Avocados are a nutrient-rich food that provide around 20 vitamins, minerals and nutrients, as well as being a good source of healthy fats and dietary fiber.
A low carb food, avocados do not contain any sodium or cholesterol which means that as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, avocados are certainly a healthier choice compared with many other foods, including foods that contain saturated fats. Unlike some foods, it is also very easy to add avocado to the daily diet as its taste and texture allows it to be used in some many recipes.
Avocado Nutrition Facts
Perhaps the easiest way to start looking at avocado health benefits is by looking at the nutritional content of an avocado.
The table below is based on data from the California Avocado Commission which gives the main avocado nutrition facts for the recommended daily serving of one third of a medium avocado (50 grams) .
|Amount per serving||% Daily Value (DV)|
|Total Fat||8 grams||10%|
|Saturated fat||1 gram||5%|
|Polyunsaturated fat||1 gram|
|Monounsaturated fat||5 grams|
|Total Carbs||4 grams||1%|
As the table above shows, avocados are low in saturated fats, free from sodium and cholesterol and are a good source of healthy fats. Although avocado does contain carbs, most of these are fiber which means that avocados are actually a low carb food.
As well as the nutrients listed above, avocados are a source of a number of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are components that are not essential in our diet but have been shown to be helpful to health.
The table below shows the % Daily Value micronutrient content of a ⅓ serving of an avocado. The % Daily Value or DV is the figure given to how much that nutrient contributes to a daily diet within our current recommended dietary guidelines.
|Vitamin, mineral or phytonutrient||% Daily Value (DV)|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||15%|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||10%|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||8%|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||6%|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)||4%|
Vitamin B5 is in most foods, although we can see from the table above that avocado is a very good source of vitamin B5, which is needed to make and break down fats in the body.
Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting in the body and if a severe deficiency of vitamin K arises in the body, then blood takes longer to clot causing bleeding and bruising. If you take blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), you should check with your medical professional before eating a lot of avocado or indeed any other vitamin K rich foods (such as green leafy vegetables) as your medication dose may need adjusting.
A serving of avocado also provides folate which is needed for cell division in the body and more importantly, for those who are pregnant, folate also supports proper fetal growth – reducing the risk of birth defects.
Although a trace mineral, copper plays an important role along with iron in making red blood cells in the body. A low level of copper is also linked with high blood pressure and cholesterol.
These four micronutrients, along with the other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and major nutrients that avocados contain shows just why avocados pack such a nutritional punch!
Why Are the Fats in Avocado Healthy Fats?
Although 77% of the calories in avocado are made up of fats, most of these fats are known as healthy fats. These healthy fats are monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats.
Avocado contains oleic acid which is a polyunsaturated fat and linoleic acid which is a monounsaturated fat.
Oleic acid is also known as omega 9 fatty acid and as well as in avocado, omega 9 is found in seeds, nuts, olive, almond, canola and sunflower oils. Oleic acid can also be made by the body.
The linoleic acid found in avocado is an omega 6 fatty acid and unlike oleic acid cannot be made by the body which means we have no choice but to obtain it from the diet. Although there is still debate around the role of healthy fats in the diet, the American Heart Association has noted that compared to saturated fats, omega 6 fatty acids ‘confer a lower risk of cardiovascular events’.
For healthier diets we should incorporate monounsaturated fats rather than saturated fats such as butter, cheese or red meats, as it is thought that the monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid can help reduce blood pressure and help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Healthy fats are also linked with lowering triglyceride levels. All of these can contribute to better heart health and lower the risk of heart disease.
Both omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids also function as energy sources in the body and provide the body with vitamin E which works as an antioxidant to help prevent damage from free radical molecules. Vitamin E also helps reduce inflammation and chronic inflammation in the body is known to contribute to many diseases, arthritis and diabetes being just two examples.
Oleic acid is also more resistant to heat damage than some other types of fat which is why olive oil and avocado oil can be used for cooking with at moderate temperatures.
The higher fat content of avocados means they help us absorb some nutrients such as vitamins A, E and K better, as these are fat soluble vitamins which means they cannot be used by the body unless there is a fat available to utilize them.
The fat in avocado can also help us to feel fuller for longer (or ‘satiated’) after eating which means there is less chance of snacking. Because avocados also contain soluble fiber, they can help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels after meals. All of these may help with weight control or even weight loss.
Do Avocados Have Protein?
Yes, although avocados do contain protein, compared with other foods such as meats, the protein content of avocado is small. A one ounce serving of meat contains around 7 grams of protein while the same amount of avocado will only provide around 0.6 to 0.7 grams of protein.
For higher protein diets, avocado is best paired with foods such as meats, fish, tofu, seeds or nuts.
Types of Fiber in Avocados
Around 75% of the fiber in avocado is insoluble fiber, the type of fiber that passes through and helps keep the bowel healthy while the 25% of soluble fiber found in avocado plays a role in maintaining blood sugar control and gut health.
Are Avocados Better Than Bananas for Potassium?
Although bananas are the go to food for potassium in the diet, avocados are also a good source of potassium. A ⅓ avocado daily serving provides around 7% of a %DV of potassium.
A banana gives around 10% of the %DV so it is still the best source for potassium in the diet, but as many of us do not eat enough potassium in our diet, it is good to know that avocados can help improve potassium intake.
Potassium is essential for heart health. A decent potassium intake can help reduce blood pressure as it eases tension in the walls of blood vessels and also lowers sodium levels in the blood.
Benefits for Eye Health
Avocados contain two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin and these antioxidants are linked with a minimizing damage from ultraviolet light helping reduce risk of development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts – conditions that aging increases the risk of developing.
Is Eating an Avocado A Day OK?
As healthy they are when replacing other foods which are less nutritious, avocados are high in calories and in fat so excessive consumption, especially with a less nutritious diet and low levels of exercise may help contribute to weight gain.
Before 2016, the FDA recommended daily serving of avocado was one fifth of a medium avocado (30 grams). One third of a medium avocado is now the recommended daily serving size as part of a balanced diet, especially if that diet contains sources of other ‘healthier fats’ such as olive oil, seeds and nuts. This ⅓ serving is around 80 calories and provides 11% of our Daily Value (DV) of fiber and 6 grams of fat.
To make it easier to eat the correct serving, after you’ve washed an avocado, you can make a straight cut from the top to the bottom on one side, turn the avocado round by a third and make a second cut from the top to the bottom then pull the third out and prepare as required.
If you do want to eat an avocado every day, then a whole avocado will make up around 20% of your daily intake for a 1500 calorie diet and, depending on its size may contain as many as 320 calories and more than 20 grams of fat.
In this post, we have seen that there are a number of avocado health benefits; mainly from the high content of monounsaturated fats or MUFAs and high fiber content, along with the various vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that avocado contains.So to answer the question, are avocados healthy? The answer is yes, avocados are healthy when the recommended daily serving is consumed as part of a balanced diet and even more so when they are used to replace less nutrient-rich foods.