Is Avocado a Superfood? Benefits, How To Use & Side Effects 2023
Superfood is a general term used to describe a food that has health benefits beyond satisfying energy needs. There is no official scientific or regulatory definition, so superfood is a matter of interpretation to some degree.
Avocados are a superfood because they are packed with beneficial nutrients such as monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), fiber, different vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. Together the nutrients in avocado can positively affect a variety of health conditions.
Is Avocado Really a Superfood?
Avocado is among the ranks of bonafide superfoods such as berries, chia seeds, greens and grasses, salmon, green tea, and many more. Avocados are the fruit of a tree that comes from Mexico and South America and has been cultivated for hundreds of years. In the US, avocados are largely grown in southern California.
Why has it gotten a superfood title and what benefits does avocado have?
In short, avocados are a highly nutritious fruitthat rivals olive oil as a heart-healthy fat. They are an excellent source of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. At the same time, avocado is especially rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, fat-soluble vitamins E & K, potassium, and antioxidants such as xanthophyll carotenoids.
Most people consume half an avocado (68g) in a serving. One-half an avocado provides 112 calories, 6g fat (71% of which is MUFA), 4.6g fiber, and 0.2g sugar. While avocado has a high dose of fat, it has a relatively low energy density for volume (79% of the edible weight is water and fiber). This benefits satiety and efforts to maintain a healthy weight.
Why Is Avocado a Superfood? 7 Benefits of Avocado
A decreased risk of heart disease rests mainly on the high monounsaturated fat content of avocados. The current dietary guidelines recommend no more than 30% of calories from fat and up to 15% should be monounsaturated. According to the American Heart Association, replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat is an effective strategy for heart health.
A 2018 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating avocado boosted HDL. Other meta-analyses have demonstrated similar beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. The relatively high potassium content and low sodium content of avocados also mean they are an excellent option as part of the DASH diet for lowering blood pressure.
The high fiber content of avocado translates to improved digestive health. Adequate fiber intake promotes bowel regularity. Furthermore, a recent 2021 clinical trial found a positive impact of avocado consumption on gut bacteria in overweight individuals. So, not only will it keep your digestive system happy on a daily basis, but it also may have long-term benefits for healthy gut bacteria.
The healthy fat and fiber content of avocado means it will keep you feeling fuller longer but for relatively low calories. Avocados are lower in calories compared to similar nutrient-dense foods such as nuts. This makes avocado a gem to enhance weight loss efforts.
A 2021 review of research found all nine studies included in the review demonstrated positive benefits of avocado consumption on weight management. Another recent review in 2022 determined little benefit for weight loss but no detrimental effects in weight gain among the studies.
Control Blood Sugar
Avocados may help control blood sugar spikes as a low-sugar and high-fat food. More research is needed in the area of diabetes prevention, but presumably, the high fiber and fat content slow the breakdown and absorption of sugars, tempering the rise of blood sugar following a meal.
Antioxidants for Healthy Aging
Avocados have a high bioavailability of carotenoids, a class of fat-soluble antioxidants, and are the richest known fruit source of phytosterols. This diverse collection of available antioxidants means avocados are efficient in disease prevention and reducing inflammation for overall healthy aging. Antioxidants also benefit the immune system and are effective in preventing illness.
Beyond the phytochemical sources of antioxidants, avocado also contains reasonable amounts of vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin C. All of these are antioxidant vitamins that are particularly beneficial for skin health (as well as overall health).
Consumption of these antioxidants aids in healthy skin aging from the inside out. Even topical application of avocado oil can improve skin moisture. Some preliminary studies in rats have also shown improved wound healing or UV damage.
Clinical trials to date have found moderate improvement in memory function with avocado consumption, likely thanks to the carotenoid lutein. However, the exact mechanism for the link between dietary avocado and cognitive function is still being investigated. Lutein is also helpful in supporting eye health.
How To Use Avocados? Recipes & Other Uses
There are many superfood supplements you can find on the market to get the benefit of superfoods conveniently. However, avocado fruit is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many dishes. It has a pleasant creamy texture and a unique flavor you might enjoy.
Here are a few super simple recipes to get you started:
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- Salt to taste
- Optional: fresh cilantro and diced tomato
Peel and mash the avocados in a medium bowl. Mix in the lime juice, garlic, and salt to taste. Enjoy as a dip for vegetables, whole grain chips, or crackers.
Breakfast Avocado Toast
- 1 slice whole grain bread
- ½ ripe avocado
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon cooking oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
Mash the avocado and toast the slice of bread. Spread the avocado on the toast. Heat the oil over medium heat in a small frying pan. Cook the egg to your preference. Top the toast with the egg and season with salt and pepper.
Tip: For an extra flavor kick, try a sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning, red pepper flakes, or a drizzle of hot sauce on top.
There are many superfood recipes out there to try! A few other ideas to easily increase your avocado consumption:
- Add chunks of avocado to your fruit smoothie. Tip: Look for frozen avocado chunks in the freezer aisle at your grocery store!
- Top a salad, grain bowl, bean chili, or your favorite tacos with sliced avocado
- Avocado is a great heart-healthy replacement for dressings or spreads higher in saturated fat that lends a similar creamy texture. Use mashed avocado as a sandwich spread instead of butter, or swap for mayonnaise in a tuna or chicken salad
- Mix black beans, corn, and cubes of avocado with a vinaigrette dressing for a simple heart-healthy side dish
What about avocado oil? The necessary processing of avocado oil means some of the nutritional benefits (such as fiber or some phytochemicals) are lost. But, avocado oil remains a great source of MUFAs and heart-healthy cooking oil. How avocado oil may differ from the whole fruit in health benefits is still being researched.
While avocado has earned the well-deserved status of a superfood, too much of a good thing is still possible. Avocados, along with other sources of dietary fat throughout your day, should be considered as part of your total fat consumption. In addition, excessive intake can cause GI disturbances from the fiber. Avocados are a great part of an overall healthy diet when consumed in moderation.
From a practical standpoint, avocados can be a bit challenging to handle. The perfect state of ripeness for eating avocado may be difficult to catch at the right moment. You may find frustration with waiting on the desired ripeness or finding an overripe avocado no longer edible. Look for frozen avocado chunks in the freezer aisle for certain applications to ease this burden.
Finally, avocado hand is an actual injury phenomenon. A reported 27,000 injuries occurred in the US between 2013 and 2017. Be sure you know the safe and correct technique to peel and slice an avocado!
Avocados are a superfood in every sense of the definition. As a botanical fruit, they boast an impressive resume of beneficial nutrients in a high-fiber package that also tastes great.
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