Avocados are a delicious, albeit peculiar, fruit. The flavor, texture and nutrient profile of avocados differ significantly from other kinds of fruit. Iron is one of the many essential nutrients in avocados. This mineral has an affinity for oxygen and is highly chemically reactive. Your body requires iron to produce erythrocytes, or red blood cells. Your muscles also use iron to bind oxygen.
The two forms of iron present in food are heme and nonheme iron. Heme iron comes from animal-derived foods, and nonheme iron comes from plants. Avocados contain a moderate amount of the nonheme form of iron, which is less well absorbed from your intestines than heme iron. A whole avocado contains approximately 1.1 to 1.7 mg of iron, depending on the size of the fruit. A cup of mashed avocado contains roughly 1.3 mg of iron. The recommended daily intake for iron is 18 mg for women of childbearing age and 8 mg for men and postmenopausal women. A dietary iron deficiency may lead to reduced red blood cell production and anemia.
Optimizing Iron Absorption
The food you eat with avocados influences your intestinal absorption of nonheme iron from this fruit. Eating meat with avocados improves iron absorption. A sandwich with turkey breast and avocado slices, for example, is a good pairing of foods to enhance iron absorption. Vitamin C-rich foods -- such as citrus fruit, sweet green peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts -- also enhance nonheme iron absorption. Avoid pairing avocados with whole-grain or soy products, bran, spinach, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, chard, coffee, tea and red wine, because these foods contain chemicals called tannins, which reduce nonheme iron absorption.
Cooking with Avocados
Guacamole is one of the most popular uses of avocados, but you can include this fruit in many other dishes to boost your iron intake. Sliced or cubed avocado is an attractive and tasty addition to pasta, fruit and vegetable salads. Use pureed avocados to make salad dressings, sauces and soups. The flavor of avocados complements seafood dishes, and the texture works well in smoothies.
Other Nutrients in Avocados
You may be hesitant about including avocados in your nutrition plan due to the fact that they contain a large amount of fat. The type of fat in avocados, however, is predominantly heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat. Unlike most other fruit, avocados contain a significant amount of protein, with approximately 4 to 6 g per fruit. Avocados provide you with several vitamins, including E, A, C, folate, thiamine and riboflavin. In addition to iron, avocados contain the minerals copper, zinc, potassium, selenium, magnesium and phosphorus. Other nutrients in avocados include lutein and alpha and beta carotene.
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: What's in the Foods You Eat: Avocado, raw - 1 California, 1 Florida and 1 cup mashed
- HealthCastle; Iron Rich Foods for Iron Deficiency Anemia; Gloria Tsang, RD; March 2011
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Iron-Deficiency Anemia