Ok so here’s the truth about the avocado…it is truly one of the best additions to your diet possible. And they are so darn delicious that its easy. Avocados are approximately 85% fat, and this alone might scare many away. Yes, they are high in calories, and yes, you should probably consider portion control when eating them. Regardless, their nutritional benefit blows away any doubt about the calories.
First of all, avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids (or MUFAs) – like the healthiest fat there is. The American Heart Association touts that when eaten in the place of saturated and trans fat, they have serious cardiovascular benefits. MUFAs may lower that Lousy cholesterol, or LDL, thus reducing your risk of heart disease. Other sources of this super fat are olive oil, safflower oil, and sesame oil. Of course MUFAs must be consumed regularly to reap the benefits. One study compared a diet rich in avocados and good fats to a similar diet rich in complex carbohydrates (the good kind). Researchers found those who ate the diet rich in avocados experienced a significant decrease in their lousy cholesterol, while the group eating the good carbs had some decrease in LDL but also a significant decrease in their good (HDL) cholesterol….food for thought.
That fatty center allows for the presence of lipophillic, or fat-loving, phytochemicals called acetogenins. Here is where the magic happens, so stay with me: These acetogenins inhibit a complex in the electron transport chain (energy production cycle) that occurs in the mitochondria of our cells. This means that energy for cell growth is cut off and cells cannot grow or replicate. Sounds kind of scary, right? Don’t we want our cells to grow and replenish themselves? Yes, except, what if I told you that this amazing phytochemical compound can be selective for cancer cells only?! By stopping growth in specifically cancer cells, healthy cells will continue to grow freely. Current research is uncovering just that! So if cancer cells will stop growing, what about those cells that are already present? A study published in the journal, Nutrition and Cancer, found that avocado extract may actually promote apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. So there you have it! Of course much more research is needed to put these findings into practice, but this is enough info for me to stock up on these bad boys. It is research like this that reminds me how much I love what I do!
If your eyes aren’t glazed over by now after all the science, here are some simple reasons we want to eat avocado: vitamins and minerals. Lots of pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) helps the body use fat, carbs, proteins to give us energy, supports the immune system, and assists in hormone production. Avocados are a great source of folic acid and vitamin B6 both essential for cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and fetal development. There is more potassium in an avocado than there is in a banana! Potassium is important for electrolyte balance, blood pressure stability and building muscle. You will also find a plentiful supply of Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that is vital for blood clotting and bone health. You don’t hear much about copper, but avocados are a good source. Copper is one of the more silent minerals used in the body to maintain health of the immune system, bones, and blood vessels while helping to build blood cells. There are many other vitamins and minerals that are in significant quantities in the avocado, but the last I will mention is Vitamin E. Vitamin E is another fat soluble vitamin, meaning it is dissolved in fat (hence the fatty avocado), and stored in bodily tissue rather than excreted in urine as water soluble vitamins are. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight the aging process. It is also important for the production of red blood cells, as well as maintaining vascular, immune, eye, and skin health.
If you have any interest in botany at all, you would probably like to know that avocados are actually fruit. This is because they grow out of the maturing flower. The flower, by which the avocado grows, is the vegetable in this scenario. Eh, potAto, potato…it still tastes amazing- and deep down, I think it’s a wannabe veg. That smooth, savory meat is enhanced with the tiniest pinch of salt. Because of their high fat content, they become rancid quite easily. You can see this in action by the browning (oxidation) of the flesh when exposed to air. Oxidation can be delayed by adding some form of acid such as any citrus juice or vinegar. Be super careful when cutting your avocado, I have read countless stories about people doing serious damage to their hands by a slip of the knife. And according to the ASPCA, we should avoid giving avocados to our pets. Apparently rabbits, birds and horses are most sensitive, but dogs and cats may experience some GI distress when ingesting this fruit.
There are over a million ways to enjoy an avocado…but that’s for a later post. Meanwhile, party on and enjoy that guacamole!
- Comparison of the effects on lipoproteins and apolipoproteins of a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids, enriched with avocado, and a high-carbohydrate diet. Am J Clin Nutr October 1992 vol. 56 no. 4 671-677
- American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/
- Selective Induction of Apoptosis of Human Oral Cancer Cell Lines by Avocado Extracts Via a ROS-Mediated Mechanism. Nutrition and Cancer, Volume 61, Issue 3, 2009
- Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, Volume 53, Issue 7, 2013
- Activity-guided identification of acetogenins as novel lipophilic antioxidants present in avocado pulp (Persea americana). J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2013 Dec 30
- Tumor cell growth inhibition by several Annonaceous acetogenins in an in vitro disk diffusion assay. Cancer Letters, Volume 96, Issue 1, 4 September 1995
- Havard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/
- Medline Plus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002419.htm
- ASPCA https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/foods-are-hazardous-dogs