The Many Marvelous Health Benefits of Avocados

Whether you love avocados sliced with eggs on toast or in a guacamole dip, the health benefits of this nutrient-dense food are hard to beat. Avocados are a healthy food and offer nearly nearly 20 different vitamins and minerals, in addition to phytonutrients and an abundance of dietary fiber. Although avocados are high in fat, they contain monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases.

Eaten in moderation, avocado is a healthy food that's loaded with nutrients (Image: Lilechka75/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

The only downside to eating avocados might be its high calorie content — 322 per fruit. If you are trying to reduce your weight, you might consider moderating your intake, but don't overlook the health advantages and many nutritional benefits avocados have to offer.

What Are Avocados?

Avocados are a dark-green to purple-black pear-shaped fruit with rough skin. Under the thick skin is a large pit surrounded by a buttery pulp that's creamy in texture. Originating in southern Mexico and Columbia around 7,000 years ago, 80 varieties of avocados now grow in California, with the Hass avocado the most common.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Content

One whole avocado, weighing 201 grams, contains 17 grams of carbs. That's 6 percent of your recommended daily value (DV). Carbohydrates are used by your body for energy to fuel your brain, heart, nervous system and muscles.

The recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines is for adult men to consume 28 to 33.6 grams of fiber daily and women, 22.4 to 28 grams, depending on age. Avocados are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber totaling 14 grams in each avocado.

A study published in Nutrients in 2016 compared the fiber content of more than 30 fruits and vegetables. Researchers found that avocados excel as the food source with high amounts of both soluble fiber —2.1 percent by weight — and insoluble fiber — 2.7 percent by weight. Findings also indicate that, compared to other fiber sources, avocado contains a lower level of phytates and oxalates. Phytates and oxalates are often called anti-nutrients because they inhibit the absorption of calcium, iron and other minerals.

Fiber provides bulk that contributes to the health of your digestive system by helping to prevent constipation or diarrhea. In addition, fiber helps keep your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check, according to Dietitians of Canada.

A Good Source of Protein

For optimum health, the Dietary Guidelines recommends that 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories come from protein. With 4 grams of protein, avocado is a good source and has one of the highest amounts of any fruit.

Avocado contains some of each of the 9 essential amino acids necessary for the protein-building process. Protein forms the structural and functional components of your cells and is necessary for your energy, muscles, nervous system and the health of your skin, hair and nails.

Fat and Fatty Acids

Avocados are high in fat, with 29 grams per avocado or about half of your DV in one fruit. Dietary Guidelines recommends your daily intake of fat should be between 20 and 35 percent of your calories. Fats are needed to help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K in avocados. In addition, fat provides energy and assists your body in many basic metabolic functions.

Some of the fat in avocados is saturated fat, for an average of 4.3 grams. The USDA has set an upper limit for saturated fat intake at less than 10 percent of your daily calories. However, the American Heart Association recommends a lower limit of 5 to 6 percent of calories, which is about 13 grams of fat per day, especially if you have a heart condition.

The good news is, of the 29 grams of total fat in an avocado, 20 are monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fatty acids are healthy fats that can help regulate and maintain cholesterol levels and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Vitamin E for Your Brain

Monounsaturated fats contain the antioxidant vitamin E. One avocado provides 14 percent of your DV for vitamin E, which is important to your immune function. In addition, numerous studies have investigated the association of vitamin E with neurodegeneration.

One such study, published in the journal Nutrients in 2014, found that vitamin E may improve cognitive performance due to its ability to protect against free radicals. The review highlights the importance of vitamin E to support healthy brain function and suggests that vitamin E may help to delay Alzheimer's disease and related degenerative declines.

Other Beneficial Vitamins

Avocado provides a good source of many B vitamins, especially:

  • Niacin for your muscles, nerves and heart function, 22 percent DV

  • Pantothenic acid for the synthesis of protein, carbohydrates and fat,

    28 percent DV

  • Vitamin B6 for brain function,

    26 percent DV

  • Lesser amounts of riboflavin and thiamine

Avocado is good for your eyes, supplying 293 international units of vitamin A, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including AMD and cataracts, according to the American Optometric Association. Avocado also contains 34 percent DV for the antioxidant vitamin C to help your immune system function properly. Additionally, the 42 micrograms of vitamin K in an avocado , or 53 percent DV, is necessary for the coagulation of your blood.

High Potassium Content

Potassium is a beneficial electrolyte that's essential for your muscles, including your heart and many other body processes. An avocado provides 975 milligrams, much more than a banana. Avocado also provides 19 percent of your DV for copper, which is important for the formation of red blood cells and iron absorption. Other minerals found in avocado are: magnesium, with 15 percent DV; manganese, with 14 percent DV; and phosphorus, iron and zinc.

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