When it comes to healthy cooking oils, olive oil always gets the ovation. But another type of oil, often overlooked, is just as nutrient-dense and delivers a bevy of benefits for your heart, eyes, brain (and more) that support healthy aging.
In case you haven't already guessed, we're talking about avocado oil.
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Here, experts explain the benefits of avocado oil, why it's an outstanding option for cooking and how it's linked to longevity.
Avocado Oil Benefits for Longevity
1. It’s Good for Your Heart
Avocado oil is high in heart-healthy fats. "The monounsaturated fats in avocado oil have been linked to reducing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol," says Katie Dodd, RDN, a dietitian who works with older adults.
Case in point: A small study found that substituting avocado oil for butter improved total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides levels and insulin, per a June 2019 review in Molecules.
Not to mention, the heart-protective monounsaturated fats in avocado oil also help to control blood pressure, says Jennifer Bruning, RDN, a dietitian with expertise in nutrition for older adults and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
And as we know, a healthy heart can improve longevity and extend quality of life.
2. It Helps Fight Free Radicals
"Avocado oil is rich in antioxidants, which help to neutralize free radicals, stopping them from causing damaging inflammation," Bruning says.
Matter of fact, the June 2019 study in Molecules also noted a decrease in C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6, two markers for inflammation.
This is especially important for longevity as chronic inflammation contributes to many diseases such as heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and more.
3. It Promotes Eye Health
Avocado oil is abundant in a carotenoid (or pigment) called lutein, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, Bruning says. And lutein is linked to eye health.
Indeed, a small August 2017 study in Nutrients found that older adults who ate an avocado a day for six months experienced a 25 percent increase in lutein levels in their eyes.
As you approach your golden years, protecting your eye health is crucial as age brings an increased risk for certain eye diseases, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
4. It Supports Brain Health
Avocado oil is also amazing for your noggin. Once again, the fruit's healthy fats deserve the credit.
That's because "monounsaturated fats support healthy blood flow," Bruning says. And your blood provides your brain with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function optimally.
What's more, "antioxidants are also known to help protect the brain from oxidative stress," Bruning says. In fact, the August 2017 study in Nutrients observed that eating avocado increased lutein levels in the brain, leading to improvements in cognitive function (including working memory and problem-solving skills) in adults older than 50 years old.
5. It Increases the Absorption of Important Nutrients
The healthy fats in avocado oil also enable your body to better soak up other essential nutrients.
Here's why: "Fat aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K," Bruning says. "And carotenoids, like lutein, are also better absorbed alongside dietary fat," she adds.
And the more nutrients your body takes in, the healthier it'll be.
6. It Has a High Smoke Point
"The smoke point of avocado oil is 520 degrees Fahrenheit, which is higher than most plant oils [including olive oil]," Dodd says.
This means it can be heated at high temperatures without producing toxic fumes and free radicals.
ICYDK, "smoke point" refers to the temperature at which an oil begins to burn and oxidize. When oil starts to smoke, "fat molecules are broken down and glycerol and free fatty acids (FFAs) are released," Bruning says.
"Not only can this make your food taste bitter, but oxidative byproducts are produced as glycerol breaks down, which can harm your health," she explains.
Avocado Oil Brands to Try
You've likely seen labels touting "extra-virgin," "virgin" or "pure." With so many varieties of avocado oil to choose from, which is best?
- Extra-virgin: "Extra-virgin refers to avocado oil from high-quality fruit, extracted at low temp without chemical solvents," Bruning says. It's usually a distinctive green color, which means it likely contains more carotenoids (read: additional antioxidants), she says.
- Virgin: "Virgin avocado oil comes from slightly less perfect fruit (but is processed similarly to extra virgin)," Bruning says.
- Pure: "Pure avocado oil isn't determined by fruit quality, but is decolorized, deodorized and bland in flavor," Bruning says.
Still, "from a fatty acid standpoint, there shouldn't be much difference" among types of avocado oil, she adds. In other words, they all boast health benefits, so experiment with various kinds of avocado oil for different flavors and uses to discover which ones you like the most.
Try Dodd's picks: