What is an Avocado?
What are the health benefits of avocado?
Have you have ever encountered a fruit that looks like a pear on the first glance, but doesn’t taste like one at all? Probably, that was an Avocado!
Native to the regions of Central America and Mexico, avocado is a flowering tree that belongs to the family Lauraceae. The scientific name for the avocado tree is Persea americana. Avocado fruit is the fatty fruit produced by the tree; it is fatty due to the presence of plenty of monounsaturated fats. It is these fats that give avocado its creamy and smooth texture.
If you compare it to other fruits, it will be evident to you that avocado has a much higher fat content than that of many other fruits. Apart from that, it is also rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium and copper. Avocado also has large fiber content, making it suitable for people who want to go on diet. Due to having such a strong nutritional profile,avocado fruit is unique in itself.
No wonder, avocado is very filling due to the amount of roughage it has. Therefore, it is best for people willing to lose weight. They should regularly eat it. This way they will not only lose weight, but will also keep supplying their body with all the essential nutrients needed by the body for its healthy growth and development.
Avocados come in different sizes, shapes and colors; some are small, some are big, some are pear-shaped while some are more round, they range in color from shades of light green to almost black. They can be eaten raw if you wish to. Moreover, they can also be put in salads or can be cooked rather than being eaten raw.
Is avocado a fruit?
Yes, do not refer to it as a vegetable!
It has been scientifically proven that avocado is a fruit; in fact, avocado is a “berry”. This is so because avocados fulfill the botanical criteria for being called Berries. They have both a seed and a fleshy pulp, two key features that make avocado a berry!
So, time has come when we start calling avocado a fruit and not a vegetable. If you have not accepted the idea yet embrace it now. When you start thinking of them as fruits, you will use them in sweeter foods. Try making their smoothies and desserts, just as you do with other fruits. For sure, they will be amazing. It is completely up to you how creatively you use avocados in making different desserts!
Avocado: a Little History
It is believed that the very word “avocado” has been derived from “ahuacatl” (Nahuatl word) which literally means “testicle”. It is assumed that it is due to the shape of the fruit. It is also possible that it is so because avocado is aphrodisiac.
Mesoamericans: It has been found that avocados always have been a major part of the Mexican diet. There is enough evidence found by archeologists that suggests that people in Central America have been consuming avocados for almost 10,000 years now. At that time, humans would simply collect wild avocados and eat them raw. According to researchers, it has been only 5,000 years since humans started cultivating the fruit. Therefore, it can be said that the Mesoamerican tribes such as Inca began growing domestic avocados.
The Spanish Conquest: Spanish travelers were the first Europeans who tried avocados in the 16th century. The very famous navigator and geographer, Martín Fernández de Enciso, was the first European to have mentioned avocados in his book that he wrote in 1519. The Spanish used to call the fruit “aguacate”, a mispronunciation of the original word, “ahuacatl”. By the time the Spanish had discovered avocados, they had already spread from Mexico to Central America and parts of South America. Eventually, the Spanish brought avocados to Europe and started selling to other countries such as England.
Later Developments: Bernabe Cobo was the first person to talk about the three different kinds of avocados in 1653. These three main types are Guatemalan, Mexican and West Indian. Later, different people found avocados, including George Washington, in the West Indies. In 1751, Washington visited Barbados. He is reported to have written in his diary that “avogadro pears” were very popular there. An Irish naturalist, Sir Hans Sloane, was the person who coined the name “avocado” for the fruit in 1696. Avocados were not a commercial crop until the beginning of the 20th Century. Although they were quite popular in Florida, California and Hawaii, they were avoided by people living in other states. It was only until the 1950s when avocados became widely popular because people were now putting them in salads.
Avocado Nutrition Facts:
Like many fruits, most of avocado is made of water. Following are the percentage of nutrients in avocado:
- Water 73%
- Carbohydrates 8.5% (mainly fibers)
- Fat 15%
- Protein 2%
Here we will talk about the nutrients in more detail.
- Carbohydrates: Compared to other fruits, avocados have very less sugars. 68 grams (almost half an avocado) contains only 0.5 grams of sugar. This sugar is in three major forms; glucose, fructose and galactose. Because they have a low sugar content, avocados are considered beneficial in maintaining the blood pressure. A fruit high in sugars is expected to raise the blood pressure greatly.
- Fiber: 79 percent of the carbohydrate content is fiber. Then there is also dietary fiber that being a dietary component plays many important roles. It is very beneficial for health. Fiber helps in regulating appetite, feeds the friendly bacteria present in the digestive tract and also reduces the chance of having many diseases. Avocados also possess FODMAPs which are short chains of carbohydrates which cannot be digested by many people. Although everyone is not intolerant to FODMAPs, people might face unpleasant symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Fat: As mentioned earlier, avocados have an unusually high fat content compared to that of other fruits. Avocado is packed with fatty acids. Oleic acid is one of the most abundant fatty acid, which is also present in olive oil. Oleic acid is said to reduce inflammation issues and has positive effects on cancer patients. Animal studies show that avocado oil is a good source of healthy fats. These fats are protective against inflammation, heart problems and diabetes.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Avocado has different vitamins and minerals present in abundance. Some of them have been listed below:
- Folate (B9): It is very vital proper cell function and growth of the tissue. Therefore, it is of great significance for women who are expecting a child. The health benefits of avocados offer an abundance of Folate!
- Vitamin K1: The vitamin has positive effects on bone health. It also helps in letting the blood clot in times of an injury or cut.
- Potassium: Avocados contain more potassium than bananas do. Potassium is mainly known for two reasons; regulating the blood pressure and providing heart health.
- Copper: This mineral is also important for heart health. Unfortunately, Western diet often lacks copper and so, its beneficial effects are excluded from the diet. Low copper intakes can result in cardiac problems.
- Vitamin E: It is a potent antioxidant and is often found in fatty plants.
- Vitamin B6: These form a group of vitamins which are involved in the process of converting food into usable energy for the body.
- Vitamin C: This is very important for having a good skin. It nourishes the skin very well. The vitamin also acts as an antioxidant for the immune system.
- Other Plant Compounds:
- Carotenoids: Avocados have a variety of carotenoids such as zeaxanthin and lutein which are quite important for eye health. If you want to reduce the chances of getting age-related eye sicknesses, start having an ample amount of carotenoids in your daily diet.
- Persenones A and B: Since they are antioxidants of their own kind, they help the body in protecting itself against inflammation and cancer.
- D-Mannoheptulose: It is a sugar type that is richly present in avocados. It is said to aid in regulating blood sugar level.
Due to the presence of fats is such quantity, the carotenoid antioxidants that are found in avocados can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Health Benefits of Avocado:
Avocados are a fruit of their own kind. It is an important fruit due to the presence of nutrients such as antioxidants that are all very essential for a healthy diet. Most of the fruits are rich in carbohydrates. Unlike them, avocados have a high content of healthy fats and also other powerful nutrients. No wonder, all the health benefits that avocados offer have been scientifically proven. Here we talk about some of the most prominent health benefits of including avocados in your diet:
- Incredible Nutrition: The fruit has always been popular due to its rich nutrients. Among circles of health conscious people, avocado is often called as the ‘superfood’ because of its incredible nutrition value. The most widely known kind of avocado is known as Hass Avocado whose weight can vary anywhere from 8 ounces to 3 pounds. Because of its shape, texture and color (green), it is usually called “alligator pear”.
While eating, the yellow-green pulp inside avocado is eaten whereas the bumpy skin and the seed are left out. Avocado is a very potent fruit because of the fact that it contains more than twenty vitamins and minerals. Some of the most abundant vitamins include Vitamin K and Vitamin C. There is also a huge amount of potassium. In addition to that, there are small amounts of copper, iron, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamins B1, B2 and B3, etc.
Avocado is a low carb food because out of 160 calories, only 2 grams are ‘net’ carbs. The rest are fibers. Moreover, another important fact about avocado is that it has no cholesterol or sodium in it. It is also very low in saturated fat. That’s why, it has been given the title of ‘Superfood’.
- Helps in Weight Loss: There is common misunderstanding that you should not include avocados in your diet plan if you are working towards losing your weight. Because of the high fat content, they are often excluded from calorie-restricted diet plans. On the other hand, the fact is completely the opposite. If you add avocados in your diet plan, they will not stop you from losing weight in anyway whatsoever.
In fact, if you include avocados in your daily meals, it is better because they are more filling. This will help you feel satiated and you would be able to overcome the desire to eat more and more. Therefore, it can be stated that avocados can prove helpful in losing weight effectively. In addition, avocados are weight-loss friendly because they are low in carbs, have high fiber content and do not increase blood sugar levels.
- Higher Potassium Content Than Bananas: Potassium is often what most diet plans lack and therefore people suffer from potassium deficiencies. Potassium plays an important role in regulating the electrical gradients of the body cells. The nutrient is also very beneficial for other vital body functions. Bananas are generally though as being potassium rich fruits that have a percentage potassium content of 10%. Whereas avocados have a higher potassium content than that of bananas i.e. 14%. Some studies show that having a high intake of potassium can help in controlling or reducing blood pressure, which is the key to various other problems such as heart attack, kidney failure and strokes.
- Works against Arthritis: Arthritis has unfortunately become one of the most prevalent diseases in the West. The disorder is characterized by progressive deterioration of the cartilage present at joints. There are ways to treat the problem with. One of the ways is to make use of avocado and soybean oil supplements. These oil supplements have been observed to treat positively the patients who are suffering from the symptoms of the disease. Multiple studies have shown that these supplements are effective against arthritis and they work well especially in areas of the knee and hip.
- Lowers Blood Cholesterol Level: We live in a world and time where heart disease is on the rise. It has become the number one reason for the increasing amount of deaths among both men and women. There are several blood markers that are important and are associated with heart disease, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammatory markers, etc. There have been studies done on whether avocado has any effect on these risk factors or not. People were split into groups, one who were given avocados to eat while the others were not given any. The results of the study were very impressive. It was found out that avocados reduce the blood cholesterol level to a great deal. They increase the ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol by up to 11%, while decreasing the harmful one (LDL cholesterol) by 22%. Similarly, they also decrease blood triglyceride levels too.
- Aids in Absorbing Nutrients from Plant Foods: There are many foods that are very rich in nutrients. What really matters is not the number of nutrients in a food item; it is the ability of these nutrients to be absorbed by the human gut is what makes these nutrients count. There are some nutrients which are ‘fat-soluble’. This means that these nutrients have to be combined with a fat in order to be absorbed. Such nutrients include vitamin A, vitamin D, antioxidants, etc.
There has been a study which shows that adding avocado or its oil to a meal increases the rate of absorption of antioxidants from the digestive tract. In addition to being a highly nutritious fruit, avocado also helps in increasing the nutrient value of many other plant foods by aiding in the absorption of their nutrients. Without having this sort of fat, all the nutrients may go wasted.
- General Health Improvements: In today’s world, there are so many people who are working hard in order to have a healthy lifestyle. But many people are unaware of the fact that without including fruits into their diet, it is almost impossible to stay fit and healthy. One of the fruits that can really improve your health is avocado. There was a study conducted on 17,567 people in the States which proved the fact that those who ate avocados regularly were much healthier than the ones who did not.
Because of its incredible nutritional value, avocado helps people have a higher nutrition intake on a regular basis. These people are expected to have lower chances of suffering from metabolic syndrome; a group of symptoms that really point towards diabetes and hear6 disorders. Such people also have a lower BMI and relatively less fat in the belly region.
- Protection for the Eyes: The fruit is rich in antioxidants such as Lutein and These are very important antioxidants for your eyes and their health. They are thought to be good for the eyesight. There have been studies that show that with the intake of these antioxidants, there are reduced chances of suffering from cataracts and macular degeneration; disorders very common among the elderly. Consequently, it is important to include avocados in your diet because it will prove to be beneficial for the general health of your eyes.
- Advantageous for Pregnant Women: There has been a study which focuses on the benefits of avocados for a pregnant woman. Since avocados have a large amount of folic acid, they are perfect for women who are expecting because folic acid is very helpful in preventing birth defects. Neural tube and spina bifida are examples of such birth defects. Doctors recommend a high intake of avocados both before and during the pregnancy period because they have B vitamin. This vitamin is very essential for the normal development and health of both the baby and the mother. More than any fruit, avocados have the highest amount of folate; 45 mcg per half a cup.
Vitamin K is also a very valuable nutrient for pregnant women. Fortunately, there is a high concentration of vitamin K in avocados. Therefore, such women should focus on having an ample amount of avocados in order to prevent vitamin K deficiency. During pregnancy, mothers can pass on vitamin K to their babies. That is why, mothers are highly recommended to eat fruits that are rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K deficiency can be very harmful: it can cause bleeding or a condition (VKDB) where newborns keep on bleeding and cannot stop it because their blood does not clot due to a lack of vitamin K.
- Protection from Liver Diseases: When you talk about reducing liver damage, avocado is a very good option because it contains organic compounds that help in improving liver health. Generally, the main reason for liver problems is Hepatitis C. According to a recent study, avocados help in protecting the liver from a variety of health disorders. Avocados can help a person suffering from fatty liver disease since they have healthy fats which can make the cholesterol profile level much better. Avocado can lower LDL and raise HDL in the blood, solving the blood cholesterol problem to a great extent.
People who suffer from chronic liver diseases are often found to have low levels of gluthathione, a type of antioxidant. This is very important because it helps in filtering out the toxic substances from liver and thus, protects liver cells from any sort of damage. Eating avocado definitely increases gluthathione levels in your body. Because it contains vitamin E and K, avocado is very famous for its anti-inflammatory characteristics.
- Good for the Teeth: There are millions of people out there who face the problem of having a bad breath. The main reason behind bad breath is Halitosis, but it can be eradicated by improving digestive health. Bad breath is often due to either indigestion or any other stomach disorder. There are flavonoids present in avocado, that possess both antibacterial and antioxidant properties. They are really good at helping you get rid of bad breath because they kill the bacteria, which is present in your mouth. Moreover, it is also believed that avocados can prevent you from falling into the trap of oral cancers.
- Great for Bones: Avocados have also proven to be good for your bones since they contain carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids are effective in preventing cartilage defects or in other words, they reduce the chance of suffering from osteoarthritis. Therefore, an intake of food rich in soy, avocados or both is recommended by doctors by patients of osteoarthritis. For patients with knee or hip problems, it is good for them to have 300 mg of either avocado or soy supplements. Furthermore, an avocado also contains substantial levels of minerals such as phosphorus, copper, zinc and trace amounts of other minerals such as calcium and selenium. Due to all these minerals, there is a low risk of osteoarthritis and there are also improvements shown in bone mineral density.
- High Fiber Content: Per half fruit, avocados contain almost six to seven grams of dietary fiber. Although every person’s needs are different depending on their build, size and sex, it is generally claimed that women should have a daily intake of 25 grams of fiber per day whereas men are recommended to have 38 grams of fiber every day. In other words, eating one avocado fulfills the fiber needs of a woman and about one-third the needs of a man. It is a known fact that roughage is very essential in regulating bowel and avoiding constipation, but there is more to this. Another benefit of a diet rich in fiber is that you stay full for a longer time due to the presence of cellulose. This way, you do not feel hungry and can thus, lose weight. Fiber also sticks to the harmful cholesterol molecules in the body and tries to flush them out of the body. Hence, it is good for heart and so, it may be a good idea to have an avocado every day.
- Good for your Skin: So we all know that avocados are high in fat, but these are good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are actually healthy. It is the saturated fats that block the arteries and cause heart problems. These good fats are also very good for the health of your skin. The monounsaturated fats are efficient in keeping the uppermost layer of the skin moisturized so that there are no premature wrinkles. Whereas the polyunsaturated fats play a vital role in protecting your skin from inflammation and sun damage. Vitamins C and E are also great for your skin; they keep the skin cells hydrated. Because of its good fats and vitamins, many people use raw avocados as a face palm.
- Makes Your Mood Better: Avocados are rich in folate, which belongs to the group of B vitamins. Everyone ought to get an enough intake of folate because it is good at regulating mood. Homocysteine is produced by the body naturally, but too much of its production blocks the production of two other chemical, dopamine and serotonin, which are good at regulating mood and ensuring a peaceful sleep at night. The high folate in avocado prevents homocysteine from building up, and as a result, the body can produce ample amounts of both dopamine and serotonin. This way, there is a low risk of you falling into depression.
Avocado Recipes – How To Eat Avocado
There are numerous ways of eating avocados. This means you have a lot of options and recipes to include in your daily diet. Here we share a few of those recipes, while you can look for other such recipes over the Internet too.
- Mexican Salad:
- 2 avocados (ripe)
- 3 tomatoes (ripe)
- ½ Sliced sweet onion
- 2 limes
- Chopped cilantro (2 Tablespoons)
- Coarse Salt
- EVOO for drizzling (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
- You should split the avocados in two equal-sized pieces while cutting them around the pit. After separating the two halves, take out the seed and using a spoon, scoop out the yellow-green flesh of the fruit.
- Take a large platter and arrange the avocados in the centre of the platter. Arrange the cut tomatoes around the avocados.
- You can spread the sliced onion pieces over the platter too.
- Sprinkle some cilantro over the platter.
- Take the two limes and squeeze them over the platter.
- For seasoning, you can add a pinch of Coarse Salt and a little EVOO before serving.
- Veal and Avocado
- 1 Hass Avocado (ripe)
- 1 fresh lemon (wedge)
- Veal scallops (2/3 pounds)
- Cream (3 to 4 tablespoons)
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- EVOO (2 tablespoons)
- Pieces of butter (1 tablespoon)
- Dry vermouth (1/4 cup)
- 2 table spoons chopped chives (for garnishing)
- 1 tablespoon of thyme leaves (for garnishing)
- Take the Hass avocado and cut in half. Cut it around the seed. Using a knife, pop out the seed from the center and throw it away.
- While using a spoon, scoop out the flesh from each half of the fruit.
- Now cut the avocado in pieces (slices) and sprinkle a little lemon juice over them in order to avoid browning.
- Take the scallops of veal and season them with salt and pepper.
- Using medium or medium-high heat, heat the EVOO for about two pan turns.
- Now add the veal to the pan and cook for about two minutes. After that, put the veal into a platter or other plates.
- After putting the vermouth in the pan, deglaze it. Add cream and keep stirring so that they combine.
- After a while, turn off the heat and wait for the cream to bubble for about a minute.
- Now assemble the slices of avocado flesh on the scallops of veal. Pour some sauce on the meat and avocado. In order to garnish, use a generous sprinkle of thyme leaves and chives.
- Avocado Boats
- 3 Hass avocados (ripe)
- 1 lemon
- Coarse Salt
- 2 scallions (chopped)
- 2 plum tomatoes (small and chopped)
- Few drops of Hot Sauce (such as Tabasco brand)
- EVOO (for drizzling)
- With a knife, cut avocados all around the seed splitting them in two halves. Twist to separate in two pieces. Remove the pit of the fruit with a knife too.
- Scoop out the flesh of each avocado half and put them in a platter.
- Squeeze the lemon juice on avocados.
- Garnish with a little hot sauce (a sauce of your choice) and add a drizzle of EVOO.
- Take the tomatoes and scallions, season them with Coarse Salt. Combine these with the avocados. Before serving, try to fill the onions and tomatoes with avocados.
Potassium in Avocado:
Potassium is very essential for your body, therefore, you should make sure that you intake an ample amount of potassium through your regular diet. Avocados are rich in potassium, so it is a good option to include avocados in your daily diet.
Let’s see why do we exactly need potassium need for.
- We need potassium to build proteins.
- Potassium is essential for the breakdown of carbohydrates.
- Potassium is also needed for muscle development.
- In order to maintain the normal growth of the body, potassium is very important.
- We need potassium so as to control heart’s electrical activity.
- Potassium also helps in controlling the acid-base balance of the body.
According to the Dietary Guidelines, it is recommended to have foods that have a high content of potassium, roughage, vitamin D and calcium. These nutrients can be found in vegetables, fruits, milk and other dairy products. It has been found that avocados have 150 grams of potassium in a serving of 1 ounce.
Potassium can play a major role in lowering blood pressure. Other benefits of having a diet rich in potassium include a lower risk of having a kidney stone or facing bone damage. In this regard, the Dietary Guidelines recommends everyone to have an intake of 47,000 mg of potassium in one day.
Although avocado has a number of health benefits, you should consider your daily intake of avocado because you should know the side effects of having an avocado on a daily basis. If you are trying to put yourself on a low-calorie diet, avoid eating a lot of avocados because they are high-calorie fruit. You might also be allergic to avocados. This can be confirmed if you are suffering from mouth itches, heavy breathing, and pain in the stomach or swollen tongue. In such a case, you should seek medical advice. If you have an allergy against latex, you might be allergic to avocados because it has been reported that there is an association between the two.
Moreover, the chance of having an allergy towards avocados is high if you are already allergic to tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, melons, kiwi or peaches. Also, you need to be careful about your avocado intake if you are taking regular medication. For instance, if you are taking Warfarin daily, it may result in an interaction since it is an anticoagulant. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ask your doctor before introducing avocados in your daily diet if you are already taking a medication.
If you want to consume avocados on a daily basis, it is recommended that you start by having either half or maximum one avocado in a day. You may suffer from harmful symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea if you eat more than one avocado per day because it is a high calorie fruit. Although you may not think so, one avocado is more than enough for your body!
Growing Avocados: How to grow an avocado plant at home?
If you are willing to grow an avocado tree, let us assure you, it is not a difficult task. All you need to do us follow the steps given below:
- Take out the big seed (pit) from the centre of an avocado fruit. Wash the seed and make sure you have dried it well.
- Now put three to four toothpicks into the seed (the part where it is the widest). Suspend the pit in glass full of water.
- After this, you will now put the glass in a warm spot. You have to ensure that the water level remains the same.
- In a two or six weeks’ period, you will observe a stem and roots sprouting out of the seed. As soon as the stem is about six inches long, you should cut it in half.
- Wait for the stem to leaf again. When that happens, transfer the seedling into a pot of loose, sandy soil.
- Try to ensure that your plant gets enough light and water. The watering must be frequent and light. Keep the pot in a sunny place so that the plant grows properly.
- Whenever the stem grows to around 6 inches, pinch back the youngest leaves off the stem. This is done in order to help the plant grow into healthier plant.
If you live in a warm region, you can put your avocado plant outside. It has the ability to survive in sunny, hot conditions. If the temperature does not exceed a lot, the plant can stay outside, it will enjoy such conditions which will in return, help in its growth and development.
In case you are looking for a healthy lifestyle, it is highly recommended that you include avocado in your daily diet. Avocados are extremely nutritious and a filling food. Unlike many fruits, it is rich in fats, vitamins and minerals. It also helps in the absorption of other plant compounds from the digestive tract into the blood. Considering all the health benefits of avocado, you should start having a regular intake of avocados if you haven’t already!