The avocado has been credited with many possible health benefits in recent times so let us have a look to see if it is a good addition to our eating plans. The avocado is a naturally nutrient dense food which contains nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. It is the only fruit that provides a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Eating a diet that contains plentiful fruit and vegetables has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions, so let us look at some of the possible health benefits of including the avocado in our diet.
Possible Health Benefits of the Avocado
1. Heart health
Coronary heart disease is still the biggest killer in the UK and many experts believe that by lowering your polyunsaturated fat intake and increasing the amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, you will lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated oleic acid. Research has shown that this reduces dangerous LDL cholesterol in the blood and also increases the more beneficial HDL cholesterol. Studies have found that eating avocado can also decrease high blood triglyceride levels which are also associated with cardiovascular problems.
The high levels of vitamin E in avocados help prevent cholesterol oxidation. Their potassium levels can regulate high blood pressure. Avocados are also an excellent source of folate, known to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is a common amino acid found in the blood and high levels of it are related to the early development of heart and blood vessel disease. Folate is a nutrient many of us are low in and it is especially important for pregnant women.
Avocados also contain phytosterols for reducing cholesterol absorption. They also contain significant amounts of dietary fibre. This fibre moderates blood sugar levels, guards against diabetes and helps prevent constipation.
2. Regulating blood pressure
Avocados are particularly rich in potassium, even more so than bananas, and a deficiency in this mineral can lead to high blood pressure. This, in turn, is a significant risk factor for heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
3. Cancer Prevention
Avocados are a good source of antioxidant carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. The absorption of these antioxidants from other carotenoid rich foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens, is also improved dramatically when combined with the fat in avocado. These antioxidants protect your body’s cells against cancerous changes due to free radical damage. Alpha-carotene appears to be especially important for cancer prevention.
Avocados also contain high levels of vitamin C and vitamin E, themselves potent anti-cancer antioxidants.
4. Controlling diabetes
The oleic acid in avocado is especially recommended for its ability to lower bad LDL cholesterol while raising good HDL cholesterol. It is vital for diabetics to keep their cholesterol levels in check as they have a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The monounsaturated fats are also beneficial for reducing triglyceride levels and may improve insulin function and blood glucose levels.
The vitamin C content can also strengthen blood vessels and capillaries and improve immune function. The high levels of potassium in avocados are another important nutritional factor for diabetics due to the mineral’s role in maintaining a healthy heart and regulating blood sugar.
5. Skin benefits
The monounsaturated fats in avocado are beneficial for improving your skin tone and appearance. These omega-9 fats are known to assist in reducing skin redness and irritation and are involved in repairing damaged skin cells.
Acne, blackheads and an oily skin can also be controlled by the fat’s moderating effect on sebum production. The antioxidants in avocado can also help protect your skin from wrinkles and other visible signs of ageing.
6. Help with arthritis
Avocados contain high levels of monounsaturated fats, phytosterols and antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C and a variety of carotenoids that can help reduce the inflammation that leads to arthritis.
7. Preventing constipation
The high fibre content of avocados make them beneficial for improving digestion and encouraging regular bowel movements. They can also act as a mild laxative if you are having trouble going to the toilet.
8. Aiding weight loss
Avocados are high in fibre, about 7% by weight, and this fibre can have various important benefits for weight loss. Soluble fibre is known to feed the friendly bacteria in the gut which is very important for the optimal function of our bodies. In studies, people eating avocado felt more satisfied and were less likely to eat again over the following five hours than people who had not included avocado in their meal.
9. Helping pregnant women
The high concentration of folate or folic acid is particularly important for pregnant women. This B vitamin is needed to prevent birth defects like spina bifida and avocados contain more folate than any other fruit.
Vitamin K is another valuable nutrient found in high concentrations in avocados that benefit women during pregnancy and their future babies. It prevents a condition known as VKDB where new born babies cannot stop bleeding.
10. Helping vision
Avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin that are concentrated in the tissues in the eyes, where they provide antioxidant protection to help minimize damage, including from ultraviolet light. As the monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados also support the absorption of other fat-soluble antioxidants such as beta-carotene, there may be a reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
11. Osteoporosis prevention
Half an avocado provides approximately 25% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K which is essential for bone health. Eating a diet with adequate vitamin K can support bone health by increasing the absorption of calcium and reducing its urinary excretion.
Therefore, it may be worth adding avocados to your shopping list and incorporating them into your salads, sandwiches and even a smoothie. Soft avocados make great guacamole or dip or can be used instead of mayonnaise as a spread on a sandwich. Firm avocados are great for slicing and adding to a salad or sandwich.
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