What makes avocados so sought after is their taste and the many health benefits and nutrients they have to offer. You will discover in this article which (proven) health benefits.
Also not unimportant for the success of the avocado is its taste. They can greatly enrich all kinds of dishes.
What are avocados?
Avocado is a pear-shaped fruit. They fall into the category of berries. Depending on the breed, they can grow to 7 to 20 centimetres in length and weigh over 2 kilos.
The avocado was first cultivated in Mexico about 2,500 years ago. Most avocados you find in Dutch supermarkets are of the ‘Hass’ variety. The Hass avocado is the most widely grown variety. This is because of its taste, shelf life and high yield.
This Hass avocado weighs between 200 and 300 grams each. The skin is green which turns black-brown during ripening. The skin feels rough and lumpy.
It is often difficult to judge whether an avocado is completely ready to eat. A trick to find out is by removing the small seed from the tip of the avocado.
If the avocado is ready to eat, you will see that the place where the seed was located is white-green in color. Avocados are almost always eaten raw. If they are heated (100 degrees or warmer) a molecular reaction takes place which changes the taste. They turn brown and taste like quinine (a ‘tonic’ taste).
You will therefore never cook or bake avocados that quickly, although you can. If you spread avocados on a warm toast or put it as guacamole on your burritos, they will not heat up enough to ruin the delicious taste and creamy texture.
The special thing about avocados is that they are rich in fatty acids. They contain, among other things, the healthy omega 3 fatty acids .
A fatty acid that you mainly find in foods of animal origin and in seeds and nuts. Furthermore, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber are well represented in avocados.
Nutritional value of avocado
Avocados are very nutritious. The great thing is that it contains all the macronutrients and plenty of micronutrients. Theoretically, they are so nutritious that you could survive on them for a while, they contain all the macronutrients and many micronutrients. Although I wouldn’t recommend that. You will eventually become deficient in vitamin B12 and calcium.
Nutritional value of avocado Per 100 grams:
- Energy 167 kcal
- Fat 15 grams
- Of which saturated 2 grams
- Carbohydrates 9 grams
- of which sugars 0 grams
- of which fiber 7 grams
- Protein 2 grams
For a fruit, avocado contains relatively many calories. This is due to the fatty acids it is rich in.
About 80% of calories come from fats . That is 20 times more than the average for other types of fruit. In most fruits, the calories come mainly from carbohydrates (fruit sugars). One whole avocado contains about 300 kcal and 30 grams of fat. If you want to lose weight, it is therefore better not to eat too much avocado. Half an avocado a day is a good guideline. It’s okay if you eat more of it every now and then. Avocados have the advantage that they make you feel full, so you won’t eat too much of other things so quickly.
Fatty acid profile of avocado
Because avocado is often eaten for its healthy fatty acids, it is interesting to see exactly what the fatty acid profile looks like. This one is as follows.
Fatty acid Per 100 grams
- Total fatty acids: 15 grams
- Saturated fatty acid : 2.12 grams
- Of which palmitic acid : 2.07 grams
- Of which stearic acid : 49mg
- Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: 9.8 grams
- Of which palmitoleic acid (omega 7): 700mg
- Of which oleic acid (omega 9): 9.07 grams
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: 1.8 grams
- Of which linoleic acid (omega 6) : 1.67 grams
- Of which alpha-linoleic acid (omega 3): 110mg
An average avocado gives you 30 grams of fatty acids, of which 20 grams are unsaturated fatty acids. Oleic acid accounts for most of the fatty acids. The omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids in avocado do not have a favorable ratio . The ratio is 10:1 in favor of omega 6 fatty acids. Despite this unfavorable ratio, avocados in a balanced diet have beneficial effects on health.
Vitamins in avocado
Avocados also contain the necessary vitamins. In the table below you can see which and how much.
- Vitamin Per 100 grams
- Vitamin A 147 IU (3% DV)
- Vitamin B1 100 mcg (5% DV)
- Vitamin B2 100 mcg (8% DV)
- Vitamin B3 1.9 mg (10% RDA)
- Vitamin B5 1.5mg (15% DV)
- Vitamin B6 300 mcg (14% DV)
- Vitamin B11 (folic acid) 89 mcg (22% DV)
- Vitamin C 8.8mg (15% DV)
- Vitamin E 2 mcg (10% DV)
- Vitamin K 21 mcg (26% DV)
Multiply the above value by 2 and you know how many vitamins are in a small avocado. Avocado provides many different vitamins. Only vitamins D and B12 are not found in avocado.
Minerals in avocado
Avocados also provide minerals, albeit in fairly modest amounts.
Minerals Per 100 grams
- Calcium 13 mg (1% DV)
- Iron 600 mcg (3% DV)
- Magnesium 29 mg (7% RDI)
- Phosphorus 53 mg (5% RDA)
- Potassium 507 mg (14% DV)
- Zinc 695 mcg (5% DV)
- Buyer 203 mcg (9% DV)
- Manganese 99 mcg (7% DV)
- Selenium 0.4 mcg (1% DV)
- Sodium 8mg (0% RDA)
The health benefits of avocados
Avocados are also seen as a superfood, which is not surprising given the nutritional value and health benefits. I have summarised the health benefits of avocado for you in the infographic below, which I had specially made for this. In the infographic you will also find interesting facts about avocado. The health benefits are further explained below the infographic.
1. Anti-inflammatory fatty acids
Inflammation increases the risk of several conditions. Low-threshold inflammations are the basis of many diseases and disorders. Inflammation (partly) causes cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Although avocados are praised for their omega 3 fatty acids, it is actually the omega 9 fatty acids that it is rich in. The major part of the fatty acids consists of oleic acid . Oleic acid is also an important fatty acid in olive oil and is also found in coconut oil . Oleic acid has been shown to reduce inflammation. In these studies, oleic acid was found to be most effective in combination with omega 3 fatty acid (alpha-linoleic acid) as is the case with olive oil.
2. Good for your cholesterol
Doctors speak of high cholesterol when the values indicate an increased risk of arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is a major health hazard because it increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The worst thing about high cholesterol is that you don’t notice it until it’s too late. Therefore, during health checks, the blood is examined to see if the cholesterol is too high. We distinguish between LDL and HDL cholesterol. LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein and is also called bad cholesterol because high LDL levels mark the risk of arteriosclerosis.
The polyunsaturated fatty acids, in which avocados are rich, help to lower bad LDL cholesterol.
HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol is considered the good cholesterol. It ensures that excess LDL cholesterol can be removed from the blood walls. The fatty acids of avocados help to increase good HDL cholesterol.
In a study of people with normal lipid (fat) levels, this decreased by 16% after participants added avocados to their diet for a week.
The same study also examined people with high cholesterol. After one week, total cholesterol had fallen by 17%, LDL cholesterol by 22% and triglycerides by 22%. This while the good HDL cholesterol had increased by 11%.
3. Helps with non-alcoholic fatty liver
In non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, there is a disturbed fat and sugar metabolism in the liver. This causes fat to accumulate in and around the liver.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is often referred to by the abbreviation NAFLD, which stands for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
NAFLD usually does not cause any symptoms, sometimes symptoms only appear in the end stage when NAFLD turns into inflammation of the liver (NASH), after which liver cirrhosis and eventually liver cancer can develop.
People with NAFLD have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, twice as much risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of premature death is 1.5 times greater.
NAFLD is reversible through weight loss and lifestyle changes. Recently, there has also been an increasing focus on foods that can help tackle NAFLD.
Avocados also contain vitamin E. This has been shown to also help against a fatty liver.
4. Lowers the risk of certain cancers
Carotenoids are fat-soluble antioxidants found in relatively large amounts in avocados. They are mainly found in the dark green flesh directly under the skin.
Carotenoids are found in various types of plant foods, but the fatty acids in avocados ensure that the carotenoids can be properly absorbed by the body.
The fatty acids in avocado also ensure that fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are better absorbed. Tomatoes and carrots are also rich in carotenoids, so they are well absorbed by eating them in combination with avocados. By adding avocado or avocado oil to a salad, you ensure that the antioxidants are absorbed 2.6 to 15 times better.
Carotenoids help prevent cell damage and protect against oxidative stress.Studies suggest that carotenoids reduce the risk of breast, mouth, stomach and prostate cancer. Anti-tumor properties are attributed to the oleic acid, which avocados are rich in.
5. Lowers the risk of macular degeneration
The macula is the center of the retina that contains cones. In macular degeneration, vision deteriorates. It is therefore popularly referred to as ‘wear and tear of the retina’.
A pair of antioxidants in combination with omega 3 fatty acids can help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
This concerns the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which occur naturally in combination with omega 3 in avocados.
Lutein and zeaxanthin may also help prevent cataracts, although this evidence is inconclusive. More research is needed for this.
6. Lowers risk of metabolic syndrome
The metabolic syndrome is caused by an imbalance between food intake and physical activity. This seriously disrupts the metabolism with negative effects on health. The metabolic syndrome is a combination of common conditions such as elevated blood glucose, overweight/obesity (too much belly fat), high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The metabolic syndrome is often the precursor to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Avocados also reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. In people who regularly eat avocados, the metabolic syndrome is 50% less common.
Research also shows that people who regularly eat avocados also eat more vegetables and less sugar.
It is therefore people who consciously make healthier food choices. The fact that the metabolic syndrome occurs less often in this group of people is therefore not only due to the avocados, but also due to the healthier food choices. Avocados increase the quality of the diet and the amount of nutrients eaten.
The fiber and fatty acids make it less likely to overeat, resulting in a better balance between the amount you eat and how much you exercise.
7. Maintain your weight
The energy that avocados provide in combination with the fiber ensures that one becomes satiated earlier. This prevents people from eating too much, which is important to maintain a healthy weight.
In one study, overweight people were fed half an avocado with their lunch. As a result, they felt full for longer during the afternoon. As a result, they could better resist craving an afternoon snack.
Avocado healthy for the skin
Externally, avocado is also widely used for the care of skin and hair. Avocado oil is used for this . Avocado oil can be extracted from the flesh of the avocado or from the pit of the avocado. Both oils contain healthy fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Avocado oil helps to keep the skin soft, strong and elastic. You can lubricate the skin with pure avocado oil, you can buy beauty products that contain avocado oil or you can make your own beauty products based on avocado oil.
Avocado oil is used for:
- Treating Dry Skin
- Treating Itchy Skin
- Moisturizing the skin
- Treating damaged skin
- Protecting the skin from UV radiation
The effect of avocado oil on the skin has mainly been demonstrated in animal studies. For example, avocado oil appears to heal wounds faster in rats.
An interesting study in people with psoriasis (a chronic skin condition) showed that a vitamin B12 cream with avocado oil can be used for the long-term treatment of psoriasis.
There are no studies showing that the use of avocado oil can have any side effects. Despite that, it is wise to first treat a small piece of your skin, on your arm, with avocado oil to see if there is no allergic reaction within 24 hours.
Avocado Oil May Relieve Osteoarthritis
The unsaponifiable oil from avocados and soy can be used to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis. These oils are for sale in the form of supplements. According to a study, these unsaponifiable fats can relieve the pain, stiffness and reduced mobility of the joints in osteoarthritis. It is not (yet) known what the long-term effect of these unsaponifiable fats is on osteoarthritis.
Avocados and Pregnancy
It is good to eat avocados if you want to become pregnant, if you are pregnant and if you are breast-feeding. Avocado is a good source of folic acid, which is important to prevent the birth of a child with birth defects. Avocados are also a source of potassium that is extra needed during pregnancy. Avocados contain many healthy nutrients and help to improve the quality of breastfeeding.