One of these a day keeps all kinds of health woes away
Avocado, a fruit long shunned because of its fat content, is getting an image makeover. Yes, this rich, creamy treat contains fat— but it’s the good kind, which keeps inflammation under control and helps lower LDL cholesterol levels. Because they’re high in fiber, avocados help a person feel satiated, and therefore eat less. An avocado is also packed with more than 25 essential nutrients, making its calories (about 160 for a half avocado) far from empty.
So go ahead—scoop up guacamole (in moderation, of course); add diced avocado to your salad or omelet; use avocado oil in cooking or salad dressing; replace cheese in your sandwich with a slice of avocado; or simply spread the creamy fruit over toast, as European sailors are said to have done. Here are a few health benefits an avocado can bestow:
1. Lowers blood pressure. Avocados are rich in potassium—which helps to control blood pressure levels by lessening the effects of sodium—and in magnesium, which aids in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiac rhythms.
2. Helps prevent birth defects. Avocados contain more folate (also known as folic acid) than any other fruit. As many moms and moms-to-be know, folic acid is a key ingredient in preventing numerous birth defects, especially neural tube defects and spina bifida.
3. Promotes eye health. Avocados also have high levels of carotenoid lutein, which has been shown to help protect eyes against macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, and age-related cataracts.
4. Protects skin against sun damage. Avocados contain a rare ingredient called polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols. In a study conducted in 2011 by an Israeli dermatological team, this property was found to have the ability to reverse signs of ultraviolet damage and inflammation.
5. Boosts the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Avocados contain oleic acid, which increases absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. In a 2004 study, Stephen Schwartz, Ph.D., a professor of food science at Ohio State University, found that pairing avocado with salsa or a salad significantly increased the test subjects’ absorption of lycopene, beta carotene and alpha carotene.
6. Regulates blood-sugar levels. Avocado’s glycemic index (a rating based on how much a food raises blood glucose) is quite low—under 15 on a scale from 1 to 100. Research also suggests that the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in avocados may actually reverse insulin resistance. Finally, the soluble fiber in avocados helps stabilize blood sugar. —Heather Halpern-Pedalino