An avocado a day may keep the doctor away. This creamy green fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) known for its standout role in guacamole has a ton of health benefits. With nearly 20 vitamins and minerals and plenty unsaturated “good” fat, it’s no wonder that there’s an abundance of research linking avocados with heart health, weight management and skin health.
Here are some mores reasons to make avocados a part of your daily diet and how to eat more of them.
Avocado nutrition facts
A serving of avocado (⅓ medium or 50 grams) has a variety of nutrients, like:
- 80 calories
- 1 gram protein
- 7 grams fat
- 4 grams carbohydrates
- 3 grams fiber (11% daily value (DV))
- 250 milligrams potassium (6% DV)
- 15 grams magnesium (4% DV)
- 0.1 mg vitamin B6 (6% DV)
- 1 mg vitamin E (6% DV)
- 4 mg vitamin C (4% DV)
- 11 mcg vitamin K (10% DV)
- 5 mcg folate (10% DV)
Keep in mind that a standard serving size for an avocado is about ⅓ of the fruit.
Health benefits of avocados
Avocados are probably most known for their fat content. One serving of an avocado (⅓ medium) has 6 grams of unsaturated fat. Whereas saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions, unsaturated fat has been linked to lowering the risk of heart diseases. As a matter of fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends replacing saturated fat in the diet with unsaturated fat, like that found in avocados.
A recent systematic review of the research shows that avocados are a heart-healthy food. Of the studies examined, ten substituted avocado for other fat sources and two added avocado to the participants’ standard diets. The overall results showed that consuming avocados twice a day as part of a low saturated fat and cholesterol diet can help lower total and LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Another observational study of over 68,000 women found that higher avocado intake was associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Some may worry that the calorie content of avocados may cause weight gain, but research actually points to the opposite. One study of over 55,000 people found that avocado consumers weighed less than those who didn’t regularly eat avocados. After following the participants for 4 to 11 years, the researchers concluded that participants that consumed at least 2 tablespoons of avocado per day had the lowest odds of becoming overweight or obese.
Other research suggests that replacing carbohydrates in a high-carb meal with avocados contributes to feelings of fullness and satiety. In other words, the fat in avocados helps you stay fuller longer and may actually cause you to eat less overall.
What’s more, newer research is also exploring how the vitamin E in avocados may positively affect skin health. A pilot study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that eating one avocado per day for 8 weeks increased skin elasticity and firmness.
Are there drawbacks to eating avocados?
It’s important to remember that a serving size of an avocado is ⅓ of the fruit. If you’re eating more than this on a daily basis, you may be taking in more calories than you’re burning off, and avocados could contribute to weight gain.
In addition, due to a variety of factors like low supply, changes in weather, farming issues and inflation, avocados are soaring in price. Plus, they only stay ripe for 2-3 days before they begin to brown. Most of the avocados in the supermarket are not yet ripe, so you have to watch them closely at home to make sure you eat them at the right time.
Fun facts about avocados
Beyond the health benefits, here are some interesting tidbits to consider during your next visit to the produce aisle.
There are hundreds of varieties of avocados
According to California Avocados, there are hundreds of varieties of this green fruit. Yet, 95% of the avocados eaten in the United States are Hass avocados. Hass are able to be grown year round in places like California, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, The Dominican Republic and Colombia. Hass avocados are medium sized and oval, with a minty green flesh and dark green skin.
Occasionally, you may also see a Florida avocado on store shelves. This large variety is grown in the sunshine state, and they are a bit lower in calories and fat than the Hass variety. But they also taste a bit more bland due to their low fat content.
They are a good substitute for butter
Trying to cut down on saturated fat? Replace the butter in baked goods with avocado. Due to its creamy nature and fatty consistency, the avocado is a great stand in for butter in recipes. Since avocados have a neutral taste, you won’t even notice a difference in the taste of the overall dish. Use a 1:1 ratio to swap butter for avocado in any recipe.
How to grow your own avocados
No matter where you live, you can grow an avocado tree in your own home. “You can sprout the pit of an avocado to grow into a house plant in your own home by submerging it half way into a cup of water,” said Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist, Ginger Hultin, dietitian, owner of ChampagneNutrition® and author of the e-book “Meal Prep for Weight Loss 101.”
After eating an avocado, save the pit and let it dry out. Stick 3-4 toothpicks in the pit and suspend it over a glass of water, so that the bottom half of the pit is submerged. Place the glass of water in the sun and roots will sprout in 2-6 weeks. A stem will appear and the avocado plant will begin to grow. Plant it in a pot with soil and watch your avocado tree grow!
Healthy avocado recipes
“Avocados are incredibly versatile,” said Hultin. “I recommend my clients include them as a healthy fat source and anti-inflammatory food in a variety of ways.” Here are some simple and creative ways to include more avocados in your diet: