Avocado or Persea americana is a commercially valuable and popular fruit that is cultivated in the tropical and Mediterranean regions of the world. Recently, it has gained even more popularity among people, due to the numerous scientific researches that have proven some of the beneficial effects of this wonderful fruit on human health. These benefits include lowering blood cholesterol level, aiding digestion, managing diabetes, improving circulation, strengthening the nervous system, improving kidney health, and fighting arthritis.
Botanical name: Persea americana.
Other names: Alligator pear, Freed, Zuttano, Palto, Abokado, Aguacate.
Avocado is the fruit of the avocado tree, Persea americana, an evergreen tree of the botanical family Lauraceae, which usually reaches a height of about 20 meters. Many confuse avocado fruit for a drupe, but it’s actually a berry, since its hard to notice endocarp covers the seed.
- Generally, avocados are served raw, although some particular varieties can be cooked for a short period of time without becoming bitter.
- Also, avocados can be used as ingredients in different kinds of dishes, both savory and sweet.
- Most vegetarians use avocado as a substitute for meat in their cuisines, due to its high fat content.
- In many countries, avocados are used to make milkshakes, drinks, desserts, and sometimes ice cream toppings.
- In terms of medicinal uses, avocados do have a long history of use in herbal medicine. Almost all of its tree parts are used, including the bark, fruit, leaves, oil, and seeds.
- Its leaves are made into a tea to treat coughs, gout, diarrhea, flatulence, and bloating. Herbal avocado teas are used to fight menstrual pain.
- The fruit is used to increase sexual desire
- Avocado oil is used to soothe the skin and heal its infections. It is also used to fight psoriasis, gum infections, and osteoarthritis.
- The avocado plant has a lot of herbal remedies and applications. However, not all of these uses have scientific explanations to back them up.
- Fats – Avocado is one of the richest fruit in fats, up to 14% or more of its total content, depending on the variety. The fats in avocado are mainly unsaturated and of high biological value. And as the case with all plant-based foods, avocado contains no cholesterol.
The fats present in avocado can be classifies into:
- Phospholipids – These type of fats are those that contain phosphorus in their molecule. They benefit the body by performing vital functions in the nervous system.
- Glycerides – These are synthesized by the combination of one or more fatty acid molecules with glycerine molecule. When glycerine combine with one, two or three fatty acid molecule, the resultant mixture is referred to as monoglycerides, diglycerides, and triglycerides respectively. The most common fatty acid present is the Oleic acid, and the most common glyceride formed are triglycerides.
- Free fatty acids – These are the fatty acids present in avocado which are not in union with glycerine. They are said to be partly responsible for the typical aroma of the fruit.
- Water – Avocado is among the fruits with the lowest proportion of water. Only fruits like banana and olives can rival avocado when it comes to reduced water content. This shows that avocado is a highly concentrated fruit in terms of nutrients.
- Proteins – It is amazing that avocado is also among the richest fresh fruit in proteins. Their proteins contains all the essential amino acids, though not balanced. For the best of their proteins, it is advisable to combine them with vegetables during consumption.
- Vitamins – Avocado is the richest fresh fruit source of vitamin E, providing as much as 2.07 mg per 100 g serving of raw avocado. This important vitamin acts as a powerful antioxidant, and may help in preventing cancer. It also protects against cellular aging, and enhance reproductive functions. Another vitamin present in avocado in rich amounts is vitamin B6. Avocado, together with banana are the richest fresh fruit source for this vitamin. Other vitamins contained in reasonable quantities include the B group vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
- Minerals – Iron and potassium stand out among the minerals present in avocado. Others include magnesium, manganese, zinc and phosphorus. Interestingly, this wonderful fruit lacks sodium.
- Fiber – Avocado contains fiber in about 6% or more of its total content, depending on the variety. Amazingly again, avocado is the richest of any fresh fruit in fiber, but just after passion fruit.
7 Scientifically proven medicinal uses of avocado
- Lowers cholesterol level
- Fights iron-deficiency anemia
- Improves blood circulation
- Manages diabetes
- Fights nervous system disorders
- Aids digestion
- Fights arthritis
Several experiments conducted have proved the cholesterol lowering capacity of avocados. An experiment conducted by W. C. Grant in 1960, using 16 males, who were fed various amounts of avocados for several days, showed a significant decrease in their cholesterol level. There was no one among them that showed an increase in cholesterol level.
Avocados are hypolipidemic i.e they reduce the level of fat in the blood. It is actually very surprising to learn that avocados which are very rich in triglycerides lower the level of the same triglycerides in the blood. Numerous researches have shown them effective at lowering total cholesterol, LDL or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides level in the blood, while increasing the level of HDL or beneficial cholesterol at the same time (1).
By adding just a few avocados to your diet, you are not only lowering your cholesterol level, but reducing your risk for cardiovascular disorders such as heart attack. Remember, that heart disease is the major cause of death, worldwide.
The consumption of avocado may be beneficial for those suffering from iron-deficiency anemia. It is a fact that the non-heme iron present in plants-based foods is absorbed with a higher difficulty into the body than the heme iron present in animal based foods. But in this case, it is different with avocados. Its iron content is conveniently assimilated into the body than most other plant-based food due to their vitamin C content, which helps facilitate the process
Moreover, avocados also contain significant amounts of vitamin B6, which is involved in the production of blood cells. According to the American School of Natural Health, eating at least 3 avocados per week for a minimum of 2 weeks may address your iron imbalance.
Improves blood circulation
The hypolipidemic property of avocados in reducing blood cholesterol and triglycerides, coupled with its absence of sodium and high potassium content, makes them perfect for improving blood circulation and preventing circulatory disorders. Arteriosclerosis and hypertension are two of these disorders that can be easily prevented through the consumption of avocados.
Remember that cholesterol and sodium are probably the two most antagonistic substances to heart health, and both are absent in avocados. This makes them a wonderful addition to your heart-healthy diet.
Until these recent years, the consumption of avocados was discouraged for the diabetics. Analysts thought that the monosaccharide sugar it contains elevated glucose level in the blood when consumed in high amounts. However, more recent studies show that eating avocados is particularly beneficial to the diabetics, as it helps maintain an appropriate blood glucose level.
A research published in the Nutrition Journal, found the addition of half an avocado to the diet of healthy overweight people to not impact blood glucose level significantly (2). Moreover, avocados are a good source of fiber. A diet high in fiber has been found to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because fiber slows down the rate at which glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream. It has also been associated with improved insulin secretion.
Nervous system disorders
As we have seen above in the properties of avocados, they contain phospholipids which are very important to the metabolism of the nervous system. Moreover, these wonderful fruits contain vitamin B6 in rich amounts. This vitamin is among the most vital substances for the proper functioning of the basic unit of nervous system, the neuron.
Due to the above reasons, avocado consumption might be found beneficial for those suffering from nervousness, depression, and even irritability.
When it comes to the digestive system, there’s probably no food component that boosts its functioning like fiber. Thankfully, avocados are one of the richest fresh-fruit source of fiber. Fiber can improve the overall peristaltic action of the digestive system, which is important in moving food and stool through the gut – an action that can relieve constipation.
Fiber can also stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, which are necessary for breaking down food particles into smaller pieces. Moreover, fiber provides a friendly environment for the proliferation of beneficial gut flora (3).
If you want to boost your digestive function, you might want to consider adding a few avocados to your diet. A healthy digestive system not only makes you feel confident and comfortable, but reduces your chances of developing dangerous diseases like cancer.
As a disease characterized by pain in joints due to inflammation, arthritis may be relieved through the intake of avocados. This is due to avocados anti-inflammatory properties which have been attributed to its rich content of phytochemicals including flavonoids, carotenoids, fatty acids, and phytosterols.