What are the Health Benefits of Avocados?

By Michael Lloyd 

December 19th, 2019

Avocados are currently one of the most popular dietary trends. People are consuming it at every meal from avocado toast to avocado ice cream people cannot get enough, but are they truly as healthy as people believe? Let’s dive in to the nutritional benefits of an avocado.

It has been decided that 1/3 of a medium-sized avocado (i.e., the ones you find in a grocery store) is the official serving size of an avocado, so to understand the full nutritional value packed into one avocado, multiply all reported values by three. One full avocado provides 30% of our daily recommended Vitamin K, 30% of Folate, 30% of Copper, 25% of Riboflavin, 18% of Vitamin E, 18% of Potassium, 18% of Vitamin B6, as well as many others.1 Avocados are clearly loaded in nutrients, which is why they are considered a superfood.

They are loaded in Fiber, 9g per avocado. Fiber is essential to regulating your digestive system on a number of levels. First off, it helps to fill you quicker, which prevents overeating. Upon filling you quicker, it also helps slow digestion down. Slowing digestion helps to keep you fuller longer, again helping prevent overeating, but it also helps prevent blood sugar spikes, which helps relieve the work of the pancreas when producing insulin. Consistent large spikes in blood sugar are linked to causing type diabetes, as your body must work extra hard to absorb the glucose present in your blood during a spike, and chronic exposure can lead to insulin insensitivity; a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.2

One nutrient many may be unfamiliar with as being a necessary part of a healthy body is copper, and avocados are a great source. Copper carries out a number of functions. First and foremost, it helps our body form red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout our bodies delivering it to our tissues, allowing them to function. Copper also helps keep blood vessels, nerves, the immune system, and bones healthy.3

A number of the nutrients previously listed including vitamin E and riboflavin are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants, as we have previously mentioned, are essential in our bodies for preventing cell damage. Free radicals present in our cells create instability, and ultimately render the cell incapable of carrying out its normal functions. In some cases, these free radicals access our DNA and can damage it to the point the cell becomes cancerous. Antioxidants work by neutralizing this threat, allowing our cells to work properly and prevent cancer from developing. Foods high in antioxidants are powerful anti-cancer agents, and should be a major component of our diet.

As mentioned, avocados are an excellent source of potassium, and actually contain more potassium than bananas, which are commonly mistaken as the best source of potassium. Potassium is essential for a number of vital functions in our bodies. Three major ones are brain function, kidney function, and muscle action. Potassium plays a huge role in carrying out the actions of all three of these types of cells. Low potassium can lead to a number of health issues, so It is important to look to avocados as a great source to maintain healthy levels.4

One thing that may be of concern to people is the large amounts of fat present in an avocado. What needs to be considered is the type of fats present. Avocados only contain three grams of saturated fat. Saturated fats are the ones that are solids at room temperature, and have been proven to raise the levels of bad LDL cholesterol in our body. High Levels of LDL cholesterol can lead to a number of chronic diseases; most prominently Coronary Artery Disease, the lead cause of death in America. In high concentrations, LDL cholesterol can buildup on our arterial walls, known as atherosclerosis, and if left untreated, it can lead to heart attack or stroke.5 Luckily, avocados do not have high values of saturated fats, but rather unsaturated fats.

Avocados are extremely high in monounsaturated fats, which actually have been shown to help lower levels of LDL cholesterol. This means avocado consumption may help prevent Coronary Artery Disease. Consumption of these fats has also been proven to help with brain function by improving blood flow.6 Increased blood flow to the brain helps in a number of areas including memory6, cognitive function, as well as disease prevention; specifically, neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s6. Bottom line, consumption of monounsaturated fats should be considered a staple of your diet.

Avocados offer a lot of great benefits in helping our bodies maintain proper function, and even though I said that they are relatively low in saturated fats, it is important to recognize this only applies in moderation. Comparatively to other fruits, avocados also have more calories per serving. Avocados are definitely super, as they are loaded in nutrients, but are the only fruit offering such a significant source of fat and are very caloric, so it is important to consume in moderation to truly reap the benefits avocados. 

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1. Avocado Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits | California … California Avocado, Califorinia Avocado, https://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition.

2. Joslin Diabetes Center.Joslin Diabetes Center | Fiber & Blood Glucose. Joslin Diabetes Center, Joslin Diabetes Center, www.joslin.org/info/how_does_fiber_affect_blood_glucose_levels.html.

3. Copper in Diet. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 Mar. 2019, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002419.html.

4. Potassium. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 16 May 2018, https://medlineplus.gov/potassium.html.

5. Diseases Caused By High Cholesterol. Cleveland Clinic, ClevelandClinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11918-cholesterol-high-cholesterol-diseases.

6. Harvard Health Publishing. Protect Your Brain With. Harvard Health, Harvard, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-with-good-fat.

7. Exercise Improves Memory and Brain Blood Flow in Older People. Alzheimer’s Research UK, 12 Nov. 2013, https://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/exercise-improves-memory-and-brain-blood-flow-in-older-people/.

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