The cultivated avocado (Persea americana) originated on the culinary scene in Mesoamerica in about 500 B.C. Spanish conquistadors learned about the creamy fruit from the Aztec in the 16th century, taking note of its local status as both a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. They eventually took them to Europe. The avocado gets its name from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, which means "testicle." To the Aztec, avocados, which grow in pairs, were symbols of love and fertility. A 1696 catalog of Jamaican plants mentioned the avocado, referring to it as an alligator pear tree.
Did you know that avocados are actually a fruit? More surprising, they fall into the category of berries because of their fleshy pulp and seed. But regardless of how you slice it, the many health benefits of avocados may surprise you. Here’s why.
Avocados have a unique nutrition profile. They consists of 73% water, 15% fat, 8.5% carbohydrates (mostly fibers) and 2% protein. Half an avocado (68 grams) contains 109 calories, corresponding to 160 calories per 100 grams. The table below contains information on the vitamins in avocados per 100 grams.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B5 (Panthothenic acid)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Compared to other fruits, avocados contain very little sugar. Half an avocado (68 grams) contains only 0.5 grams of sugar, in the form of glucose, fructose and galactose. Fiber occupies most of the carbohydrate content (79%) of avocados. Half an avocado provides 4.5 grams of fiber, which is very high. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic acid. They may help protect against heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Avocados are rich in many essential vitamins and minerals. The most abundant ones are:
- Folate (B9)
- Vitamin K1
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
Health benefits of avocados
- Improve 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.
2. 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.
3. Prevent Osteoporosis
Half of an avocado provides approximately 25 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin K. This nutrient is often overlooked, but is essential for bone health.
4. Improve Skin, Eyes and Hair
So, why is avocado good for your skin? 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 lutein, a type of carotenoid that protects eye health and preserves healthy, youthful looking skin and hair.
5. Cancer Prevention
Several studies have surfaced recently touting avocado as a cancer-fighting food. The Journal of Nutrition and Cancer published the results of a study, for instance, claiming that the phytochemicals in avocados are so powerful that they could prevent the use of chemotherapy in people with oral cancer! Studies indicate that avocado phytochemicals extracted with 50 percent methanol help in proliferation of human lymphocyte cells and decrease chromosomal changes. 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 — making eating avocados a great way to fight skin cancer with food.
6. Improve digestion
Despite its creamy texture, an avocado is actually high in fiber with approximately 6-7 grams per half fruit. Eating foods with natural fiber can help prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and lower the risk of colon cancer.
7. Natural Detoxification
Adequate fiber promotes regular bowel movements, which are crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool.Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may also play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation.
8. Help with 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Improve Dental Health
Consumption of avocados also helps in preventing bad breath, which is primarily caused due to indigestion or an upset stomach. Halitosis can be eliminated by improving digestive health, and the antibacterial and antioxidant flavonoids found in avocados also kill the bacteria in your mouth that can result in bad breath as well.
12. Help With Morning Sickness
During pregnancy, morning sickness is very common. Avocados help to overcome nausea and queasiness during pregnancy since it contains vitamin B6, which is commonly connected to reducing nausea and vomiting.
Consuming avocados is also associated with healthy aging. It contains compounds such as xanthophyll, which have antioxidant properties. Research studies suggest that an intake of xanthophyll may decrease signs of the aging process on various parts of your body.
There are so many fabulous ways to reap the health benefits of avocados. To name just a few, avocados make salads more interesting, they are wonderful in omelets and egg scrambles, and these versatile fruits can be used in place of mayo in tuna fish, chicken, or egg salad. In short, they are one of the best foods for health you can incorporate into your diet!