What Is an Avocado?
An avocado is a bright green fruit with a large pit and dark leathery skin. They’re also known as alligator pears or butter fruit. Avocados are a favorite of the produce section. They’re the go-to ingredient for guacamole dips. And they're turning up in everything from salads and wraps to smoothies and even brownies. So what, exactly, makes this pear-shaped berry (yes, that’s right!) such a superfood?
Avocados have a lot of calories. The recommended serving size is smaller than you’d expect: 1/3 of a medium avocado (50 grams or 1.7 ounces). One ounce has 50 calories.
Avocados are high in fat. But it's monounsaturated fat, which is a "good" fat that helps lower bad cholesterol, as long as you eat them in moderation.
Avocados offer nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. So in a 100-gram serving, you get:
- 485 milligrams of potassium
- 81 micrograms of folate
- 0.257 milligrams of vitamin B6
- 10 milligrams of vitamin C
- 2.07 milligrams of vitamin E
Avocados are low in sugar. And they contain fiber, which helps you feel full longer. In one study, people who added a fresh avocado half to their lunch were less interested in eating during the next 3 hours than those who didn’t have the fruit.
Avocado Health Benefits
A healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious food can help prevent and reverse disease. Avocados are a healthy food you can add. The vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats you get from avocados help prevent disease and keep your body in good working order. Avocados may help ward off:
- Cancer. The folate you get from avocados may lower your risk of certain cancers, such as prostate and colon cancer. Nutrients in avocados may also treat cancer.
- Arthritis and osteoporosis. Studies on oil extracts from avocados show they can reduce osteoarthritis symptoms. The vitamin K in avocados boosts your bone health by slowing down bone loss and warding off osteoporosis.
- Depression. Research shows a link between depression and low levels of folate. Folate helps block the buildup of a substance called homocysteine in your blood. Homocysteine slows down the flow of nutrients to your brain and ramps up depression. The high levels of folate in avocados may help keep depression symptoms at bay.
- Inflammation. Chronic inflammation can kick off many diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis. The vitamin E in avocados lowers inflammation in your body.
The nutrients in avocados can also help maintain healthy:
- Digestion. Avocados are packed with fiber. They’re especially high in insoluble fiber, which is the kind that helps move waste through your body. Fiber keeps you regular and can prevent constipation.
- Blood pressure. Avocados are rich in potassium. Potassium helps level out your blood pressure by lowering sodium levels in your blood and easing tension in your blood vessel walls.
- Heart. Most of the healthy fat in avocado is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. This heart-healthy fat helps lower cardiovascular inflammation. Avocados also have a nutrient called beta-sitosterol, the plant version of cholesterol. Beta-sitosterol helps lower your cholesterol levels.
- Vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants in avocados that are good for your eyes. They help protect the tissues in your eyes from UV light damage and help prevent both cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Pregnancy. You need at least 400 micrograms of folate a day during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects in your baby’s brain and spine. One avocado gives you around 41% of that.
Store avocados at room temperature, keeping in mind that they can take 4-5 days to ripen. To speed up the ripening process, put them in a paper bag along with an apple or banana. When the outside skins are black or dark purple and yield to gentle pressure, they’re ready to eat or refrigerate.
Wash them before cutting so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the pulp.
While guacamole is arguably the most popular way to eat avocado, you can also puree and toss with pasta, substitute for butter or oil in your favorite baked good recipes, or spread or slice onto sandwiches.
When ordering at a restaurant, remember that not all avocado dishes are created equal. Some items -- like avocado fries and avocado egg rolls -- are coated in batter and fried, making them much higher in both calories and fat.
If you have a latex allergy, talk to your doctor before adding avocado to your diet. People with a serious allergy to latex may also have symptoms after eating avocado. You may also hear this called latex-food syndrome or latex-fruit allergy.
Latex products are made from a protein in the sap of the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). Avocados have a very similar protein, which is what causes the allergic reaction. Your symptoms could be mild, or they could be serious. They can also get worse each time you have an avocado.