The nutrient-packed avocado is often dismissed for its high fat content. Avocados do contain fat, but it is mostly the monounsaturated kind—which studies show may increase HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and generally improve heart health. In addition, avocados contain many vitamins and minerals, and they’re cholesterol-free.
The avocado is believed to have originated in Mexico and Central America thousands of years ago. Its exact ancestry is unknown, but anthropologists have confirmed that both the Incas and Aztecs cultivated and ate the fruit.
Today, hundreds of varieties of avocado exist. Avocados range in size from a few ounces to several pounds, and have skins which can be anywhere from bright green to black in color, and smooth to pebbly in texture. In the US, avocados are grown in California, Florida, and Hawaii. Each variety of avocado has its own distinct flavor.
No matter how you slice it, the avocado has plenty of health benefits. Here’s a closer look at some of the nutrients found in avocados.
Note that avocados also contain:
Although they taste great and are good for you, avocados should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Because of the fat content, avocados are relatively high in calories. A 3.5 ounce serving has about 177 calories and 0.6 ounces of fat.
Selection— When purchasing avocados, look for fruits that are firm, heavy for their size, and bruise-free.
Preparation— Test for ripeness with a gentle squeeze. The fruit is ripe when it yields to gentle pressure but doesn't remain dented. A firm avocado will ripen in a few days on a kitchen counter. To shorten the ripening time, put the avocado in a paper bag. Wash it before you eat it.
To cut an avocado, slice it lengthwise around the seed and rotate the halves to separate them. Lift the seed out with a spoon and then peel the fruit with a knife or your fingers. Or, you can just scoop the fruit out with a spoon and eat it that way.
Storage— Cut avocados will turn brown. To minimize this, squeeze lemon or lime juice on the exposed area. When you next eat the avocado, simply scrape off the brown parts. Store the fruit in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in plastic food storage containers or covered in plastic wrap.
Uses— The avocado is not used simply to make guacamole—though most would agree that it is delicious that way. Avocados can be a healthy substitute for butter or cream cheese on bread, toast, bagels or English muffins and for other commonly used ingredients such as sour cream. Avocados also go well in sushi rolls, soups, salads, and as a side dish.
California Avocado Commission
US Food and Drug Administration
Dietitians of Canada
Avocado growing in the Florida home landscape. University of Florida website. Available at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG213. Accessed February 17, 2014.
Chia C, Yokoyama K. Avocado: general crop information. University of Hawaii website. Available at: http://www.extento.hawaii.edu/Kbase/Crop/crops/i_avocad.htm. Accessed February 17, 2014.
The incredible edible avocado. National Health Association and the American Natural Hygiene Societ website. Available at: http://healthscience.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=99:the-incredible-edible-avocado&catid=26:raw-foods&Itemid=79. Published September 17, 2002. Accessed February 18, 2014.
Lopez LR, Frati AC, Hernandez BC, et al. Monounsaturated fatty acid (avocado) rich diet for mild hypercholesterolemia. Arch Med Res. 1996;27(4):519-23.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Nutrient Data Laboratory web site. Available at: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/. Accessed February 18, 2014.
Last reviewed March 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.