When it comes to the avocado, popular foods like guacamole and avocado burgers likely spring to mind. But the avocado is much more than a topping or an ingredient in a delicious chip dip.
Before we delve into all things avocado, let’s answer a pressing question: is avocado a fruit or vegetable?
The avocado is a fruit grown from the avocado tree that is loaded with nutrition and health benefits. One of the great things about avocados is that they are versatile and can be added to multiple recipes and dishes to reap the nutritional benefits. They can be eaten raw, cooked, or even pressed to produce avocado oil. Avocado oil is also versatile, with the same nutritional benefits as avocados and a variety of uses, from cooking oil to salsa and skin and hair treatments.
Health Benefits of Avocados
Nutritious and delicious, avocados as part of a healthy diet may result in several health benefits including:
- Cardiovascular health
- Weight management
- Reducing inflammation
- Anti-cancer and anti-tumor effects
- Eye health
- Cognitive and memory health
- Easing symptoms of arthritis
- Lowering cholesterol
The avocado fruit has become a popular superfood due to its high nutritional content. Avocados are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are essential for a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Here are the most celebrated avocado nutrition facts according to Medical News Today:
- B6: helps turn food into energy, regulates mood, and promotes brain function.
- B9 (folate): helps the body maintain and produce cells, repairs DNA, and helps promote prenatal health in unborn babies and pregnant women.
- Vitamin K: regulates blood clotting, promotes healing of bruises and bone fractures, distributes calcium throughout the body, and promotes bone health.
- Vitamin E: an antioxidant that protects the body from dangerous, potentially cancer-causing cells called free radicals.
- Vitamin C: a powerful antioxidant that supports immune system health.
- Potassium: helps the body regulate fluids, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.
- Copper: maintains the immune system and helps the body absorb iron.
Other Key Ingredients:
- Minimal sugar: Unlike some fruits, such as overripe bananas, avocados have a low sugar content. This means they do not cause dangerous spikes in blood sugar, which makes them a safer choice for diabetics.
- Fiber: Avocados are high in fiber, which causes a feeling of fullness. This helps with weight control by preventing overeating and snacking in-between meals. Diets rich in fiber have also been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and some gastrointestinal diseases.
- Fatty acids: Avocados are loaded with fatty acids, with the main one being oleic acid. Oleic acid has been shown to play a role in reducing inflammation, which in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Phytochemicals: Avocados contain phytochemicals that provide numerous health benefits to the body. Phytochemicals boost the immune system and contribute to cardiovascular health. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, phytochemicals also help the body fight and eliminate cancer cells.
Fat-Soluble Nutrients vs. Water-Soluble Nutrients
When it comes to vitamins, there are two different types: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are either absorbed and used by the body, or they are excreted in urine. Water-soluble vitamins include B vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, get stored in the body. If too much of a vitamin is stored over time, it can lead to hypervitaminosis, a potentially toxic state of too much vitamin buildup in the body. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Avocados are considered a healthy fatty food because their high content of fatty acids helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Avocado or avocado oil are rich in fatty acids and carotenoids. Carotenoids are a type of phytochemical which, when paired with nutrient-rich foods, helps the body absorb and utilize the vitamins rather than storing them. For example, a study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that adding avocado or avocado oil to salad and salsa increased the body’s absorption of the antioxidants found in salad and salsa. Avocados provide tons of nutrients of their own, but they also help the body absorb those nutrients in addition to nutrients from other foods eaten with avocado or avocado oil.
How to Tell If an Avocado Is Ripe
Avocados are pretty firm fruits, but once they are ripened, they should give a little when gently squeezed. If they stay firm, they are not yet ripe. If they squish in too much, then they are overripe. A just ripe avocado will yield a little to pressure but still retain a general firmness.
When testing an avocado’s ripeness, gently squeeze the avocado in the palm of the hand rather than using your fingertips. Fingertip squeezing can bruise the avocado. Another way to check an avocado’s ripeness is to remove the stem and look at the color left on the avocado. If the stem leaves behind a bright green circle, the avocado is not yet ripe. If it leaves behind a dark brown or black circle, it is overripe. A just ripe avocado fruit will reveal a yellow/light brownish circle where the stem was. The avocado will be ripe and ready to offer its full nutritional value.
Avocado oil, or avo oil, is oil pressed from the pulp of an avocado. Avocado oil is loaded with the same vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants as avocados. Avocado oil has become a popular cooking oil alternative to olive oil. When ingested, avocado oil delivers the same health benefits as eating an avocado, such as supporting cardiovascular health, lowering cholesterol, promoting eye health, and relieving symptoms of arthritis. Avocado oil can be purchased at most grocery stores and online.
Avocado Oil Uses
Here are some easy ways to incorporate avocado oil into a regular diet routine:
- Add it to a veggie shake or fruit smoothie (try our Shake-the-Fat Smoothie!)
- Use it to top off a salad
- Use it when baking
- Use it as a cooking oil
- Add it to salsa and other dips
Avocado oil may also be used topically and applied to skin and hair. When applied to the scalp, avocado oil may naturally eliminate dandruff. It may also serve as a hair protectant against sun damage, wind, chlorine, damaging hair products, and heat damage from hair dryers and hair straighteners. Avocado oil can be used to moisturize dry skin and soothe skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Since avocados produce an anti-inflammatory effect, avocado oil may also be used to treat inflammation and redness of the skin from conditions such as acne and rosacea.