Avocados are one of the most fashionable of the superfoods, with good reason. Originally native to Mexico and other parts of Central America they are now grown all over the world. The avocado is actually a large berry which contains a single seed and can also be known as an alligator pear.
So we all know avocados are delicious but what are the health benefits? Well to begin with they offer nearly 20 different vitamins and minerals in every serving, including B vitamins which help your body fight off diseases and infections. Avocados also contain the nutrients Lutein and Zeaxanthin which are essential for healthy eyes as they can dramatically reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration a particularly serious issue in the elderly.
The Nutritional Avocado
When it comes to nutrients it’s not always just the amount that matters it’s also how we absorb them. Some vitamins and even antioxidants like carotenoids are fat-soluble, which means they have to be combined with fat in order to be utilised. Recent studies have shown that adding avocado to a meal can increase the antioxidant absorption by 2.6 to 15 fold. So not only does it contain loads of nutrients it helps your body absorb the nutrients from other food sources.
Avocados contain relatively high level of fibre which can have important health benefits such as keeping the digestive system healthy and even help with weight loss. In one study people who added fresh avocado to their lunches were found to be much less interested in eating during the next three hours.
Avocado's and the Heart
Coronary heart disease is a huge problem in the UK and USA and one of the main causes is high cholesterol. Avocados are high-fat foods but don’t let that scare you as all fats are not equal. Avocados contain many health heart nutrients and monounsaturated fat which is good for you and can actually help lower cholesterol. They are also great sources of potassium which helps control blood pressure, another cause of heart disease, in fact they contain more potassium than bananas.
The monounsaturated fats in avocado also help improve your skin’s tone and appearance whilst helping maintain moisture in the epidermal layer of your skin. This results in the skin looking soft and glowing with health. If you suffer from acne or blackheads it may be worth increasing your avocado intake as the intake of these healthy fats also help regulate sebum (oil) production. Avocado benefits also include reducing the visible signs of ageing of the skin with its antioxidant carotenoids. Vitamin C helps maintain your skin's elastin and therefore firmness whilst Vitamin E helps protect your skin from sun damage or photoaging.
Long gone are the days when the only way we ate avocado was in guacamole. They are so easy to prepare and very versatile. Add them to salads, pastas or sandwiches they can also complement a range of meats and seafoods whilst also playing a key role in a vegetarian or vegan diet. So they are tasty, easy to eat and great for you which is why they are often thought of as the king of the superfoods.