7 science-based reasons to love avocados
Known for their smooth, creamy texture and good-with just about anything taste, avocados have become increasingly popular over the past decade. In addition to being delicious, avocados provide heart-healthy fats and micronutrients including potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and magnesium, explains Jackie London, registered dietitian and WW's head of nutrition and wellness.
Read on for a science-backed scoop on this fruit’s fabulous qualities, plus 12 delicious avocado recipes to add to your rotation.
Avocado health benefits
Sure, guac might cost a few extra dollars, but one thing that could encourage you to drop a couple of extra dollars on your next burrito or bowl is avocados’ health benefits. They’re quite the powerful fruit, says registered dietitian Kristi King. Avocados are a nutrient-dense source of many key vitamins and minerals and have been linked to many potential health benefits—including the seven presented below.
1. May reduce risk of heart disease
Adding more fruit of any kind to your eating plan can help boost cardiovascular health—and avocados may be especially helpful. A 2020 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that eating one avocado per day may help protect the heart by reducing risk of oxidative stress that leads to chronic inflammation. While this portion is larger than the recommended serving of ¼ an avocado (50g), London says that incorporating more of the fruit to daily meals and snacks may offer some protective benefits. Earlier studies have also associated avocado consumption to lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the artery-clogging kind) and higher levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol.
Avocados also contain antioxidants, which research has linked to lowering oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
2. May support brain health
Avocado is a good source of folate which is perhaps best known for preventing neural tube defects in developing fetuses during pregnancy, King says. This B-vitamin is also important for the formation of red blood cells and DNA, and is also involved in a number of vital metabolic processes in our body. Now researchers are exploring evidence that folate may also have an impact on the brain well beyond development, with studies suggesting the nutrient may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and depression.
3. Good for the gut
It’s not the most glamorous topic, but gut health is an important part of overall health. A 2021 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that daily avocado consumption had a positive effect on diversity of healthful bacteria in participants’ stomachs and intestines. While more research is needed to determine the how, dietary fibre and monounsaturated fats have both been linked to gut health—and avocados provide these nutrients in abundance!
4. Aids digestion
Dietary fibre is also one of the main nutrients that helps keep things running smoothly through your digestive system. One serving of avocado (about ¼ of a whole fruit) provides 3.8g fibre, around 15% your daily recommended fibre intake, depending on age and sex. Want even more reasons to eat fibre? Other potential benefits include a reduced likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as certain cancers.
5. Helps optimise nutrient absorption
As we’ve already discussed, avocado contains plenty of nutrients. Did you know it can help your body absorb nutrients from other foods, too? Vitamins A, D, E and K, are known as fat-soluble nutrients—meaning the body absorbs them best with some dietary fat in the mix. In this way, an avocado’s fat content can help you get the most from your meals and snacks, London explains.
6. May support eye health
Remember those antioxidants we mentioned earlier? Two carotenoids in particular, lutein and zeaxanthin, have been shown to support eye health by helping prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. What’s more, avocado (and its oil) may help boost carotenoid absorption from other vegetable-based foods, too, a small 2005 study in The Journal of Nutrition found.
7. May aid in weight management
No single food can make or break your health, but if you’re looking to lose or maintain weight, avocados can be a fine addition to an overall healthy eating plan, London says. A 2013 study published in Nutrition Journal found that people who regularly consumed avocado had lower body weights and BMIs than those who didn’t—despite having no significant difference in calorie intake. That study also determined that avocado lovers tended to eat more fruits and veggies and less added sugar.
Avocado’s unique makeup may boost mealtime satisfaction. Research has found that a combo of unsaturated fats, water and dietary fibre can enhance feelings of satiety. King explains that this may help prevent overeating of less nutritious foods throughout the day.
Just note, compared with most other plants (green leafy vegetables, for instance) avocados are more energy-dense—in other words, higher in calories (kilojoules). Being mindful of serving sizes can help keep you from accidentally undermining your weight-loss efforts.
Avocado nutrition facts
As you’ll discover below, avocados are rich in essential nutrients. While bananas are often regarded as the ultimate fruit source of potassium, avocados actually contain more of the nutrient per serving! Alongside potassium, one serving of avocado contains the following:
|Serving size: ~50g or ¼ avocado|
|Calories: 70 (290 kJ)|
*Nutrition Information for avocado has been taken from the Australian Food Composition Database.
How to cook with avocado
Step 1: Make sure it’s ripe. A quick way to tell? Nudge the stubby little stem. If it pops off easily to reveal green underneath, you’re good to go. But if the stem stays put or you see a yellow hue beneath it, your avocado may need more time to ripen. To shorten that time to a day or two, pop your avocado in a paper bag with an apple or banana. Both fruits release a natural gas that speeds up ripening.
Once you have the perfect pick, you’re ready to try some delicious ideas for adding avocado to your eating plan. It’s the star ingredient in classics like guacamole and avocado toast, of course. Avocado also makes a tasty finishing touch on everything from omelettes to salads. Try it as a swap for mayo in tuna or egg salad sandwiches or as dairy-free thickener for smoothies. Also, it can be a great alternative for spreads like butter on sandwiches/wraps, or in baked desserts like cakes to help boost your intake of heart-healthy fats. Don’t believe us? Then try our Dark chocolate avocado cake - you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
No matter how you’re using avocado, be sure to cut the fruit safely (no whacking at the pit with a knife!). A specialised gadget like WW’s 3-in-1 avocado tool can make quicker work of cutting, pitting, and slicing for Instagram-worthy segments every time.