A native of Mexico and a staple in ancient Peruvian cuisine, avocados are now available at most grocery stores in the United States. Unlike most fruits and veggies, an avocado is high in calories, at 240 calories per cup. However, it still makes a worthwhile addition to your diet, because it's rich in nutritional value. Add avocado to your meals to benefit the health of your cardiovascular and nervous systems.
Avocados' vitamin content supports the health of your nervous system. It contains vitamins C and B-5 -- two nutrients your body needs to make neurotransmitters, a class of chemicals that relay signals between your brain cells. The vitamin C in avocados helps you make norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory formation, while vitamin B-5 allows you to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep. Each cup of cubed avocado contains 15 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 17 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 20 percent for women. Each serving of cubed avocado also offers 2.1 milligrams of vitamin B-5, or 42 percent of your recommended daily intake.
Blood Cell Function
Avocados serve as good sources of vitamin K and vitamin B-9, also called folate, and these nutrients benefit your blood cells. Your body relies on vitamin B-9 to make red blood cells -- the concave cells that carry oxygen to tissues throughout your body and give your blood its color. Vitamin K affects the function of platelets, the small blood cells responsible for forming blood clots. Each 1 cup serving of cubed avocado provides 31.5 micrograms of vitamin K -- 25 and 35 percent of the recommended daily intakes for men and women, respectively -- as well as 122 micrograms of folate, or 31 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Protection from Heart Disease
Add avocado to your diet to promote cardiovascular health. Avocado comes packed with unsaturated fatty acids, and these fats have a beneficial effect on your blood cholesterol levels, which helps stave off heart disease. The fiber found in avocados also lowers your blood cholesterol, and its potassium content combats high blood pressure. Each 1 cup serving of avocado cubes contains an impressive 10 grams of fiber -- 40 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 26 percent for men. A serving also contains 728 milligrams of potassium -- 15 percent of the recommended daily intake -- and 17 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
Adding Avocado to Your Diet
Avocado's creamy texture means you can substitute it in place of mayo or other unhealthy spreads in your sandwiches and wraps. Simply add thin slices of avocado to your meal, or mash the avocado with a fork and spread it into your sandwich. Combine avocado with lime juice, diced tomato and jalapeno for a quick guacamole, and use the mixture as a dip for raw veggies or whole-grain pita wedges. Add avocado cubes to your favorite salad, or top grilled chicken with a salsa made from cubed avocado, cilantro and green chilli pepper for a healthful main course.
- Purdue University: Avocado
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Avocados, Raw, All Commercial Varieties
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- Linus Pauling Institute: Pantothenic Acid
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin K
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B-9 (Folic Acid)
- Shippensburg University: Neurotransmitters