The Unique Nutritional Properties of Avocados
Avocados have nutritional properties that make them quite a unique 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. They are also low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and contain all of the essential amino acids.
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 is in them.
Let’s have a look at some of the best.
Vitamin K in Avocado
Avocados are high in vitamin K and one cup 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 vitamin K.
High Vitamin E
Vitamin E has antioxidant properties that protect our cells from free radical damage and boost our immune system. It is particularly beneficial for helping to prevent the oxidization 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.
Avocado’s 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 camu camu and spreading your dosage throughout the day.
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 avocado nutritional properties.
Healthy Fats for Better Cholesterol
One of the real standouts in avocado is its healthy fat content. They are very rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, primarily oleic acid, which has been shown to lower dangerous LDL cholesterol levels at the same time as raising beneficial HDL cholesterol.
The fruit also contains omega-3 alpha linoleic acid, though nowhere near the levels of flaxseed oil. Much more on why the these fats are actually really good for you in Eating Avocado for a Healthy Heart.
Phytosterols in Avocados
Along with all the beneficial monounsaturated fats, avocados are rich source of phytosterols such as beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol that can help keep inflammation under control in your body. These phytosterols may be particularly helpful for preventing diseases like arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
Beta-sitosterol has also been shown to reduce cholesterol absorption from the food we eat when significantly present in the diet. Hass avocados recently tested at 76 mg of beta-sitosterol per hundred grams but coldpressed avocado oil is an even more concentrated source.
High in Dietary Fiber
A great source of fiber, an average avocado has around 8 grams per cup. Of this, around three quarters is insoluble fiber and one quarter soluble fiber, both of which are very beneficial for digestive health and elimination.
This fiber is one of the many reasons eating the fruit can help you lose weight. See the page on Is Avocado Fattening to find out the others.
Other Nutritional Properties of Avocado
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.
Avocado’s nutritional properties certainly make them a superfood well worth eating more often and there are some surprising health benefits that come from all of these different nutrients. Did you know that avocados were so good for you? I’d be interested to hear your opinion on the big green vitamin pill in the comments below.