Good News: Avocados Are Even Healthier Than You Thought
When it comes to health benefits, avocados are anything but basic.
We’ll take any excuse to eat avocados. They’re delicious on everything from salmon to sweet potatoes to sushi; their creamy texture makes them the ideal base for dips (guac!), and yup, we’ve heard avocados can be a tasty topping for toast.
Need more reasons to love everyone’s favorite OG superfruit? We’ve got plenty. Avocados are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients that help with cholesterol, bone density, skincare, and more. To break down the endless science-backed health benefits of avocados, we sat down with Christy Brissette, MS, RD, a registered dietician and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition.
Slice an avocado in half and put the narrow ends next to each other and you'll have a heart-shape. Just one way to help you remember that this special fruit is good for your heart! “Avocados are heart-healthy thanks to their good fats, fiber, and vitamin K,” Brissette says.
The American Heart Association recommends that most of the fat in your diet is unsaturated. Over 75 percent of the fat in avocados is unsaturated fat or "good fat,” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Good fats don't raise LDL cholesterol levels (the unhealthy type of cholesterol) which is helpful for a healthy heart. One-third of a medium avocado contains 5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat.
Avocados are also a good source of fiber (11 percent daily value or 3 grams for one-third of a medium avocado). Including fiber-rich vegetables and fruit may reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as type 2 diabetes and obesity. Type 2 diabetes and being overweight (or obese) are both risk factors for heart disease.
This healthy fruit is also a good source of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting.
A study in overweight adults found that replacing carbohydrate-rich foods at breakfast with an avocado led to more relaxed blood vessels and improvements in HDL (good cholesterol) levels and triglyceride lipoprotein levels compared to when the participants had a low-fat, high-carb meal with the same number of calories.
“Swapping out foods that contain saturated fat and swapping in avocado is a great way to get more heart-healthy fats,” Brissette says. “Some of my favorite swaps are using avocado as the fat in egg salad, creamy pasta sauce, as a spread for bread or instead of other fats and oils in baking.”
“Using avocados to replace other fats can be a part of the DASH eating plan, which may help lower blood pressure,” says Brissette.
Getting less sodium is one way to help lower blood pressure, but trying to get more potassium into your diet is another important part of the equation. Avocados contain 250 milligrams of potassium (6 percent daily value) for one-third of a medium avocado. Potassium is an electrolyte that can help lower blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium.
Whether you're trying to lose weight, keep it off, or make healthier choices, nutrient density can help guide your food choices. “Nutrient density means a food provides plenty of nutrition for fewer calories,” Brissette says. “Avocados check both boxes: a serving of avocado (one-third of a medium avocado) has 80 calories and nearly 20 vitamins and minerals and beneficial plant compounds.”
Avocados can help stave off hunger and make you feel more satisfied, thanks to their fat and fiber content. A serving of avocado contains 6 grams of healthy fat. “Fat helps you feel more satiated and satisfied which can help you better stick to your eating plan,” Brissette explains. Research suggests that diets that include healthy fats are easier to stick to than low-fat diets, and can lead to more successful weight loss.
Avocados are a good source of fiber, too, which provides bulk and can help you feel full more quickly and feel full longer. “This could lead to eating less while feeling more satisfied, which can help support your weight management efforts.”
Avocados are one of the only fruits that don't contain sugar. When eaten alone, they don't tend to significantly raise blood sugar much, so they aren't even assigned a glycemic index value (a measure of a food's effect on blood sugar levels). They're a good source of fiber, and eating a fiber-rich diet may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
A study based on national survey data found that Americans who eat avocados had a 50 percent lower odds ratio for metabolic syndrome compared to people who didn't eat avocados. Metabolic syndrome includes symptoms such as high blood sugar and more fat around the waist, and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (as well as heart disease and stroke).
Thanks to the good fat in avocados, this unique fruit can help your body absorb more fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. That makes fresh avocado a great addition to your sweet potatoes, eggs, and leafy greens.
Immune System Support
Avocados contain 6 percent daily value for vitamin E per serving. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that supports your immune system and helps protect your cells from free radical damage.
When you think of foods for eye health, you probably think of carrots. Time to add avocados to that list! “Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that may help support eye health as you get older. These carotenoids could help prevent macular degeneration, which is worsening eyesight due to aging,” explains Brissette. Per serving, avocados contain 136 micrograms of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Lutein is the main carotenoid in the brain. Brain levels of lutein are related to better cognitive performance in older adults. Research suggests that eating whole food sources of lutein, such as avocados, increases the amount of lutein in the blood more than taking lutein supplements.
In one study of adults ages 50 and older, eating one medium avocado a day for six months improved cognition—specifically, working memory and spatial planning—compared to the groups who ate a medium potato or a cup of chickpeas.
Avocados are a good source of vitamin K, a nutrient that supports healthy bones by helping maintain bone strength as you age.
Avocados are a healthy choice throughout your pregnancy, while you're breastfeeding, and beyond. The fiber and monounsaturated fats in avocados have been linked to better maternal health, birth outcomes, and breast milk quality.
A serving of avocado contains 6 grams of unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats support normal growth and development of the nervous system and brain for your baby.
“If you're pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, folate and folic acid are probably on your radar as a key nutrient to get more of. It's in your prenatal vitamin supplement, and you can get even more with healthy avocados,” says Brissette. “Avocados are a good source of folate, which is needed for brain function and to lower the risk of birth defects and premature birth.”