Avocados have become the darling of the many healthy and weight loss diets, as well as being a staple of the Paleo diet. They are having their ‘moment’ in the spotlight for sure! And for good reason! We all know that they are very healthy for us, low glycemic/low carb and full of super nutrients like healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and serious phytochemicals, but wait—there’s more!
Avocados have been gaining steadily in popularity over the last ten years. In fact, the rate of consumption of avocados has about doubled in the last ten years and demand keeps growing! Mexico and Latin America are some of the biggest suppliers along with California. Did you know that there are actually over a thousand different types of avocados, but here in the United States, we mainly see the popular Hass avocado most of the time. Although the demand has gone up for this buttery fruit, supplies this year are lower, so you may be paying a higher price for your avo—but they are well worth it for your health and your body!
Here’s a few reasons why:
1. Avocados Stabilize Blood Sugar and Fight Metabolic Syndrome
The healthy fats and other nutrition you get from avocados help your body to stabilize blood sugar and insulin, helping fight diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as contributing to fat loss and muscle building. They are low glycemic; therefore no rise in blood sugar and no fat-storing insulin release. The healthy fat content in avocados makes you feel full longer and cuts down on food cravings, so that makes it a perfect food if you are trying to burn fat and lose weight—even though avocados are considered fairly calorically dense. All in all, researchers discovered that avocado consumers were 50 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome than people who don’t normally eat them! The blood sugar stabilizing effect avocados have also helps reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
A study published in Nutrition Journal (January 2013), made up of 17,567 participants, also found that avocado-eaters generally eat a more balanced diet than non-avocado consumers, had significantly higher intakes of vegetables and fruit, and had higher intakes of vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants. BMI and body weight were significantly LESS in people who eat avocados on a regular basis. Speaking of high-fat foods that actually HELP you to get leaner, here are 7 fatty foods that fight aging and flatten your stomach (some will surprise you!)
2. Cancer Prevention
The Journal of Nutrition and Cancer recently published the results of a study, showing avocados as a major player in cancer-fighting and study results show phytochemicals as powerful as some chemotherapy! Other research suggests that phytochemicals extracted from avocados help induce cancer cell cycle death, inhibit growth, and induce apoptosis in precancerous and cancer cell lines.
Avocados abundance of monounsaturated fats also help fight cancer by being an effective anti-inflammatory agent. Beta-sitosterol also protects the prostate gland in men, fighting cancer and improving immune functions. And the powerful carotenoids fight skin cancer, as well as aging.
3. Weight Loss—Really!!
While avocados get a bad rap because they are calorically dense and high in fats, they are actually a great weight loss food. Diets lower in carbohydrates actually actually have been shown to help in fat loss, and in reducing hunger because they keep blood sugar and fat-storing insulin in check. Fats are super filling and increase satisfaction that help you eat less overall. And they allow you to go longer between meals without getting hungry. That healthy fat also helps your body absorb more fat-burning vitamins and minerals as well.
A study conducted in 2005, examined the effects of avocados, a rich source of calories coming from monounsaturated fatty acids, as part of an energy-restricted diet on weight loss, serum lipids and vascular function in overweight and obese subjects. They found that consumption of 30 grams a day of fat from avocado within restricted calorie diet didn’t compromise weight loss at all when substituted for 30 grams a day of mixed dietary fats. The diet high in avocado resulted in significant weight loss in addition to other health improvements. Measurements including body mass, body mass index and percentage of body fat decreased significantly in both groups during the study. Only the avocado test group experienced positive changes in fatty acid blood serum levels. So, there are clearly avocado benefits for weight loss!
4. Avocados Contain Amazing Fats
Avocados contain oodles of oleic acid the same type of healthy fat that is in olive oil, which helps—among other things—lower bad cholesterol and fight cancers. Unlike saturated fats or highly processed vegetable oils, avocado oil regulates blood sugar, protects the heart as well as the brain. Avocados contain plenty of oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fat in olive oil, that helps lower cholesterol and is helpful in preventing breast cancer and other cancers.
Avo’s help to block the development of arteriosclerosis (the gunk inside your blood vessels that blocks blood flow) partly because of their blood sugar-lowering effects. Other serious health-protecting ingredients include fiber, beta-sitosterol, magnesium, and potassium, which help to regulate blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol. This study shows people eating avocados dropped total cholesterol by 17%, LDL’s decreased by 22%, triglycerides by 22%, and healthy HDL rose by 11%. That avo fat is GOOD for you!!
5. Healthy Babies—Before and After Birth
One medium avocado has about a quarter of your required daily amount of folate, or folic acid, a B vitamin that plays an essential role in making new cells by helping to produce healthy DNA and RNA. Folate is required for pregnant women, and helps lower the risk birth defects in babies, as well as being important for heart health.
And avocados are the perfect baby food as well! They are firm enough to be picked up by tiny fingers, but easily mashable and edible—even for someone with no teeth! What’s more, we now know they are chock full of healthy nutrition, healthy fats and massive phytochemicals. And their mild taste is something babies love, making avo’s a great baby superfood!
6. Eye Health
Avocados have lots of carotenoids and lutein, antioxidants that are both valuable for healthy eyes. It also contains zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, plus significant quantities of vitamin E. The oleic acid in avo’s helps the body absorb those precious carotenoids and convert to vitamin A, as well as being able to access the antioxidants in other foods as well. Carotenoid benefits include lowering inflammation, promoting healthy growth and development, and boosting immunity, among others.
7. Healthy Inside and Healthy Outside—Skin and Hair
Avocados’ load of phtytochemicals and antioxidants fight damage from the sun and the environment by reducing inflammation and DNA damage. People who eat diets rich in antioxidants as well as healthy fats have healthier, less wrinkly skin than people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). In addition, the healthy carotenoids in colorful veggies, including avocados add a rich, healthy golden glow to your skin. And, because of the rich oils and vitamins in avocados, you can mash one up and use it as moisturizing, calming facial mask as well!
Avocados massive supply of phytonutrients including their polyphenols and flavenoids also help fight osteoarthritis, and other inflammatory degenerative diseases.
Avocados growing popularity has created a serious worldwide craving for this buttery orb, so countries like Mexico and many other South American countries have been gearing up their production. However, avocados—especially American Hass avocados use more water than the South American varieties, so California avocados may be in short supply this year. Rising demand and avocado prices are actually fueling illegal deforestation in some parts of the world, and drug and mafia cartels are at work to control the supply of this popular food. High demand and lowered supply may mean your favorite avo prices could rise. Careful handling, a watchful eye that they don’t get overripe and knowing how to store your leftover avocado will help to prevent wasting these lovelies.
What About That Pit?
A study by Pennsylvania State University revealed that avocado pits, or seeds, have been used medicinally for generations. Avocado pits in South American have been used as a treatment for inflammation, diabetes and hypertension. This mostly unused element of the fruit contains phenolic compounds, which are known to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease and other degenerative illnesses. But beware, some food experts warn against eating the pits thinking that it may cause intestinal discomfort or other health issues. More research is needed at this point on the detriments or benefits of eating the seeds of avocados.
Ideas to Use
There are literally zillions of great avocado recipes out there—I prefer the quick and easy ones. My favorite breakfast is to spread some ripe avocado on gluten free (sourdough) toast, add a slice of natural ham, and a free range egg cooked in grass fed butter. Divine! Great low carb, high nutrient breakfast to fuel your day! I also like them right out of the shell with some Sriracha sauce sprinkled on, with tuna in the hollow.
Here’s an amazing Paleo breakfast of an easy-baked avocado egg recipe from my friends at PaleoHacks. Or try this yummy chocolate avocado recipe for dessert from my co-author Mike Geary. Mmm, mmm good!