Avocados may have a variety of health benefits, including improving digestion, lowering the risk of depression, and protecting against cancer.
Also known as alligator pear or butter fruit, avocados are actually a type of berry. They grow in hot climates.
Avocados provide a substantial amount of monounsaturated fatty acids and are rich in many vitamins and minerals. Incorporating them into a varied and healthy diet can provide a number of benefits.
Below, we take an in-depth look at the composition of avocados, 12 ways they can benefit our health, and some risks to consider.
1. Rich in nutrients
Avocados are a source of vitamins C, E, K, and B6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. They also provide lutein, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Avocados contain high levels of healthy, beneficial fats, which can help a person feel fullerTrusted Source between meals. Eating fat slows the breakdown of carbohydrates, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
Roughly half an avocado, or 100 grams (g), containsTrusted Source:
- 160 calories
- 14.7 g of fat
- 8.5 g of carbohydrates
- 6.7 g of fiber
- less than 1 g of sugar
Fat is essential for every single cell in the body. Eating healthy fats supports skin health, enhances the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and even helps supportTrusted Source the immune system.
2. Healthy for the heart
In every 100 g of avocado there are 76 milligramsTrusted Source of a natural plant sterol called beta sitosterol. Regularly consuming beta sitosterol and other plant sterols may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, which are important for heart health.
3. Great for vision
Avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthinTrusted Source, two phytochemicals present in eye tissue. They provide antioxidant protection to help minimize damage, including from UV light.
The monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados also support the absorption of other beneficial fat-soluble antioxidants, such as beta carotene. As a result, adding avocados to the diet may help reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
4. May help prevent osteoporosis
Half an avocado provides approximately 18%Trusted Source of the daily value of vitamin K.
This nutrient is often overlooked but is essential for bone health. Taking in enough vitamin K can support bone health by increasing calcium absorption and reducing the urinary excretion of calcium.
5. Components may prevent cancer
Studies have not yet assessed a direct link between avocado consumption and a reduction in cancer risk. However, avocados do contain compounds that may help prevent the onset of some cancers.
ResearchTrusted Source has associated an optimal intake of folate with a reduced risk of developing colon, stomach, pancreatic, and cervical cancers. However, the mechanism behind this association remains unclear. Half of an avocado contains roughly 59 mcgTrusted Source of folate, 15% of the daily value.
Avocados also contain high levels of phytochemicals and carotenoids, which may have anticancer properties. StudiesTrusted Source have shown that carotenoids, specifically, may protect against cancer progression.
A 2013 reviewTrusted Source highlighted the potential benefits of avocado consumption in relation to breast, oral, and throat cancers. However, these associations are typically the result of test tube studies, not controlled human trials. Further research is necessary to confirm these associations.
6. Supporting fetal health
Folate is important for a healthy pregnancy. Adequate intake reduces the risk of miscarriage and neural tube abnormalities. Consume at least 600 micrograms (mcg)Trusted Source of folate per day when pregnant. One avocado may contain as much as 160 mcgTrusted Source.
Avocados also contain fatty acids that are integralTrusted Source to a healthy diet and fetal development.
7. Reducing depression risk
Avocados are a good source of folateTrusted Source, which plays an important role in overall dietary health. Studies have also found links between low folate levels and depression.
Folate helps prevent the buildup of homocysteine, a substance that can impair circulation and delivery of nutrients to the brain. Reviews of past researchTrusted Source have linked excess homocysteine with cognitive dysfunction, depression, and the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.
8. Improving digestion
Avocados are high in fiber, containing approximately 6–7 gTrusted Source per half fruit.
Eating foods with natural fiber can help prevent constipation, maintain digestive tract health, and lower the risk of colon cancer.
9. Natural detoxification
Adequate fiber promotes regular bowel movements, which are crucial for the excretion of toxins through the bile and stool.
StudiesTrusted Source have shown that dietary fiber also promotes good gut health and microbial diversity. This helps the body maintain a healthy bacterial balance. This can reduce inflammation and aggravation of the digestive tract.
10. Osteoarthritis relief
Avocados, soy, and some other plant foods contain saponins. These substances may have a positive effect on knee and hip osteoarthritis symptoms. However, researchers have not yet confirmed the long-term effects of saponins in people with osteoarthritis.
11. Antimicrobial action
Avocados and avocado oil contain substances that have antimicrobial properties. Research shows that avocado seed extracts can help defend the body against both Streptococcus agalactiae and Staphylococcus aureus infections, for example.
12. Protection from chronic disease
The monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados may be beneficial in preventing chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.
Meanwhile, researchTrusted Source suggests that an optimal intake of fiber may reduce the risk of stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases, and avocados are rich in fiber.
The right fiber intake can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for people with obesity.
Ripeness, recipes, and other uses
A person can incorporate avocados into their diet in a variety of ways. Soft avocados, for example, make delicious guacamole, while firmer avocados are great for slicing and adding to a salad or sandwich.
To tell how ripe an avocado is, gently press the skin. If the skin is completely firm, the avocado needs to ripen further. If the skin gives way to pressure, the avocado is ready to eat.
People can use avocados in many other forms, such as an oil for cooking or moisturizing the skin or hair. Check product information before making a purchase, to avoid misuse.
A person’s overall diet is key in achieving good health and preventing illness. For this reason, it is better to focus on having a diet with plenty of variety than to concentrate on the benefits of individual foods.
There is little risk in eating avocados in moderation. But as with all foods, overdoing it can lead to unwanted outcomes. For example, avocado has a high fat contentTrusted Source, so adding too many to the diet might lead to unintended weight gain.
Avocados also contain vitamin K, which can affect how blood thinners work.
It is important for people taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), to keep their vitamin K levels constant. For this reason, it is not a good idea to suddenly eat more or fewer foods containing vitamin K, which plays an important role in blood clotting.