The Amazing Avocado: Health Benefits You Need to Know

By , Lisa W., SparkPeople Contributor

It's no secret that delicious avocados can be the shining star in guacamole, salads, sandwiches and as the creamy center of your California roll. But did you know that avocados are packed with nutritients and make a great diet food, even with their high fat content?

Hass avocados are the most popular variety in the United States, but you can choose from dozens of types. Whatever variety you select, avocados should earn a spot on your plate for both their unparalleled taste and their various health benefits.

Vitamins, Minerals and More

Avocados provide vitamin b—noted for helping fight infections—along with vitamin c, vitamin e and a number of natural chemicals that may help ward off cancer, notes WebMD. In addition, a daily serving of avocado will deliver nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, including lutein, folate, vitamin k, magnesium, iron and phosphorus

Avocados also are high in fiber, which can aid digestion and contribute to feelings of fullness. They contain even more potassium per gram than bananas, plus beta-carotene and lycopene, which are vital antioxidants.

How Can Avocados Benefit Your Health?

Avocados can serve as a significant source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol and the risk for heart disease. In addition, avocados may contribute to health benefits including:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Controlling blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Reducing the chances of cataracts and macular degeneration
  • Preventing birth defects such as spina bifida and neural tube defects
  • Reducing the risk of certain cancers, including those of the prostate, mouth and skin
  • Improving good digestion and regular bowel movements
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Keeping skin glowing and looking healthy
  • Reducing the risk of depression
  • Strengthening bones and reducing the risk of fractures

In a nutshell, eating avocados may help protect you from a variety of chronic diseases. High amounts of dietary fiber, such as those found in avocados, are associated with significantly reduced risk of developing stroke, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, coronary heart disease and some gastrointestinal illnesses.

The Perfect "Diet" Food

With their high fat content and relatively high calories—about 50 per ounce—avocados may not immediately spring to mind as a great food to eat when you’re dieting. But the truth is, avocados come with a number of perks that can boost your weight loss efforts.

In addition to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, the ample fiber found in avocados can improve insulin sensitivity and make you feel more full. Much of the fat in avocados is the monounsaturated variety, which can help lower cholesterol and boost your cardiac health. Avocados also include a higher ratio of protein than other fruits, at about four grams.

Avocados also are low in sugar, helping you avoid the ravenous hunger that can accompany blood sugar swings. One study found that people who added half a fresh avocado to their midday meal were less hungry over the next three hours.

Despite the healthy nutritional profile, the delicious taste of avocados makes them easy to overeat. If you eat too many, that high fat content can lead to weight gain. Over-consuming avocados can also result in nutritional deficiencies due to the fact that it is digested slowly and leaves you feeling full for longer than do many types of foods.

Storage and Preparation

Avocados require a little TLC and forethought to ensure that they’re perfectly ripe at the right time. Store your fruit at room temperature, and expect it to take four days or so to ripen. To speed the process, place avocados in a paper bag with a banana or apple. Once the skin gives with gentle pressure and appears dark purple or black, you can eat them right away or refrigerate for later.

Be sure to wash your avocados well before cutting into them so that your knife doesn’t pick up dirt on the outside of the fruit and transfer it to the pulp.

Versatile and with a great taste that everyone can enjoy, it's high time to consider serving avocados as a main attraction in your healthy diet.

See more: healthy food