7 science-based reasons to love avocados
Avocados may seem like just a hipster food, but the fruit can do way more than make brunch photos look good. 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 their culinary star status, avocados provide heart-healthy fats and micronutrients, including potassium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium, explains Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, head of nutrition and wellness at WW.
Read on for science-backed scoop on this fruit’s fabulous qualities.
Avocado health benefits
Avocados are quite the powerful fruit, says Kristi King, MPH, RDN, CNSC, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a senior dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital.
Avocados are a nutrient-dense source of many key vitamins and minerals, and have been linked to a slew of potential health benefits, including the seven presented below.
1. Reduces risk of heart disease
Adding more fruit of any kind to your diet 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 a third of an avocado, London says that incorporating more of the fruit to daily meals and snacks - in whatever amount is right for you - 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 (also known as vitamin B9) which is perhaps best known for preventing neural tube defects in developing foetuses during pregnancy, King says. 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. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most of us could be adding more fibre to our diets, and avocados are a great way to do so. One serving of avocado (about a third of a whole fruit) can provide 8-14% 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 unto itself. 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. Supports 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 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 diet, 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 in our diet, avocados are more energy-dense - in other words, higher in calories. 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. Fun fact: 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: ⅓ medium-sized avocado|
|Calories: 80 kcal|
% Daily Value
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, says Sherry Rujikarn, food director at WW. 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, Rujikarn recommends popping your avocado in a paper bag with an apple or banana. Both fruits release a natural gas that speeds up ripening.
(Good to know: trapping the gas will fast-track the process for all fruits in the bag, so try to use a banana that’s slightly underripe or just-ripe so you don’t wind up rotting it by mistake.)
Once you have the perfect pick, you’re ready to try some delicious ideas for adding avocado to your diet. 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.
Bottom line: should you eat more avocado?
Ultimately, all foods can fit into a healthy pattern of eating - avocados definitely included. If you enjoy the taste, King is clear: Eat the avocado!
“I can confidently say that some avocado can be added into your daily routine as you strive for a healthier lifestyle,” she says. But if avocado just isn’t your thing? No worries. There are plenty of other ways to get healthy fats, fibre, and antioxidants in your diet.