Before the avocado toast phenomenon, most of us got our avo fix from an order of guacamole and chips or from a couple slices topped on our scrambled eggs. It wasn’t that exciting of a fruit until the powerful benefits along with the beautiful avo toast aesthetics became so mainstream in 2016 that the fruit was too hard to resist! Avocado was now tied to the wellness movement that rejected our Western diet of heavily processed foods. Fast forward to the 2019/2020 season, the US imported 2.1 billion pounds of avocados!
You might have started eating more avocados when you learned about all of the healthy fats and fiber they boast. Or, you might have jumped on the avocado bandwagon for the incredible skin health benefits. The takeaway? …The more we learn about the nutritional benefits of our food, the more appealing they seem to become!
Avocado might be my favorite plant-based food because of all the ways it can be used in recipes. From tasty sauces, to rich dressings and creamy spreads, I eat an avocado almost every day if I can! In my Instagram LIVE with Dr. Perlmutter, I shared an easy and delicious recipe for truffle guacamole and crispy baked veggie chips. This recipe encourages eating the rainbow while also getting in healthy fats and fiber to boost your brain health and support your gut.
Paired with a balanced diet, exercise, reduced stress levels, and adequate water intake, avocado nutrients can work magic in your body! Below is a dive into the latest research on the health benefits of the avocado.
AVOCADO SUPERSTAR BENEFITS
- Lowered Risk of Cancer
Avocados contain Vitamin E and Vitamin C, which are known to fight cancerous cells. They also contain carotenoids in the darker green flesh of the avocado, just under the peel. Carotenoids are one of the phytochemicals widely known for playing an important role in cancer prevention. There are about 100 carotenoids naturally occuring in our fruits and vegetables, giving them their orange, red, and yellow colors. The antioxidant and pro-oxidant qualities of these chemicals have also led to their frequent use in supplements.
Certain individual phytochemicals, like carotenoids, as well as combinations of them are being studied as dietary strategies for cancer prevention. Because your body also needs fat to absorb carotenoids, avocados are one of the most bioavailable sources.
This being said, there has been conflicting evidence over the past several years on whether or not avocados can be used as treatment for certain cancers. For example, in one study men who regularly included avocado in their diet had a reduced risk of prostate cancer, however, when fighting this cancer, avocado compounds made it worse. Other studies on breast cancer and avocados resulted in a higher risk of breast cancer due to raised estrone levels, a type of estrogen, in postmenopausal women.
On the other hand, a study published in the journal, “Blood,” released positive findings on avocado and the fight against AML Leukemia. In the effort to uncover less toxic treatments, scientists found that one of the compounds in avocado inhibits the enzyme called VLCAD. This enzyme is a target in killing cancer cells, and now these findings are beginning to be tested on patients.
2. Balanced Sodium Levels
Avocados contain significant levels of Potassium – 6% of recommended daily intake needs. This mineral is important for a healthy heart, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, digestion, and more! Potassium is also an important electrolyte that helps balance out the mineral sodium in your blood. In contrast, having high levels of sodium is associated with heart disease, stroke, kidney issues, bone loss, and muscle and nerve dysfunction.
3. Lowered Risk of Heart Disease
Avocados protect your heart and help you maintain a healthy weight. Studies from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey provided substantial data showing that people who ate avocados had higher levels of good cholesterol, lowered risk of metabolic syndrome, and a lower BMI. The nutrients in avocados that contribute to heart health are dietary fiber, potassium, low sugar, antioxidants, B vitamins, and carotenoids.
Many studies show that adding avocado to your diet has a positive effect on blood lipids. Having low levels of LDL keeps your arteries healthy and helps prevent heart disease. From the phytosterols, to the healthy monounsaturated fats, to the phytochemicals, including avocados in your diet is a positive tactic in the effort to protect your heart health.
4. Neuroprotective Properties
Avocados have also been deemed a brain health food. Because of the high content of phytochemicals and all the antioxidant benefits they provide, avocados have incredible neuroprotective qualities. Oxidative stress and the damage it does to brain cells (confusing neuron signaling and neuronal death) has been found to be a root cause of many neurological diseases and conditions. Hang on to those healthy brain cells by including foods, like avocado, that are rich in phytonutrients. Many phytochemicals are being studied for their pivotal role in preventing neurodegenerative diseases and reversing aging.
BONUS: Avocados also contain magnesium, an important nutrient in reducing stress. Stress is one the top causes of brain degenerative diseases.
5. Neutralized Skin Aging Free-Radicals
Want to get that extra “glow”!? Avocado is one of the skin health superfoods to add to your plate. On the surface, the natural oils from healthy fats penetrate your skin to nourish, soften, and hydrate. Try making an avocado face mask! The antioxidants are known for reducing fine lines and boosting skin immunity. Improving skin elasticity as well as reducing redness and inflammation due to the natural lutein levels have also been reported benefits. On a deeper level, many of the nutrients in avocados contribute to the protection of your DNA and reduce UV damage.
But the beauty benefits don’t stop there! Avocados not only have ingredients that protect and improve skin health, they are also known to have benefits when it comes to your hair and nails. This superstar fruit contains biotin, Vitamin E, and other B vitamins that fight against hair loss and dry/brittle hair or nails. Try an avocado hair mask! Mash up two avocados and massage the green goodness into your hair for an extra shine. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes, then wash it out with a shampoo free of sulfates in the shower.
6. Reversed Insulin Resistance
Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced is essential to overall health. Insulin resistance is a condition associated with being pre-diabetic. However, this condition can be reversed with regular exercise, lowered stress levels, increased fiber intake, minimal amounts of processed food and carbohydrates, and choosing foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic load in avocados is nearly zero. In fact, the “sugar” in avocados, called perseitol, doesn’t behave like sugar at all in the body! Instead, it supports blood glucose control and weight management.
Avocado seed oil extract was studied as a treatment for diabetes in 2007 and showed positive results. The oil had both a restorative and protective effect on pancreatic cells (the endocrine function of the pancreas helps maintain blood glucose levels).
During another study on healthy weight maintenance, participants were told to swap their fat source (oil or butter) for 1.5 avocados, and they displayed lower fat mass, BMI, and LDL cholesterol levels. The nutrients in avocado increase the activity of a hormone secreted by your fat cells called adiponectin that balances blood glucose levels. High levels of this hormone are associated with obesity.
7. Support For Your Immune System
Keep your immune system strong with antioxidants from avocados, like Glutathione! Oxidative stress leads to reduced functionality for your immune system along with many other issues in your body. It is not rare to have low levels of Glutathione due to toxins in the environment, poor nutrition, stress, or just the fact that levels often decline with age. However, this amino acid rich antioxidant is important for your immune system. You need this mitochondria protecting, master detoxifier for functionality of your T-Cells and stimulating the production of your natural killer cells…and avocados are a bioavailable source! Half an avocado contains 19 mg of Glutathione, which is several times higher than other fruits.
8. Healthy Pregnancies
An important nutrient to support a healthy pregnancy is folate, as it helps to form the neural tube and also prevent any birth defects. This vital B vitamin is important for everyone though! It is part of the creation of your red blood cells, DNA synthesis and repair, and other vital cellular functions. In fact, supplementing with folic acid has been shown to improve blood sugar control for those with diabetes. Half of an avocado provides about 15% of your daily recommended folate. You can learn more about folate vs. folic acid and the natural sources of this B vitamin here.
9. A Strong Microbiome
Avocados are a great natural source of prebiotics. Just a few of the gut healthy nutrients it contains are dietary fiber, copper, folate, potassium, and vitamins K, E, and C. From helping with digestion, to lowering inflammation and gas levels, avocados promote a diverse microbiome. This diverse, strong and healthy microbiome is important, because gut health affects your brain health, hormonal balance, immune system, and more. Make sure and include avocado in your gut healthy food list this week!
In relation to my method, Culinary Alchemy®, I include avocados in my list of foods that help balance your heart chakra. Blockages in this chakra manifest in your body physically and emotionally. Physically, you may be experiencing heart and lung issues like chest pains, high or low blood pressure, heart palpitations, poor immune function, or asthma. Emotionally, you may be struggling with developing and keeping healthy relationships with a blocked heart chakra, as it is associated with compassion, joy, jealousy, forgiveness, intimacy, and love. When you are physically and emotionally in alignment, all of these feelings will seem to flow naturally. Along with other wellness protocols, eating green-colored foods helps to realign your heart chakra and alleviate the symptoms. Avocado is a powerful ingredient in opening up the flow of energy in your body.
Along with all of the other benefits listed above, I say long-live avocado toast!
XO – Serena