within each fruit. It has a buttery texture and a mild, almost nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness when freshly ripe.
Avocados, or Persea americana, have a long cultivation history, dating back to about 500 BC These oval- to pear-shaped fruits are native to Central and South America, originally found in the highlands of Mexico and Guatemala and the lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Today, avocados grow around the world, but Mexico remains the world’s largest producer of the fruit. The Dominican Republic, Peru, Israel, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and the United States have strong avocado industries as well. Typically, the avocados you see in the grocery store come from California, Florida, Mexico, and parts of Central America.
Most of the avocados people eat are from about 15 cultivated varieties. You might recognize Hass, Choquette, Zutano, or Gwen from labels at the supermarket. While varieties vary in size and skin color when ripe, they are all equally considered a heart-healthy superfood.
A quarter-cup of sliced avocado contains:
- Calories: 58
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
- Sodium: 3 milligrams
Avocados are high in healthy monounsaturated fats like oleic acid , which is an omega-9 fatty acid. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are heart-healthy fats. They help to reduce inflammation, lower bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, and reduce risks for coronary heart disease and other chronic health issues.
Avocados are also rich in numerous vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic Acid (B5)
The monounsaturated fats in avocados can help your body better absorb vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Avocados can even help your body get more nutritional value from the other foods you eat ,passing the nutrients into your bloodstream where they're quickly put to use.
Like all fats, avocados are not a low-calorie food. Keep portions to about a ½ to one whole medium avocado a day if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight.
Potential Health Benefits of Avocado
Avocados offer a lot in terms of health benefits. For example:
They can help your heart. These fruits are especially good for your heart health, with fatty acids like oleic acid working to calm inflammation, improve cholesterol, and lower blood triglyceride levels.
They can help your mental health and your sleep. Each serving of avocado gives you about 10% of the folate you need each day. Folate helps to keep your body from making too much homocysteine, an amino acid commonly found in red meats, from building up in your body. That helps keep things like depression, sleep disorders, artery blockage, and blood clots at bay.
They can help your digestion. Not only does fiber ease constipation, but it can help you feel fuller for longer and avoid snack cravings. An entire avocado has about 13 grams of fiber, which is 54% of your recommended daily intake. About three quarters of that fiber is insoluble, the type of fiber that helps you to stay regular.
They can help your eyes. Carotenoids are important for supporting healthy vision. Avocados are rich in two different carotenoids: lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds also work as antioxidants to protect your cells from ultraviolet radiation and other forms of damage. Carotenoids can also reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Potential Risks of Avocado
Avocados have plenty of benefits to your health. But there are a few things that you should keep in mind:
They're high in calories. A whole avocado has somewhere between 200 and 300 calories. So if you're trying to lose weight, going all in on avocados may not be the best strategy. Experts say one avocado a day, even half of one, can be enough to get the benefits you want.
You may have trouble digesting them. Avocados are what's known as a high FODMAP food. Simply put, it has some forms of carbohydrates that might be difficult for your body to take in. If you're following a low FODMAP diet or you have a digestive condition, you may want to keep your enjoyment of this green fruit to a minimum. Talk with your doctor.