Previously feared by heart disease prevention proponents, avocados are making a comeback in the health care circles. And for good reasons! Research shows that this delicious green fruit packs a serious amount of health power.
The Benefits of Eating Avocados
Avocados are known to be the fattiest fruit. This reputation earned them a spot on the “not-so-good for the heart” list. However, avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol and heart disease risk.
Avocados also contain several carotenoids such as zeaxantin, lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Additionally, researchers have recently discovered four more carotenoids in the California Hass Avocado (trans neoxanthin, neochrome, lutein-5, 6-epoxide and chrysanthemaxanthin). A diet rich in carotenoids has been associated with a stronger immune system and enhanced protection form free radicals- chemicals that cause cell damage and may lead to heart disease and cancer. Specifically, avocado intake has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate, breast and oral cancer.
Interestingly, the relatively high fat content of the avocado paired with its high carotenoids content makes it a particularly well suited food to fight disease. Indeed, research demonstrated that the natural fat content in avocados increases carotenoid absorption. Not only does it enhances the absorption of the carotenoids contained in the avocado itself, it also helps that of the carotenoids included in other foods consumed with the avocado. Study participants who ate a salad of lettuce, spinach and carrot containing about 2.5 teaspoon of avocado absorbed 8.3 times more alpha-carotene, 13.6 times more beta-carotene and 4.3 times more lutein, a phytonutrient linked to eye health.
In addition to being an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids and carotenoids, avocados also supply folate, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
Ways to Include More Avocados
The creamy rich texture of the avocado lends itself nicely to Mexican dishes, but its use should not be limited to tacos and burritos. Because they have a light, subtle flavor, avocados make a great enhancement to many dishes.
Consider the following ideas:
Try adding avocado as a garnish or accompaniment to seafood, poultry, sushi or egg dishes.
Slice it up and add to salads and sandwiches.
Mash them up and use as a spread on toast, bread, or bagel in place of mayonnaise or cream cheese.
Use avocado halves as edible bowls and stuff with your favorite filling, from salsa to chicken or seafood salad.