Health Benefits of Avocados

avocado halves

Avocados earn their all-star rating by offering many health benefits. They are an excellent source of potassium, several B vitamins, vitamin E and fiber. One avocado contains as much potassium as two or three bananas. Potassium is an important mineral and electrolyte that helps enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism and is essential for heart contraction. In addition, studies suggest that for people with high blood pressure, diets high in potassium can help to lower blood pressure1

In addition to potassium, avocados are great sources of dietary fiber and vitamin E. Dietary fiber can improve digestive health and bowel regularity. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from damaging free radicals1.

Not all Fats are Created Equal

Avocados can boast heart-healthy fat. Although all fats contain the same amount of calories, they affect the body very differently. Avocados are high in fat, but they contain the heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Diets higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may decrease the risk of heart disease2.

Monounsaturated fats have also been shown to lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase the “good” HDL cholesterol. The oils contained in avocados include oleic and linoleic acids. Studies show that those oils may help to lower cholesterol levels2

Fun Facts

  • Avocado comes from the Spanish word “aguacate”, which stems from the Aztec word “ahuacatl”.
  • Avocados are called Alligator Pears because of their green skin and pear-like shape.
  • The avocado is actually a fruit since it part of the flowering plant family Lauraceae, along with camphor and cinnamon. Even though it is botanically a fruit, in the U.S. it is in the vegetable food group since it is eaten as a vegetable.
  • Brazilians enjoy eating ice cream made from avocados.
  • Filipinos puree avocados to make a dessert drink with sugar and milk.
  • The Hass avocado is the most popular variety. It was discovered and patented by Rudolph Hass in 1935.
  • San Diego County is considered the Avocado Capital of the U.S. because it produces more avocados than any other county.
  • Avocados were once a luxury food that was reserved for royalty.

History of Avocados

The avocado originated in south-central Mexico between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C. This wild avocado tree was not domesticated until several thousand years later. Domesticated avocado seeds have been found buried with Incan mummies dating back to 750 B.C. and avocados may have been cultivated in Mexico around 500 B.C. Spanish conquistadores in central America could not pronounce the Aztec word ahuacatl, so they changed it to aguacate. Sir Henry Sloan first mentioned the avocado by its English spelling in 1696.

guacamoleWhere are Avocados Grown?

The avocado tree can only grow in tropical and subtropical climates. Most of the world’s avocados are grown in the United States (California and Florida), Mexico, Dominican Republic, Brazil and Columbia. California produces about 90% of the avocado crop in the United States. A single avocado tree in California can produce up to 500 avocados each year.

Eating Avocados

Avocado can be used as a spread on sandwiches and toast or slices can be added to a salad or burrito. Avocado is the base ingredient for guacamole – a mashed avocado dip that originated in Mexico.

Tip

A ripe avocado is slightly soft, but with no dark sunken spots or cracks. A firmer, less mature fruit can be ripened at home and will be less likely to have bruises.

One serving of avocado is 1 ounce or about 1/5 of a medium avocado.

Enjoy the health benefits by preparing avocado recipes.


References:

1. Ross A. Modern nutrition in health and disease (11th ed.). 2014. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 

2. Michas G, Micha R, Zampelas A. Dietary fats and cardiovascular disease: putting together the pieces of a complicated puzzle. Ahterosclerosis. 2014 Jun;234(2):320-8.