The avocado has been known since ancient times as a super-food with incredible health benefits and now as the world is looking for new ways to fight lifestyle diseases like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, it is rising to superstar status.
The World Health Organization has stated that chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability worldwide now accounting for 60% of deaths and 43% of the global burden of disease globally. The WHO identifies an unhealthy diet as a major contributor to this global epidemic.
Traditionally cultivated for food and medicine, the avocado has now become a fashionable dietary addition, and provides proof that good nutrition can be the best medicine.
Its uses have been well-known since ancient times when the fruit was used to treat a variety of skin conditions. But it was in modern man’s search for perfect nutrition that scientists have been to study the avocado and the health benefits it can bestow.
While there are many types of avocado fruit that vary in shape and size, the most common variety of the fruit is the Hass Avocado.
Vitamin content of Avocado
Avocados are packed with minerals and vitamins . Half an avocado can contribute a substantial percentage of the daily nutritional needs of a child.
Half an avocado provides a child’s daily intake of:
- 7% of calories
- 18% of Vitamin A
- 17% of Vitamin C
- 13% of Vitamin E
- 16% of Folic Acid
All good for boosting metabolism and cell growth. In addition to this it offers;
- 13% of Niacin (Vit B3), known to boost brain health
- 15% of Vitamin B6, essential for the nervous system
- 15% of iron and magnesium
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a 100 grams of avocado contains 120 calories, 14.6 grams of fat, 6.7 grams of dietary fiber, and 0.6 grams of sugars.
The fruit is very rich in Vitamin B6, essential for a healthy nervous system, teeth, gums and the development and health of red blood cells. It also has a high amount of protein, unusual in fruit and contains all nine essential amino acids.
Most notably an avocado a day also provide a significant boost in Vitamin E and beta carotene needed to fight free radicals – causing aging and a number of degenerative diseases like cataracts and bad cholesterol.
While other fruits also boast a significant vitamin punch, the fat-soluble vitamins D, E and beta carotene (as a precursor of Vitamin A) are not found in other fruits.
Avocado and Chronic Illness
Considered one of the major components in the fight against chronic illness, dietary fiber intake is a major part of a healthy diet. Studies have shown that an increased in dietary fiber intake lowers the risk of heart disease, some cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, and avocados boast a significant amount of both soluble and non-soluble fiber.
Research by the Centre for Nutrition, Healthy Lifestyle and Disease Prevention at Loma Linda University and published in the journal Nutrients in 2019 found a link between habitual avocado intake and a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese with those who included the fruit in their diet having lower weight and body mass index.
Researchers said there could be various factors that would explain this including that those who ate avocados regularly felt full faster because of its high dietary fiber content. Fiber also boosted healthy gut bacteria and digestion.
Avocados and Cholesterol
A review of trials published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2018 found that an increase in avocado consumption also increased serum HDL-cholesterol concentrations in the body. HDL-cholesterol removes harmful cholesterol from the body.
Researchers, however, warned that the eligible trials had small sample sizes, ranging from 80 to 202, and short intervals of follow-up and that further research was needed to assess the efficacy of avocado intake on risk factors for cardiovascular disease and long term outcomes in patients with chronic heart disease, who had suffered heart attacks or had a stroke.
Another study found that patients with high levels of bad cholesterol who consumed 300 grams of avocado per day for seven days showed a significant decrease in bad cholesterol and a slight increase in good cholesterol levels when compared to those who did not eat avocado.
There are three reasons for this:
- An increased fiber intake as avocadoes are rich in fiber
- An increased intake of plant sterols
- Increased mono-unsaturated fatty acids
An increase in potassium intake can also significantly reduce the risk of stroke, a study done by Medical Schools in California, San Diego and Cambridge University in England found. The amount needed per day was less than the amount provided in half an avocado.
Recently published research also indicates that the amount of mono-saturated fat found in avocados may provide better control of blood sugar levels for those struggling with Type 2 diabetes and another study has found that a unique type of sugar in Avocado actually depresses insulin production.
A recent survey done in South Africa, trying to determine dieticians’ perceptions of the fruit and the likelihood of recommending the fruit to their patients found that 97% of them would recommend it to their patients.
Monique Piderit, a registered dietician from Nutritional Solutions noted that those that are not recommending avocados were deterred by the high prices.
The biggest reasons dieticians were recommending avocados was for management of cardiovascular disease, weight loss, and type 2 diabetes.
Apart from its incredible health benefits, another factor in its favor is that people like eating it even when ordering food at a restaurant – it is commonly added as an additional ingredient in vegetarian options and salads in its uncooked form.
A study done by the Hass Avocado Board in 2017 found that the majority of respondents found dishes containing avocado to taste better and fresher.
“The results of the survey reinforce the role avocados can play in everyday healthy living even while dining out,”
Gina Widjaja, Director of Marketing & Communications of the Hass Avocado Board said.
“Avocados are a nutrient-dense, cholesterol-free fruit with naturally good fats, so it’s no surprise that health-conscious diners associate restaurants serving avocado dishes as being healthier.”