Nutrition. Good things come in small packages.
Avocados are such a treasure trove of nutrients. Below are just some of the impressive credentials Australian Avocados have on their resume;
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Avocados are a wonderful fruit containing a range of vital nutrients needed for a healthy body. Just like other fruits avocados are high in water (75%) but remain nutrient dense. They are rich in fibre and healthy fats while naturally low in sugar and sodium. To name a few nutrients half an avocado can give the average adult:
- 5g of fibre (17% of adult fibre needs)
- 36% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for folate
- 31% of RDI for vitamin K
- 24% of RDI for vitamin E
- 15% of RDI for potassium
Rich in Vitamin C
Avocados are a rich source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an amazing antioxidant contributing to cell protection from free radical damage.1 Vitamin C is also needed for your skin, helping to build collagen which keeps your skin strong and elastic.2 If you are vegetarian then vitamin C is needed to absorb iron from plant foods.1 Another reason to add half an avocado to your dark salad greens. Half an avocado contains 13mg of vitamin C which is 32% of an adult’s RDI.
Important during pregnancy for the developing foetus
Women of child bearing age need to consume at least 400 micrograms of folate per day at least the month before and three months after conception. A diet rich in folate including avocado may reduce the risk of foetal neural tube defects. Folate helps cells divide and is necessary for blood formation. Half an avocado contains 144 micrograms of folate 36% of the RDI for folate.
Great for maintaining a healthy appetite
The body needs fats as they are vital for good health. The low fat mantra of the 80s and 90s is a thing of the past and everyone is returning to healthy plant sources of fats such as avocado. Wherever you find fat - all three types of fat will be present: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated but just in different amounts. In plant foods such as avocado the majority of fat is the healthy kind: 60% monounsaturated fat and 12% polyunsaturated fat. Half an avocado contains 18g of the beneficial monounsaturated fat.
Healthy fats help carry fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin E and K and colourful carotenoid pigments such as beta carotene. But for those watching their waist healthy fats also help released hormones in the intestine which may signal fullness, controlling appetite.3 This does mean you can follow a high fat diet4 but it does mean you can enjoy avocado in place of other fats. For instance the Australian Government Swap it Don’t Stop it campaign suggests swapping butter for avocado5 next time you’re spreading your bread.
Good source of fibre
Avocados are a good source of dietary fibre. Fibre plays a vital role in maintaining good health and there are two types: soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre can help reduce cholesterol re-absorption in the intestine,199 while insoluble fibre helps maintain bowel function.200 Eating ½ an avocado will give you around 5g of dietary fibre which is 17% of adult fibre needs, and around 2g of soluble fibre.
Strong antioxidant capacity
Mother nature gave avocados a strong antioxidant capacity to help prevent the healthy fats in avocados going rancid too quickly. Avocados contain not only antioxidant vitamins and minerals but also other natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds called phenolics. Antioxidant capacity can be measured using ORAC and avocado has a capacity of 1922 umol TE/100g.201 ½ an avocado contains the following antioxidant nutrients:
- 13mg of vitamin C (29% of an adult’s RDI)
- 2.3mg of vitamin E (24% of an adult’s RDI)
- 0.32mg of copper (18% of an adult’s RDI)
- 170 mg GAE of total phenolic antioxidants
Contains vitamin E
Eating ½ an avocado gives you 2.3mg of Vitamin E and the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for an adult is 10mg so avocados provide 24% of an adult’s RDI of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant vitamin that contributes to cell protection from free radical damage. It seems taking vitamin E in a natural form may be better than taking it as a supplement. Vitamin E supplements have been linked to increase in premature death.202
May help protect your eyes
Like other fruits and vegetables avocados contain a range of colourful carotenoid pigments that give avocado that gorgeous green colour.203 These pigments include:
- Beta carotene – orange colours
- Lutein/zeaxanthin – yellow colours
- Chlorophyll a and b – green colours
- Plus many others
A study has found that adding avocado to salads or salsa can increase the absorption of these carotenoids from other colourful vegetables.204 Carotenoids are fat soluble and may dissolve in the fat of the avocado during absorption into the body. Carotenoids are natural antioxidants that protect plants from the effects of the sun’s harmful rays. Similarly they may play a function protecting our eyes. A study in women found that those with the highest dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin had greater amounts of pigments in the macula – the part of the eye responsible for central vision that can deteriorate with age. While the researchers found no link with the amount of fruits and vegetable eaten and this effect it is an interesting area of study where more research is needed.205 There may even be a role of these carotenoids in the development of vision.206 In the mean time enjoying avocado with your salads or guacamole and nachos and using avocado as a first food for baby will do no harm and may even help.