Why are Avocados Healthy? – Fiber, Omega-9, Phytosterols, Antioxidants and Much More
The avocado is a uniquely healthy fruit and one well worth eating regularly.
They have an unusually high fat content, though as we’ll see ahead, this is a definite plus for your health.
Avocados are also particularly rich in dietary fiber, have many anti-inflammatory compounds, are a good source of eye protecting antioxidants and cover a number of important nutritional bases.
In fact, avocados are so good for you, they’ve actually been described as the only food you could live on alone. And while I wouldn’t suggest trying that, it goes someway to explaining just how broad the range of nutrients in them is.
Let’s have a look at 7 of the best reasons why avocados are so healthy and why you should enjoy them more often knowing they really are doing your body a lot of good.
1. Avocado Fiber Content
Despite their creamy texture and taste, avocados are a great source of fiber, with around 16 grams per cup. They are around 7% dietary fiber by weight, which is higher than just about any other fruit.
Of this, around three quarters is insoluble fiber and one quarter soluble fiber, both of which are very beneficial for digestive health and elimination, preventing weight gain and guarding against heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems.
Dietary guidelines recommend at least 38 grams of fiber a day for men and 25 grams of fiber for women. Unfortunately most Americans are lucky to get 15 grams of dietary fiber daily.
The 16 grams of fiber in avocados by cup is almost half that recommended for men and well over half a woman’s suggested intake of dietary fiber. You’d certainly be hard pressed to find a more delicious way to get your fiber than avocados
This healthy fiber is one of the many reasons why eating the fruit can help you lose weight, despite their fat content. See the page on Is Avocado Fattening to find out the others.
2. Anti-Inflammatory Omega-9 Fats and Phytosterols
A ripe avocado is a rich source of anti-inflammatory monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids that help balance out the often pro-inflammatory polyunsaturated omega-6 fats so common in modern processed diets.
They are also full of phytosterols like beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol that can reduce LDL cholesterol levels in your blood and have other powerful inflammation reducing properties.
Diseases of inflammation such as arthritis and osteoporosis often respond well to more phytosterols in the diet. Hass avocados were recently tested at 76 mg of beta-sitosterol per hundred grams but coldpressed avocado oil like this is an even more concentrated source.
Along with omega-9 fats and phytosterols, avocados also contain the essential omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid and rare polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PSAs), proven to reduce UV damage and inflammation in your skin.
It would be difficult to find a better all round anti-inflammatory food to enjoy regularly than healthy avocados.
3. Vitamin K in Avocado
Avocado benefits also include high vitamin K content and one cup of the bright green pulp can provide more than a third of the recommended daily intake of this important nutrient.
Vitamin K is involved in calcium metabolism, blood clotting, building healthy bones and many other important functions in your body. It can be a hard to get nutrient in the modern diet with many people believed to be at least mildly deficient in it.
While avocados are a particularly enjoyable source, arugula, kale and parsley are even higher in fat soluble vitamin K.
4. High in Vitamin E
Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that protect your cells from free radical damage and boost our immune system. It is particularly beneficial for helping to prevent the oxidation of fats like cholesterol that can accumulate in arteries, leading to heart disease and strokes.
Good levels of vitamin E in the diet can also improve your skin’s appearance by helping it to retain more moisture and protecting it from the oxidative damage that causes wrinkles and skin aging.
Avocado contains around 3 mg per cup of vitamin E, which is considered 15% of the recommended daily intake.
5. Vitamin C Content
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that enhances our immune system and our body’s ability to heal itself. It also improves circulation, protects against cardiovascular disease and is needed to build collagen for healthy skin.
One cup of avocado will provide approximately 15 mg of vitamin C, which is a quarter of the recommended daily intake. Like many RDIs though, this amount is often considered far too low and I’d suggest getting more vitamin C from a concentrated natural source like amla and spreading your dosage throughout the day.
6. Folate and Other B vitamins
Avocados are a good source of most of the B vitamins, with the exception of vitamin B12. They are highest in folate, with 100 grams listed as providing 118 mcg, that’s around a third of the RDI for this B vitamin, particularly important for women during pregnancy.
They also have vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) at approximately 1.5 mg per 100 grams, 15% of the RDI and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) at around 12% of the recommended daily intake. As well as the vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin) at useful levels.
B vitamins can clearly be added to the long list of beneficial avocado nutritional properties.
7. Rich in Antioxidants for Healthy Eyes
The eye antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein are found a particularly high levels in avocados. These nutrients help protect the macular region of your eye, involved in perceiving fine details like the words on this screen, from damaging UV and high-intensity blue light.
A diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin has been shown to protect you from developing cataracts or age related macular degeneration and really helps with preventing strained eyes if you work in front of a computer all day.
Avocados also have a wide range of other antioxidant carotenoids, including alpha carotene and beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and the rarer neoxanthin, violaxanthin, neochrome and chrysanthemaxanthin. These carotenoids, along with beneficial chlorophyll, are found at the highest concentrations close to the skin, so be sure to get your spoon right in there to eat the greenest parts.
All of these carotenoids are fat-soluble and having avocado with other carotenoid rich vegetables, like carrots and leafy greens, greatly increases our digestive system’s absorption of their antioxidant nutrients as well.
Put simply, avocado is one of the healthiest things you can put into your next salad. Not only for all of the nutritional compounds already listed, but also to maximize the nutrition of other healthy foods they are eaten with.
Enjoy Healthy Avocados
Did you know that avocados had so much fiber, could protect your body from inflammation, keep your eyes healthy and were so good for your health in general?
I’d be interested to hear your opinion on the many health benefits of avocado and just how you like to enjoy them in the comments below.