All hail the almighty avocado! When it’s not getting a bad rap as the reason Millennials can’t afford homes, it’s gaining recognition as one of the best superfoods you can possibly eat. This creamy, savory fruit is packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Whether you spread it on toast, make it into guacamole or use it in your salads and smoothies, avocados are a popular way to pack flavor and nutrients into one dish. If you needed a reason to spring for more avocados, read on.
A little background
If you’ve never had an avocado, they are a pear-shaped fruit with soft, creamy light green flesh, a dark green bumpy skin and a large pit inside. Avocados are native to the Western hemisphere. They are commonly associated with and grown in California, Mexico and warm, southern Andean regions. They are notoriously sensitive and ripen quite quickly, often achieving their peak and going bad within a day or two.
This unique fruit is popular in Mexican and South American cuisines, but they’re used throughout the world in various dishes. In fact, avocados are wildly popular in the United States. It’s estimated that we consumed over three billion pounds of avocados in 2021 alone. In fact, all of that popularity has gained the attention of Mexican drug cartels, who are now getting into the avocado and lime business. Talk about going green.
Avocado: the greatest superfood of all?
Now that you know a little about the noble avocado, here’s why it’s also a nutritional star. Avocados contain:
- Beta-sitosterol: This can help ward off or reduce the symptoms of a number of diseases, including chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, high cholesterol, allergies and more.
- Carotenoids: These antioxidants help protect the male reproductive system, the eyes and the cardiovascular system.
- Chlorophyll: Chlorophyll isn’t just for plants. It also helps wounds heal, blood clots, and can help your digestive health and hormonal balance. Chlorophyll is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects.
- Fiber: Few people are getting as much fiber as they should—and their intestinal health reflects that. Fiber doesn’t just keep you regular. It also helps stabilize your blood sugar so you don’t “crash” later.
- Folate: Folate is a crucial prenatal nutrient, and can also offer reproductive support. It benefits cardiovascular health by normalizing cholesterol, reduces the risk of macular degeneration and can even provide some neurological support.
- Glutathione: Glutathione is a superpowered antioxidant. Antioxidants fight free radicals and inflammation in the body, warding off everything from wrinkles and sagging skin to cancer and arthritis.
- Healthy fats: Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats—in this case, oleic acid. Oleic acid helps regulate cholesterol, and regular consumption of avocados can lower your bad cholesterol levels while increasing the “good” kind.
- Lutein: This antioxidant helps protect your eyes and skin—and avocados are a great source.
- Magnesium: This is an essential nutrient which can soothe your nervous system, aid digestion and relieve constipation, combat muscle aches or spasms and can improve your energy levels. It also helps keep your heart healthy and can regulate other nutrients like calcium, sodium and potassium.
- Polyphenols: Polyphenols are another type of antioxidant, which has robust anti-inflammatory benefits throughout the body.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is yet another type of antioxidant. It’s particularly helpful in fighting neurological diseases, PMS, certain eye disorders, diabetes and even air pollution.
All that, and they taste good, too.
Getting more avocados in your diet
Avocados are great on their own (pro tip: sprinkle them with lime juice and salt for a healthy, delicious snack), but they can work in a variety of dishes. Although they have a distinct flavor on their own, they’re mild enough to be “hidden” in smoothies and salad dressings.
There are plenty of recipes for every meal of the day—even dessert! Avocados are remarkably good when blended with chocolate, making them an excellent way to create healthy, dairy-free sweet treats like popsicles, mousse and even cake icing.
Mexican and South American dishes frequently use avocados (grill them, use them as a taco base or garnish or make a huge bowl of guacamole), but any sushi aficionado knows they can pop up in Japanese dishes and beyond. Because they can be used as substitutes for commonly used ingredients such as butter, eggs and oil, try working them into other favorite dishes.
Avocados: with plenty of flavor and nutrients, they’re just about the best food you can possibly eat.