Avocado is a pear-shaped berry, which is otherwise known as alligator pear or butter fruit. The term alligator pear is due to the scaly appearance of some varieties, especially, the Hass avocados, which possess black leathery skin. Some varieties (like Hass avocado) are dark green during harvesting, but, turn to a blackish shade, as they ripe. Avocado trees (Persea Americana), which are native to Central and South America, is believed to be cultivated by humans since 8000 B.C. Gradually, this fruit was introduced to other tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Now, Mexico is the largest producer of these fruits, followed by the United States, Brazil and Columbia. The most popular among the avocado varieties is Hass, with blackish brown skin. Another popular variety is Fuerte, which has smooth dark green skin and is usually larger in size, than the former. There are many other varieties like, Zutano and Bacon. The edible portion of avocado is its flesh, which is yellowish-green in color with a slight nutty flavor and butter-like consistency.
Health Benefits of Avocados
Avocados are known to be rich in nutrients like, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, copper, potassium, calcium and magnesium. It is also a good source of dietary fiber. Unlike other fruits, avocados have high fat content, which accounts for around 70% to 80% of its total calories. The fat level in them is almost twenty times higher than the average fat content in many other fruits.
A medium avocado fruit contains around thirty grams of fat, but, the good news is that 20 grams (of the 30 grams fat) are mono-unsaturated fats (especially oleic acid), which are beneficial for health.
Even though, many people are speculative of the fat and calorie content in avocados, researchers suggest that the mono-unsaturated fats in this fruit, especially, oleic acid, may help lower cholesterol levels. Apart from lowering the levels of bad cholesterol, avocado is said to reduce triglyceride levels in blood.
Being rich in potassium, avocados can provide you with adequate amounts of this mineral, which regulates blood pressure. This may prove beneficial for preventing circulatory diseases like, heart diseases, stroke and hypertension.
According to some recent researches, oleic acid in these fruits may prevent certain types of cancer like prostate cancer. It has been suggested that the nutrients in this fruit with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are responsible for this activity. Apart from preventing healthy cells from turning malignant, these nutrients may also cause death of cancer cells.
Avocado may prove highly useful, when it comes to carotenoids, which need fat for their absorption into the bloodstream. They contain mono-unsaturated fats, which help carotenoids to get absorbed easily. Studies show that carotenoids are absorbed better, in people, who consume avocado. This fruit can be included in salads containing other vegetables, so that the carotenoids in the ingredients are absorbed better by the body.
Avocados contain carotenoid lutein in considerable amounts, and lutein is good to prevent eye problems like, macular degeneration and cataract. Lutein is also said to have a vital role in preventing heart diseases.
Avocados contain glutathione, which is an antioxidant that is said to prevent aging and boost the immune system. Along with vitamin E, glutathione in this fruit, is believed to have fat-burning properties too.
Avocado has anti-inflammatory properties and this may prevent inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Intake of this fruit is also said to be useful for controlling bad breath. This fruit may also help you maintain blood sugar levels. With its high levels of soluble fiber, avocado is said to improve the condition of those with insulin resistance. It is claimed that use of avocado may sometimes help reverse this medical condition.
Apart from the above said health benefits, there are various other uses of this fruit. Avocado oil is used in various skin and hair care products. This oil is also used for treating certain skin conditions like psoriasis.
Avocado can also boost the immune system and is used as a nourishing food for babies, who begin with solid foods. It is an important ingredient in some weight loss diet plans, as the mono-unsaturated fats in this fruit can speed up metabolism and can reduce food consumption.
Avocados are said to have a soothing effect on the inflamed mucous membranes of the stomach and small intestine.
Now that you know more about the health benefits of avocado, you may include the fruit in your diet. It can be used in various food recipes like soups and salads. You can also plan the diet as per the instructions of your dietitian. So, include this fruit in your diet and reap its health benefits.