Are avocados healthy? The short answer is: yes, definitely. Avocados are a unique product. They contain almost the full range of vitamins and minerals and are also rich in fibre and good fats. This article is all about the nutritional profile of avocados.
Firstly, a few words about where avocados come from.
Avocados (Lat. Persea Americana), also known as the “alligator pear” are originally from Mexico, where they were already grown in the 5th century BC. In 1871 avocado trees from Mexico were first imported to ‘Santa Barbara, California in the United States. There, a mass cultivation of avocados begun. Around 1950 there were more than 25 varieties of avocado known in California, the Fuerte sort made up about two-thirds of commercial production. In the 1970s a huge expansion of industrial production of avocados took place, and Fuerte was increasingly replaced by the Hass variety. Hass is still the most sold type of avocado in the world.
Are avocados sustainable?
Avocados follow a relatively straight path from the farm to the market: they require no fertilizers, preservatives or flavour enhancers. The skin of avocados is an excellent natural protective barrier. It basically eliminates the need for packaging and protects the fruit from diseases and insects. Thus, in theory, this makes it easy to grow avocados in an ecological fashion. Unfortunately, this does not always seem to be the case. If you search online for information on the sustainability of avocados, you will find lots of accusatory articles mentioning unfair working conditions and drug cartels’ involvement with the avocado trade (predominantly, in Mexico, which is the biggest producer of avocados). So how can you deal with that as a consumer? Choose fair-trade avocados and/or avocados that do not come from afar. This is the most effective, low-effort way.
On average, a Hass avocado contains about 135 g of edible flesh with a pleasant, creamy and smooth texture covered in a thick dark green or purple-black bumpy skin.
A medium avocado (about 200 grams with the pit) contains:
- 320 calories
- 14 grams of fibre (half of the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, for women and one third for men)
- 45 mcg of vitamin K (55% RDA)
- 160 mg of folic acid (40% RDA)
- 20 mg of vitamin C (33% RDA)
- 2.8 mg vitamin B5 (28% RDA)
- 0.5 mg vitamin B6 (26% RDA)
- 4 mg of vitamin E (20% RDA)
- 975 mg of potassium (28% DV)
- 0.4 mg of copper (19% RDA)
- 60 mg of magnesium (15% RDA)
- 0.3 mg of manganese (14% RDA)
- 1.4 mg of zinc (10% RDA)
In addition, avocados also contain (in much smaller quantities): vitamin B1, B2, B3, iron and phosphorus.
Avocados contain a small amount of vitamin A. However, they enhance the absorption of provitamin A (carotenoids) from other products. Eating foods rich in carotenoids (for instance carrots and tomatoes) together with avocados increases carotenoid absorption from these foods. This happens due to the fats that avocados contain. Vitamin A and carotenoids are namely fat-soluble, so they will only be absorbed properly in the presence of fat. Combining avocados with carrots and tomatoes is definitely a great nutrition strategy.
One avocado contains approximately 3.4 grams of oleic acid of the Omega-6 family. This fatty acid lowers the so-called “bad” cholesterol or LDL in the blood and thereby contributes to the health of the heart. For reference, the RDA of omega-6 fatty acids is 6 grams for men and 4 grams for women. Avocados also contain other microelements which indirectly affect the health of the heart. This particularly concerns vitamin E and lutein (both antioxidants needed to combat oxidative stress in cells); folic acid (lowers the dangerous levels of homocysteine in the blood), and potassium (reduces the blood pressure).
How to eat avocados
I cannot really think of foods that do NOT go well with avocados. They go pretty well with all vegetables, grains and even sweet things (shakes, cakes).
Avocado toast, largely unknown to European populations just two decades ago, is now almost a cliché item on the menu of every café.
You can add avocado to sandwiches, salads, spring-rolls and wraps, use it as a topping for chili or make it into guacamole.
Did you know? If you have an avocado which is a long way from being ripe, and you would like to eat it, say tomorrow, there is a trick you can try. Place the avocado with an apple in a paper bag, make sure it is closed and put away in a dark place for the night. Let me know if the trick works!