The popularity of avocados has soared exponentially in the last decade. The UK is one of Europe’s principal markets for avocados, having annually imported around 116,000 tonnes of avocado in 2019, and others, such as France and Germany, aren’t far behind.
Avocado is a versatile fruit that pairs nicely with an array of different dishes, making it an easy addition to almost any dietary plan.
100g of avocado typically contains:
In total, avocados contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals, all working to benefit the body in numerous ways.
Here are some of the lesser-known benefits of incorporating avocados into a weekly dietary plan:
77% of the calories in avocados come from fats, the predominant being monounsaturated, otherwise known as the good fat. Monounsaturated fats help to lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and raise levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This beneficial shift helps to reduce the build-up of fat in blood vessels (atherosclerosis) reducing the stress placed on the cardiovascular system.
A study by Pennsylvania State University found that eating one additional avocado a day for five weeks significantly lowered levels of LDL cholesterol in overweight participants by ~0.75mmol/L. Researchers attributed this to the monounsaturated fat content the daily avocado provided.
The fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants contained within avocados also have a net positive impact on cardiovascular health, often by working to lower blood pressure and inflammation.
Avocados also contain high levels of lutein. Lutein is a naturally occurring carotenoid that helps to maintain optimum eye function. This is particularly important as people age because their eyes deteriorate. Lutein also helps to reduce inflammation in the eyes, boosts the sharpness of vision, and filters harmful blue light.
The body cannot synthesise the sufficient quantity of lutein required to fend off eye dysfunction (e.g. macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy), meaning an individual must look to their diet to consume the outstanding amount required.
Avocado can provide north of 80mg/oz of lutein, a quite notable increase, whereas most lutein supplements merely contain ~10mg/oz of lutein.
Avocados contain high levels of the B-vitamin folate, aka folic acid, and though folic acid’s main duty is in red blood cell formation, another crucial responsibility is to prevent the body from over-producing an amino acid called homocysteine. This is relevant because if the body produces too much homocysteine, it can block the production of the two neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, both of which play a direct role in regulating mood.
Maintaining moderate to high levels of serotonin and dopamine has been linked to a reduced of risk of depression, as well as secondary effects such as better-quality sleep and increased energy levels.
Avocados contain rich amounts of two vitamins vital for bone maintenance: vitamins K and C.
Numerous studies have suggested that a lack of vitamin K is one health factor that can lead to osteoporosis. Vitamin K is crucial as it works with vitamin D to regulate osteoclast production; osteoclasts are cells that degrade aged bone, laying the groundwork for their counterpart osteoblasts to restore and form new bone.
Vitamin C regulates the production of collagen, a protein that boosts calcium absorption, improves bone mineral density, and maintains overall bone strength. Half an avocado provides roughly 7mg of vitamin C, rendering the fruit a potent source to turn to, particularly as the NHS recommends adults aged 19-64 consume at least 40mg of vitamin C each day. The avocado, in contrast to strawberries, grapes, and fruit juices, provides a high level of vitamin C, and minimal amounts of excess sugar.
Natural oils found in avocados penetrate skin to soften, hydrate, and nurture it, and the nourishing properties of these oils may reduce the signs of ageing (fine lines and wrinkles), and help to boost the skin’s resilience against stress.
Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants abundantly found in avocados. Vitamin C is vital for maintaining healthy skin as it thwarts the breakdown of collagen and elastin, two proteins that help keep the skin firm and slender. And as well as its protein-producing qualities, Vitamin C also fights against skin inflammation, working against conditions such as acne and dry skin. Vitamin E is also required for tissue repair and shields skin from damage.
Free radicals are loose and unstable molecules that cause frequent cellular damage by breaking down collagen in the skin, resulting in oxidative stress and harm to DNA. For this reason, they are the enemy of the aged, and one of the main reasons humans develop wrinkles, dark spots, and sagging skin.
Though ageing is of course inevitable, there are ways humans can stave off the aforementioned effects of free radicals. Step forward, avocado. The natural oils found in avocado are packed with vitamins A, B1, B2, and plant pigments that inhibit oxidative stress and are capable of protecting cell DNA and mitochondria from free radicals, as they penetrate much deeper than other antioxidants found in most fruits and vegetables.
Avocados are naturally rich in fibre, which helps suppress appetite, lower cholesterol, and decrease blood pressure. The satiating properties of avocado mean that after eating the fruit, an individual will feel fuller for longer and is much less likely to consume excess calories by overeating.
This is important as the only way to efficiently lose weight and reduce body fat is to couple an effective exercise routine with an equally effective diet.
The avocado is an incredibly powerful health-boosting food, with many more benefits beyond the seven listed in this article. Try adding avocados into your weekly nutrition plan, and see if you notice any of these great benefits.
For more great health and fitness information, as well as nutritional tips, check out the HFE blog.Back to articles