Before the avocado toast phenomenon, most of us got our avo fix from guacamole or from a couple slices with our scrambled eggs. It wasn’t that exciting of a fruit until the powerful benefits became so mainstream in 2016. It was tied to the wellness movement that rejected our Western diet of heavily processed foods. Fast forward to 2020, where the US imports 2.1 billion pounds of avocado in the 2019/2020 season!
You might have learned that avocados are full of healthy fats and fiber. You might have gotten on the bandwagon for the skin benefits and antioxidants. The lesson: the more we learn about the nutritional benefits in 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 sauces, to dressings, to spreads, to giving texture to vegan sushi, I eat avocado every day if I can. I recently shared an easy-to-make, super yummy recipe for truffle guacamole and crispy baked veggie chips on an IG LIVE with Dr. Perlmutter. This recipe encourages eating the rainbow while also getting in healthy fats & 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 avocado plus a favorite avo recipe of mine.
AVOCADO SUPER STAR BENEFITS
Lower the 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 of them that naturally occur in our fruits and vegetables, giving them their orange, red, or yellow colors. The antioxidant and pro-oxidant qualities of these chemicals have led to them appearing in supplements.
Certain individual phytochemicals like carotenoids and 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.
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, men who regularly include 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.
A study published in the journal, Blood, released positive findings on avocado and the fight against AML Leukemia. In the effort to find 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.
Balance sodium levels
Avocados contain significant levels of Potassium, 6% of recommended daily intake needs. This mineral is important for a healthy heart, kidney, muscle, and nerve function. Potassium is also an important electrolyte that helps balance out the mineral sodium in your blood. Having high levels of sodium is associated with heart disease, stroke, kidney issues, bone loss, and muscle and nerve dysfunction.
Lower the 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 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.
Contain neuroprotective properties
Avocados have also been deemed a brain health food. One of the most exciting benefits of the high content of phytochemicals and all the antioxidant benefits they provide, are the 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.
Avocados also contain magnesium, an important nutrient in reducing stress. Stress is one the top causes of brain degenerative diseases.
Neutralize skin aging free-radicals
Want to get that “glowing” look? Avocado is one of the skin health superfoods to add to your plate. From eating avocados to making masks, there are many ways to get the anti-aging benefits. At a deeper level, many of the nutrients in avocados contribute to the protection of your DNA and reduce UV damage. On the surface, the natural oils from healthy fats penetrate your skin to nourish, soften, and hydrate. 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.
Avocados are almost like a daily multivitamin. They 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 fruit contains biotin, vitamin E, and other B vitamins that control hair loss and dry/brittle hair or nails.
Try an avocado hair mask! Mash up 2 avocados and massage into your hair for shine and reducing dryness. Leave for 20 minutes then wash out with a shampoo free of sulfates in the shower.
Helps to reverse insulin resistance
Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced is essential to overall health. Insulin resistance is a condition associated with being pre-diabetic that can be reversed with regular exercise, lower stress levels, increased fiber, less processed food and carbohydrates, and choosing foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic load in avocados is nearly zero. The “sugar” in avocados, called perseitol, doesn’t behave like sugar at all in the body. In fact, it supports blood glucose control and weight management. It may seem counterintuitive because of the natural sugars, but fresh fruit protects against diabetes, and avocado is a fruit!
Avocado seed oil extract was studied as a treatment for diabetes in 2007 and showed positive results. The study resulted in findings that a restorative and protective effect on pancreatic cells were found in association with avocado seed oil.
During a study on healthy weight maintenance, participants were told to swap their fat source (oil or butter) for 1 ½ 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.
Support 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, and the fact that levels 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.
Avocados are a bioavailable source. Half an avocado contains 19 mg of Glutathione per one half of the fruit, which is several times higher than other fruits.
Support healthy pregnancies
A very important nutrient to a healthy pregnancy is folate. From being pregnant, to trying to conceive, a deficiency in folate is associated with birth defects and fertility issues. 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 important cellular functions. In fact, supplementing with folic acid has been shown to improve blood sugar control for those with diabetes, reduce inflammation. One 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.
Support a healthy microbiome
Avocados are a great natural source of prebiotics. To name a few of the gut healthy nutrients in avocado, it contains dietary fiber, copper, folate, potassium, vitamins K, E, & C. From helping with digestion, to lowering inflammation, to being less likely to cause gas, avocados promote a diverse healthy microbiome.
Not only do avocados help you feel full and reduce blood cholesterol, eating avocados helps your gut bacteria break down fiber and produce gut metabolites. This processes and the metabolites are directly linked to weight loss and better energy metabolism.
Gut health affects your brain health, hormonal balance, immune system, and more. Make sure and include avocado in your gut healthy food list when you’re grocery shopping!
Avocados and Culinary Alchemy®
In regards 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. 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’re in alignment, all of these feeling seem to flow. Physically you may be experiencing heart and lung issues like chest pains, blood pressure issues, heart palpitations, poor immune function, or asthma.
You can use avocado in so many ways! Avocado for dessert? Absolutely. Try my 5-minute Chocolate Avo Vegan Pudding!
Along with other wellness protocol, 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!