Avocados are unique fruit in nature, dating back 10,000 years in South Central Mexico. However, it was not until 5,000 years ago, through the efforts of the Mesoamerican tribes (Aztecs and Maya) domestication of the fruit occurred. Mexico, Latin America, and California are the most prominent suppliers, whereas California produces delectable Hass Avocados. Unlike the avocado, no other fruit contains a smooth, creamy, buttery texture surrounded by a beautiful dark green shell. The Southwestern Texas cuisine warmly embraces the avocado as we indulge at an early age in the rich delicacy of guacamole, avocado dips, avocado salads, and avocado spreads. Sometimes eat avocados as a snack with lemon juice and spices.
The popularity of the avocado continues to escalate, as it is a primary stable in the Mediterranean and Paleo diets. The avocado is one of the renowned “superfoods,” rich in vitamins C, E, K, folate, niacin, and pantothenic acid (B5), and high in minerals, potassium, and magnesium. Avocados are also an excellent source of fiber, packing 7 grams in one whole fruit. More importantly, Avocados contain a massive array of bioactive compounds and the phytonutrients carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The fat composition of avocados is none other than the notable monounsaturated fatty acids. Little did I know, as a child, that the enormous amount of nutrients entered my body.
Thus, the avocado is a nutritional powerhouse providing several health benefits due to its nutrient-dense composition. Evidence-based research reveals the following health-promoting outcomes from eating this nutrient-dense powerhouse fruit.
- Cardiovascular (CVD): A recent research study reports that avocado consumers have higher high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels. Also, they have a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome than non-avocado eaters. One-third of the US population has metabolic syndrome– high blood pressure, high blood sugars, high cholesterol/triglycerides, and obesity. These disease processes increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Evidence-based research shows a positive relationship between eating avocados and lowering the risk of developing long-term cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
- Improves Insulin Sensitivity: Research indicates avocados help in the regulation of glucose control through the process of improving insulin Diabetes is a condition that includes the body’s inability to respond to insulin. As a result, insulin does not efficiently interact with the various organ cells, allowing for the passage of glucose out of the bloodstream into the cells where it belongs. This action causes a high accumulation of sugars/glucose in the bloodstream and deprives the organs of glucose fuel; this action is insulin resistance. Studies show that consuming avocados may improve insulin’s movement by making the cells more sensitive to insulin, allowing the efficient flow of glucose out of the bloodstream and passage into the cells. Thus, by preventing insulin resistance, avocados may aid in managing and preventing pre-diabetes and diabetes.
- Improve Gastrointestinal Microbiota/Gut Health: Avocados are rich in fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids. As a result of this nutrient-rich combination, research reports that daily consumption of avocados has a positive effect on the composition and metabolic functions of the intestinal bacteria/microbiota. Study results say the individuals consuming avocado have lower fecal bile acids and a more diverse bacteria/microbiota content. Bile acids are harmful as they are one of the leading causes of intestinal inflammation and tend to increase the production of gut-damaging bacteria/microbiota, which are precursors to colon cancer. Additionally, avocado produces an increase in good fecal bacteria (Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, and Alistipes). These fecal bacteria produce SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids). SCFA’s fuel the colon cells and protect against colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Cancer Prevention: Evidence base studies indicate that the phytochemicals in avocados prevent the growth of and destroy precancerous cells. Methanol, a phytochemical in avocados, has proven to be as powerful as some forms of chemotherapy. Overall, as the various studies present, the phytochemicals within avocados may be an effective dietary defense leading to cancer prevention. Recent research on the effects of avocado consumption and prostate cancer is astonishing. Findings show that men who ate the most avocado, more than a third of an avocado a day, had a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
A word of caution: as a registered clinical dietitian, please beware. Due to the high potassium content within avocados, please restrict the intake of avocados if you have severe kidney disease or undergoing dialysis. The average amount of potassium for individuals with kidney disease is 2 grams daily. Please consult with your local dietitian or physician to see how you can work them into your meal plan.
Avocados are an exceptional nutrient-dense powerhouse fruit offering multiple health benefits. Let us not forget how ancient civilizations depended upon the protective healing power of fruits and vegetables, as we do today. The old proverb states: “The best of mankind is a farmer; the best of food is Fruit.” Choose wisely.