So what is the big deal about avocados? How have they become one of the most popular health foods in our supermarkets these days? We are going to look at why most people can benefit for adding an avocado, or two, to their basket next time they do the weekly food shop!
What exactly is an avocado?
The avocado is a tree fruit that has become very popular as a health food, even being called a ‘superfood’ due to its various health benefits. It is very high in healthy fats, fibre and essential nutrients.
There are a few different types sold in supermarkets, with the skin colour varying from almost black to a lighter green and some varieties smaller than others. Varieties include Hass (the most popular in UK supermarkets), Fuerte, Russell, Simmons and many more.
Avocados - Super fruit or super hype?
What’s inside an avocado?
Let’s take a look at what a nutritional powerhouse an avocado can be. In an average serving of avocado (150g/1 cup chopped avocado) there are just 160 calories, 2g of protein and 15g of healthy fat.
There are 9g of carbs. 7g of these carbs are fibre. Now that recent research has debunked the low-fat diet myth we know that consuming extra healthy fats can be great for our health and avocados are perfect for adding in these fats but without adding too many extra grams of carbs.
Not only this, but avocados are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals too. Take a look at the table to see just how much of your RDA of these nutrients is contained in one avocado.
They also contain: Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2 and B3.
Avocados are ‘heart healthy’ in a number of ways.
- Potassium – Avocados are very high in this essential mineral and increasing intake of potassium has been linked to reduced blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure.
- Oleic Acid – Avocados and avocado oil are a high fat food as mentioned previously but they are high in Oleic acid – the heart-healthy fatty acid that is also believed to be the main reason for the health benefits of olive oil such as it’s anti-inflammatory action.
- Cholesterol – Avocados have been found to improve levels of both ‘good’ (HDL) and ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol as well as blood triglycerides, a measure of fats in the blood stream.
Including avocados in the diet can help with keeping weight at a healthy level. This is also beneficial for keeping the heart healthy as well as reducing the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and others. They increase the feelings of fullness after eating and this could control food intake. The high fibre/low carb balance could help with balancing blood sugar levels, reducing the cravings for unhealthy snacks that most of us experience for when we are hungry and have low blood sugar.
The high fibre content of avocados provides a double benefit to aid weight loss and maintenance. The soluble fibre is linked to toxin removal and healthy digestion, reducing constipation and bloating. The remainder is insoluble which is linked to a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.
Another way that avocados can help people look and feel better is by significantly increasing absorption of fat soluble nutrients. These include carotenoids and vitamins A, D and E which are important anti-oxidants, they can only be absorbed when eaten in a meal that contains both the nutrient-containing vegetables and a form of healthy fat such as avocados or avocado oil.
What’s the best way to prepare an avocado?
They can be used in salads, guacamole, or eaten alone. They could also be added to smoothies to add a creamy texture or used to make a healthy version of a chocolate mousse. Try this simple recipe below if you are stuck for inspiration!
3 medium avocados or 4 small ones;
1 firm tomato, finely diced;
1/2 cup chopped coriander;
2 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice;
Optional salt and pepper to taste.
CAUTION: Although allergy to avocado is very rare, some people with a latex allergy can have an allergic reaction to certain fruits, such as avocados. Avocados may not be suitable if you have been advised to follow a low FODMAP diet.