Avocado: A Nutrition Powerhouse
Avocados are popping up everywhere: in omelets and breakfast sandwiches, salads, and smoothies.
Avocados, technically a fruit but typically used as a vegetable, are a good source of over 20 different vitamins and minerals. One serving (one-fifth of an avocado, approximately 40 grams weight) contains 64 calories, 6 grams of fat, no cholesterol, only 2mg of sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein. Avocados are a great source of vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium. They also provide lutein, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids.1
Avocados play a role in promoting health in several important areas:
- Unlike most fruits and vegetables, avocados contain fat which provides the creamy texture and mild taste we love. 68% of the fat in avocado comes from healthy monounsaturated fats, similar to the 73% of monounsaturates found in olives.2
- One avocado serving contains 25 milligrams of beta-sitosterol that lowers blood cholesterol levels, reducing risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, consuming approximately 2 grams of plant sterol esters per day decreases LDL cholesterol levels 9% to 20%.3
- Avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that reduce risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in Americans age 65 years and older.4
- One serving of avocado contains 6% of the Daily Value for folate. Folate helps reduce risk of some types of cancer, including breast, colon, stomach, pancreatic, and cervical cancer.1
- Folate also is important in the early stages of pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects including spina bifida.1
- Each serving of avocado contains 2 grams of fiber to promote healthy digestion and reduce risk of diverticulosis.1
- Caution: ½ of an avocado contains 25% of the daily recommendation of Vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting. If you take blood thinners such as Coumadin, check with your registered dietitian and/or physician before adding avocado to your food choices. 1
Like other types of fruit and vegetables that we peel, much of the nutrition in avocados is found just under the outer shell in the dark green area. To retain as much of the avocado nutrients as possible, use this ‘nick and peel’ method that is similar to peeling a banana.5
- Cut into the avocado lengthwise, producing two long avocado halves that are still connected in the middle by the seed.
- Take hold of both halves and twist in opposite directions until they naturally separate.
- Remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise to produce long quartered sections of the avocado.
- Use your thumb and index finger to grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, just as you would do with a banana skin.
Purchasing and storage tips:5
- Ripe avocados are slightly soft with no dark, sunken spots or cracks. You should be able to gently press on a ripe avocado without it feeling hard (not ripe) or squishy (over-ripe).
- A firm avocado will ripen on the counter at room temperature within a few days. Once ripe, refrigerate the avocado for 2-3 days.
- To store cut avocado without discoloring, sprinkle with lemon or lime juice or white vinegar. Wrap in plastic wrap or place in an air-tight container, then refrigerate. If refrigerated avocados or guacamole turn brown or black during storage, discard the top or outer layer.
Use avocado to replace less healthy sources of fat:
- Spread mashed avocado on a sandwich instead of mayonnaise or butter.
- Top toast or a bagel with avocado mashed with lemon or lime juice.
- Mix mashed avocado into chicken or tuna salad instead of mayonnaise.
- Use guacamole for a vegetable dip instead of sour cream-based dips, to top baked potatoes, or as a salad topping instead of salad dressing.
- Puree avocado with lemon juice for a homemade, heart-healthy salad dressing.
- Add avocado to smoothies with kale, spinach, apples, celery or your other favorite types of vegetables.
1. What are the health benefits of avocados? MNT Knowledge Center. Last updated 4-15-15. Accessed 5-14-15. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270406.php
2. Avocados. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Accessed 5-14-15. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5
3. AHA Science Advisory. Stanol/Sterol Ester-Containing Foods and Blood Cholesterol Levels. A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the Nutrition Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism of the American Heart Association. Lichtenstein AH, Deckelbaum RJ. for the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation.2001, 103: 1177-1179.
4. Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. National Eye Institute (NEI). July 2013. Accessed 5-18-15. https://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts
5. California Avocado Commission. www.avocado.com Accessed 5-14-15.