Avocados provide the healthy kind of fat that your body needs. Like olive oil, avocadoes boost levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol). HDL cholesterol can help protect against the damage caused by free radicals. This type of cholesterol also helps regulate triglyceride levels, preventing diabetes. A study published early this year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that a vegetarian diet, which includes HDL fats, can reduce levels of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) as effectively as statin drugs.
Avocados are an excellent source of carotenoids, an antioxidant usually known to be found in red/orange vegetables and shown to assist eye health. Avocados contain a diverse range of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lutein as well as the less common ones neoxanthin, zeaxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, neochrome, beta-cryptoxanthin and violaxanthin. When you consume foods rich in carotenoids you are delivering a quality Vitamin A to your body which is known to strongly protect eye health. Carotenoids have also been shown to enhance the immune system and promote healthy function of the reproductive system.
The combined effect of the deluxe package of nutrients contained in avocadoes offers powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. Avocadoes’ unique combination of Vitamins C and E, carotenoids, selenium, zinc, phyto-sterols and omega-3 fatty acids helps guard against inflammation. This means avocadoes can help prevent against both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
The fat content, which causes some uninformed health “experts” to deem avocadoes as unhealthy, actually provides protection against heart diseases. Studies have shown that oleic acid improves cardiovascular health. Oleic acid is the primary fatty acid in avocadoes. Many people now take supplements in order to consume more omega-3 fatty acids to lower their risk of heart disease. Avocadoes are rich in omega-3, delivering 160 milligrams per cup of alpha-linolenic acid.
Choosing and eating
To get the most nutritional value from avocadoes, avoid those which have become over-ripe. You can identify these at the store because they will have dents and feel overly soft when you hold them. A ripe avocado should have no dents in its skin and will feel slightly soft when squeezed. You can also buy unripe avocadoes, which feel very hard when gripped, and allow them to ripen at home. To enhance the ripening process leave on the bench near some bananas as the gas released from the bananas promotes ripening. The greener portion of the avocado closest to the skin is the most dense in nutrients, so be sure to scrape the skin clean before discarding it.