In recent years, avocado has become very popular with people interested in healthy eating and wellness, with some nutrition experts referring to it as a ‘superfood’. But are the alleged health benefits of eating avocado true?
While there are some avocado health benefits that are proven, there’s a lack of scientific evidence for some of the other claims you might have heard. Read on to discover more about the nutritional benefits of this green fruit, and how much you should be eating.
Nutritional benefits of avocado
Like all fruits and vegetables, avocados contain many nutrients that are important for your health, including fibre and a variety of vitamins and minerals. They’re a good source of vitamins C, K and E, folate and potassium, for example.
Two of the most important nutrients avocados provide are monounsaturated fats and vitamin B6, so let’s look at the benefits of these in a bit more detail.
Avocado is unusual in being a fruit that’s high in fat. But the good news is that most of this is what's called monounsaturated fat, which is also found in olive oil and some nuts.
Monounsaturated fats are known as ‘good fats’, along with polyunsaturated fats, which are found in vegetable oils, oily fish and seeds. In contrast, ‘bad fats’ are the saturated fats, found in dairy products such as butter and meat, and trans fats, found in processed foods such as biscuits and cakes, and ‘junk’ food.
Eating a lot of saturated fat is linked to having more ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol in your blood. This is what’s known as having high cholesterol, which increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke.
However, the monounsaturated fats found in avocados can help maintain your levels of ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol while also reducing levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol – so they may protect your heart.
Avocados are a good source of vitamin B6, which is also found in bananas, oily fish and some nuts.
Vitamin B6 is involved in several important functions in your body, including:
- making healthy red blood cells
- using and storing energy from protein and carbohydrates in food
- supporting your immune system – which stops you from getting ill – by making new immune cells and antibodies
What are the other possible health benefits of avocado?
Some research suggests that there’s a link between having high cholesterol and your risk of osteoarthritis. It’s unclear whether lowering your cholesterol – by eating more of the monounsaturated fats found in avocados, for example – can improve this joint condition, however.
Some of the nutrients found in avocado have been linked to lowering blood pressure and reducing eye problems such as cataracts – because of the potassium, vitamins and antioxidants it contains. But these claims are based on small studies, and aren’t proven.
What are the health benefits of avocado oil?
You may have heard about possible additional health benefits from avocado oil applied to skin (rather than eaten).
Areas of research are looking at if avocado oil may help with gum disease, the skin condition psoriasis and wound healing.
How much avocado should I eat?
For a healthy diet, it’s recommended that we eat at least 5 portions of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day. One portion weighs about 80g – so about half a typical avocado would count as 1 of your 5 daily portions.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), however, you shouldn’t get more than 30% of your daily energy intake from fat. This includes both ‘bad’ fats, and the ‘good’ fats you get from avocado, so it’s worth bearing this in mind.
That said, eating 1 portion of avocado a day shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you’re not getting too much fat from other foods and you’re eating a variety of other fruit and vegetables.
- avocado is a food that’s become increasingly popular as a ‘superfood’
- it has proven nutritional benefits, including being a good source of ‘healthy’ fats and vitamin B6
- avocado and avocado oil have been claimed to have other possible health benefits, but these are unproven
- half an avocado (80g) a day can be part of a healthy, balanced diet