Avocado: The Misunderstood Fruit
The Awesome AvocadoThe nutrient-packed avocado is often dismissed for its high fat content. Avocados do contain fat, but it is mostly the monounsaturated kind—which studies show may increase HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and generally improve heart health. In addition, avocados contain many vitamins and minerals, and they’re cholesterol-free.The avocado is believed to have originated in Mexico and Central America thousands of years ago. Its exact ancestry is unknown, but anthropologists have confirmed that both the Incas and Aztecs cultivated and ate the fruit.Today, hundreds of varieties of avocado exist. Avocados range in size from a few ounces to several pounds, and have skins which can be anywhere from bright green to black in color, and smooth to pebbly in texture. In the US, avocados are grown in California, Florida, and Hawaii. Each variety of avocado has its own distinct flavor.
Health BenefitsNo matter how you slice it, the avocado has plenty of health benefits. Here’s a closer look at some of the nutrients found in avocados.
- Monounsaturated fat—As mentioned, avocados are high in monounsaturated fat. Unlike other fats, this type of fat raises levels of good HDL-cholesterol and lowers harmful triglycerides without raising harmful LDL cholesterol levels.
- Fiber—Avocados are high in fiber, particularly soluble fiber, which promotes regularity, helps regulate the body's use of sugars, and lowers blood cholesterol levels.
- Vitamins—Avocados are a good source of many vitamins such as B vitamins and folic acid.
- Minerals— Gram for gram, avocados provide more potassium than bananas. Potassium is critical for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function. Avocados also provide a fair amount of magnesium, which your body needs to metabolize carbohydrates and fats.
- Lutein, a carotenoid, which is thought to help protect against eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Beta-sitosterol (a plant sterol), which is currently being studied for its ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.