By Doc Willie Ong
Avocados are not just delicious; they’re full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Scientific studies have linked them to a multitude of health benefits. Doctors recommend a serving of half an avocado in place of unhealthy fats. Although some may refer to them as vegetables or fruits, avocados are actually a type of berry.
Avocados are healthy for the heart
Cholesterol is a mixture of lipid and protein. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is a lipid just like fat. But unlike fat, LDL can’t be burned for energy or removed by exercising and sweating. LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol linked to atherosclerosis or plaque accumulation along the walls of arteries. The body transforms calories it doesn’t immediately need into a kind of fat called triglycerides which is present in our blood.
High levels of bad LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and other substances can combine together and form plaque deposits that stick to the walls of blood vessels in the heart. This plaque can slow or even stop the flow of blood. This results in coronary artery disease – the most common heart disease in the United States. According to research, a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) can lower LDL cholesterol build-up in the artery. 71% of the fats in avocados are monounsaturated fatty acids.
Moreover, an avocado’s fiber, potassium, and magnesium decrease blood pressure and cholesterol. Also, beta-sitosterol in avocados helps in preventing cholesterol from entering the body. Furthermore, avocados can even increase a person’s good high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or HDL cholesterol. This good cholesterol removes the bad LDL cholesterol from the walls of our blood vessels and brings it to the liver to be removed by the body.
A research study in Mexico introduced a high avocado diet to a group of people with normal cholesterol levels and also to a group with high cholesterol. After a week, the group of healthy people had their total cholesterol levels lowered by 16%. On the other hand, the group with high cholesterol levels had their total blood lipids reduced by 17%, bad LDL cholesterol by 22%, and triglycerides by 22%. Furthermore, levels of good HDL cholesterol rose by 11%.
Avocados lower blood pressure
Sodium in the food we eat leads to high blood pressure. This can damage arteries in the heart by making them less elastic. Additionally, high blood causes the left ventricle of the heart to become thicker. This leads to an increased risk of heart attack and sudden heart failure.
According to the American Heart Association, potassium allows sodium to leave the body through urine. This results in lower blood pressure. As it turns out, avocados are rich in potassium. 100 grams of avocado has 485 milligrams of potassium as compared to 100 grams of banana which contains only 358 milligrams of potassium.
Avocados take care of pregnant women and their babies
Avocados have the natural form of vitamin B9 called folate. This vitamin helps in the creation of our DNA. This is the molecule in our cells containing genetic information for the function and development of organisms. DNA contains instructions for all the thousands of proteins a cell will ever produce. Folate also aids in making RNA which has the role of copying and delivering instructions from the DNA to the cell’s cytoplasm where proteins are manufactured.
During pregnancy, folate assists in the formation of the baby’s nervous system. This makes folate vital for brain function and healthy pregnancies. According to the Center for Disease Control, folate prevents birth defects, especially abnormalities in a baby’s brain and spine which occur in the early weeks of pregnancy. Avocados provide vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and other essential nutrients needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The fiber in avocados can prevent constipation in pregnant women.
An avocado gives 27% of the daily recommended folate intake. In the United States, 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned. As such, the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements advises women old enough to bear children to have 400 micrograms of folate a day. Pregnant women are advised to raise folate intake to 600 micrograms.
Avocados are better for our brain
Avocados are rich in vitamin E which protects against Alzheimer’s disease. It can slow and even prevent the decline of the mind’s cognitive abilities including thinking and memory. Moreover, vitamin E in avocados has antioxidant properties which help prevent cell damage from pollution and radiation from our sun.
The folate in avocados helps in forming neurotransmitters that carry chemical signals from neurons or nerve cells towards other cells. Folate likewise prevents the increase of homocysteine, a substance that interferes with circulation and the delivery of nutrients to our brain. The build-up of homocysteine is likewise linked to depression and cognitive dysfunction
Avocados are excellent for the eyes
Age-related macular degeneration is a type of eye disease that blurs central vision. As we grow older, the macula becomes damaged. The macula is part of our retina, a light-sensitive tissue behind our eyes. It controls the sharp, central, straight-ahead vision. People with AMD find it harder to read, drive, work with things close-up, and also distinguish the faces of people.
Avocados are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two chemicals in our eye tissue. These chemicals absorb harmful light waves like UV light that harm our eyes. They are also rich in antioxidants which prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Avocados are perfect for our prostate
Avocados have a plant sterol called beta-sitosterol. It has more than four times the beta-sitosterol of oranges. Beta-sitosterol can help reduce swelling in an enlarged prostate, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) which can block the passage of urine. Studies of 519 men with BPH discovered that beta-sitosterol improved urinary symptoms by reducing inflammation in the prostate. This chemical is likewise linked to lowering the risk of prostate cancer.
Avocados promote good digestion and prevent constipation
The daily recommended fiber intake for men is 30-38 grams. For women, it’s 20-25 grams. An avocado contains 11-17 grams of fiber. A diet high in fiber helps ease constipation, maintains the overall health of the digestive tract, and lowers the risk of colon cancer.
Fiber makes stool weigh heavier, increases its size, and makes it softer. It’s good at absorbing water and also allows for the intestines to take in more water. All of this makes bowel movement easier and helps diminish constipation.
Moreso, fiber promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. In a study involving 163 adults, those who ate avocados daily for 12 weeks in succession had more good bacteria like Alistipes, Faecalibacterium, and Lachnospira.
All of these make short-chain fatty acids which serve as food for colon cells and protect against inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. Lastly, huge amounts of bile acid can cause the inflammation of our intestines and the growth of microbes which are linked to cancer of the colon. The same study revealed that those who ate avocados daily had lower amounts of fecal bile acid.
Avocados are wonderful for weight-loss
The healthy fats in avocados take longer for the body to digest. Eating avocados regulates appetite by making a person feel full and satisfied. Furthermore, nutrient-rich avocados have more than 20 vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. This is vital for people trying to cut calories while keeping up with all of the body’s nutritional needs.
Avocados combat cancer
The fats in avocados are 71% monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Studies show that diets rich in monounsaturated fatty acids protect against colon, cervical, pancreatic, prostate, and stomach cancer. Moreover, the phytochemicals present in avocados stop the growth of cancer cells. In some cases, it causes the death of cancer cells.
A study in 2009 found that glutathione avocados can lower the risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer. Also in 2009, a study found that carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin in avocados reduce the risk of breast cancer. Just last 2021, a study found that avocados can potentially help in the treatment of leukemia.
In cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the deadliest form of leukemia, patients were found to have greater amounts of an enzyme called VLCAD. This enzyme was found to be responsible for assisting the growth of leukemia cancer cells. Avocatin B, a fat molecule found solely in avocados was discovered to be the best at stopping the VLCAD enzyme.
Avocados benefit our bones
An avocado contains 50% of our daily vitamin K intake. Next to calcium and vitamin D, vitamin K is vital for healthy bones. This vitamin increases the bones’ calcium absorption and reduces calcium excretion. The primary carotenoids in avocados are lutein and zeaxanthin. These are associated with lessening damage to our joints and cartilage which prevents osteoarthritis (OA).
Avocados shield our skin from harm
Lutein and zeaxanthin in avocados likewise protect our skin from damage by UV light and visible radiation from the sun. Preclinical studies show that avocados not only reduce UV damage to the skin but also promote the healing of wounds.