Ingredient Of The Week: Avocado
The pear-shaped, almost odorless fruit of the avocado tree (Persea Americana) with its delicate taste is gaining increased attention in the discourse on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The positive health effects of avocado make the subject of countless studies that continue to discover new uses for the green-skinned fruit. Besides confirming the already well-known richness in fiber and vitamins, ongoing research busts the myths of negative dietary effects of avocado, as well as reveals its healing and protective properties on certain diseases and in stress management.
The nutrient benefits of avocado are sustained by its almost 20 vitamins and minerals that along with the high content in fiber contribute to a healthy diet (*1), which makes it increasingly popular. Some of the most abundant compounds that can be found in an 100 gram serving are: vitamin K (26% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance, RDA), folate (20% of the RDA), vitamin C (17% of the RDA), potassium (14% of the RDA, which is more than the potassium contained in bananas), vitamin B5 (14% of the RDA), vitamin B6 (13% of the RDA), vitamin E (10% of the RDA), and smaller amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous, vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin) (*2). Besides all this, avocados are rich in fiber, which is known to help in weight loss, allow our bodies to function normally, reduce blood sugar and the risk of certain diseases. A serving of 100 gram avocado contains 7 grams fiber and equals equals into 27% of the RDA.
As if all this weren’t enough to pledge for including avocado in your diet, the healthy fats contained in avocado help absorb the antioxidants and nutrient values of other green foods ingested. Avocados are, moreover, rich in antioxidants themselves, such as Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which were proven to be important in eye health and reduce risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Avocados are also known for containing healthy fat. According to the World Health Organization (*3), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, partly because of our dietary diets that include too much saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium which can also lead to high blood pressure and some cancers. Through its healthy mono and polyunsaturated fat content coming from its oleic acid, avocado has a series of benefits on genes linked to cancer and in reducing inflammation (4), on reducing cholesterol levels (*8) and increasing the “good” cholesterol HDL (*5).
As for protection against certain diseases, the health effects of the avocado oil include the control of altered metabolic profile illnesses due to its effect on hepatic function biochemical markers similar to olive oil, thus protecting the liver and against developing diseases such as diabetes, dyslipidemia, and obesity (*6). Furthermore, dietary avocado oil (oleic acid and antioxidants) has been shown to attenuate damage done by type I diabetes and oxidative stress, offering a protective effect (*7).
The previous discussion about the fatty components in avocados might sparkle some diet-related concerns. Not only does avocado not interfere with dieting, but it also has positive effects on weight loss and vascular function (*9). In fact, due to their high content of fiber and low percentage of carbohydrates, avocados can promote a healthy diet that prevents a high intake of calories by inducing satiety and a lower desire to eat in the next hours (*10).
Due to the contained monosaturated fats, potassium and vitamin B, avocado is also a very good candidate for fighting with and preventing stress, thus also preventing future heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure (*11). By being a nutrient dense food with satiety-inducing properties, avocado also helps fighting stress by naturally taking away the physical and mental load of the stress-eating response (*12). While nourishing the body, it also calms the mind.
Eating healthy, avoiding sugars and saturated fats, balancing calories intake and including nourishing foods into our meals might seem like a heavy, effort-filled task. However, avocado makes this task naturally easy, by providing a great substitute and lowering desire for foods rich in saturated fats, providing important nourishment and contributing to a quality diet that prevents disease and fights stress. Moreover, avocado is delicious, with a creamy, fatty texture that can easily be used in a variety of mixtures, salads and foods, thus making the incorporation of avocado in the daily diet an attractive and effortless goal.
Sources & References:
(*1) – Barreira, V.P. et al. 2013. “Physicochemical Parameters, Phytochemical Compsition and Antioxidant Activity of the Algarvian Avocado (Persea Americana Mill.)”. Jurnal of Agricultural Science; Vol. 5, No. 12.
(*2) - http://authoritynutrition.com/12-proven-benefits-of-avocado/
(*3) - http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/
(*4) - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17168666
(*5) - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1308699
(*6) – Barradas-Dermitz et al. 2014. “Effect of Dietary Intake of Avocado Oil and Olive Oil on Biochemical Markers of Liver Function in Sucrose-Fed Rats”. BioMed Research International, Volume 2014.
(*7) – Cortés-Rojo, C. et al. 2013. “Dietary avocado oil supplementation attenuates the alterations induced by type I diabetes and oxidative stress in electron transfer at the complex II-complex III segment of the electron transport chain in rat kidney mitochondria”. J Bioenerg Biomembr 45:271-287
(*8) – Business Editors/Health and Medical Writers, 2001:1. “Avocados Highest Fruit Source of Vitamin E and Other Disease-Fighting Nutrients According to UCLA Study Released by California Avocado Commission”. Business Wire [New York], 18 June.
(*9) – Schutte, A.E. et al. 2005. “Substitution of high monosaturated fatty acid avocado for mixed dietary fats during an energy-restricted diet: Effects on weight loss, serum lipids, fibrinogen, and vascular function”. Nutrition 21 67-75.
(*11) - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23558164
(*12) – ProQuest document. 2015. ”Eat, Pray, Love – Women’s Short Forms for Surviging Stress: Nourish the Body, Calm the Mind, Soothe the Soul”, Toronto, Sept. 23 /CNW/.
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