Avocados are a shining example of an ancient superfood. The avocado is thought to have been named by the Aztecs. Their word for testicle, “ahuacatl” is quite similar to the word “avocado” and it is believed that the shape of the fruit was responsible for the connection.
Avocados caught their big break when they captured the attention of Spanish Conquistadores in the early 1500s. Explorer Martín Fernández de Enciso is credited with the first written record of the fruit. The avocados popularity spread from the colonies to Spain and Europe.
Here in the U.S., it has taken some time for the avocado to come to fame. Back in 1989, only 1 pound of avocados were consumed per capita. As of 2014, over 7 pounds were consumed per capita. Amazing!
So, what is responsible for the explosive popularity of the avocado? The fact that they are creamy, delicious, versatile… and incredibly good for you!
Dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Lori Zanini, emphasizes that avocados are one of the only fruits that contain monounsaturated fats; “Including healthy fats in our meals during our day is important in order to keep us full and satisfied after meals, since fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates or proteins.”
These monounsaturated fats have anti-inflammatory properties, as well. These fats, along with the Vitamin E in avocados, lower “bad” cholesterol and strengthen blood vessels and capillaries. All of these benefits combine to lower risk for heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamin E also strengthens the immune system, helping to keep you healthy. In individuals with diabetes, Vitamin E helps to protect against neuropathy (nerve damage caused by high blood sugar.) Vitamin E is essential for healthy hair and nails, as well.
Research has also shown that eating avocados can have a positive impact on insulin levels. Monounsaturated fats help boost insulin function, and aid in keeping blood sugar lower and more stable.
An avocado is a great source of fiber, which helps to regulate blood sugar, as well. Fiber also promotes a healthy gut and colon, helps to control appetite, and can be helpful in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Avocados are full of several more nutrients that our bodies need in order to function properly.
Good ole’ Vitamin C. Everyone is familiar with its immune system benefits, but it contributes to many other body operations, as well. Essential for cell growth and repair, it’s also an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage by free radicals.
Free radicals contribute to the development of many diseases, from heart disease to cancer. Avocados are also a good source of antioxidant carotenoids like beta-carotene, which also prevent free radical damage.
Nerve function, immune protection and blood cell health are all enhanced by the Vitamin B 6 in avocados. B 6 is also responsible for metabolizing fats and proteins into energy. Ever hear of someone getting a Vitamin B shot for energy? These shots usually contain a mixture of Vitamins B 6 and B12.
Folate promotes healthy cell and tissue development. Folate is responsible for developing the brain and spine of a fetus (that’s why it is recommended for pregnant women to take a pre-natal vitamin that includes plenty of Folate.)
Crucial to muscle and nerve functions, Magnesium also supports immune health, reinforces bone strength, and increases energy. For those who suffer from migraines, increasing Magnesium intake has been shown to help symptoms.
Potassium facilitates the development and function of nerves and muscles, and keeps the heart beating in normal rhythm, thereby regulating blood pressure. It also helps to maintain the fluid balance in the body, keeping organs hydrated.
Lutein, an antioxidant found in avocados, is essential for eye health. Lutein also protects against skin inflammation, and improves skin’s elasticity. Lutein does not occur naturally in the body, so it must be ingested via food or supplements.
For even more reasons to love the avocado, check out this article from Huffington Post 17 Reasons Avocados Are the Best Food in the Entire World.
As with most things in life, moderation is best. Because of their glorious fat content, avocados are high in calories. Nutritionist Zanini recommends enjoying your avocado in 1-ounce servings, “which is about 2 to 3 slices or about 1/4 of a small avocado.”
The avocado truly is a super-food! In guacamole, served with eggs, on a sandwich, or on a spoon, avocado is a delicious, nutritious food you can feel great about eating. Check out these recipes from Food Network and get cooking!