October 8, 2023/Nutrition

Guac Your World: Why Avocados Are So Good for You

This glorious green superfood is full of vitamins, minerals and lots of other good stuff

Person making avocado toast, showing avocado with seed in background.

Millenials may get flak for being the “avocado toast generation,” but honestly, they may be onto something! Avocados are as nutritious as they are delicious, and they’re jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients.

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Avocados include vitamins C, E, K1, B6 and folate, plus essential minerals like potassium and copper. They’re low in sugar, loaded with fiber and high in monosaturated fats, aka “good” fats. Oh, and did we mention that they taste great and they’re super versatile?!

Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, shares a few more good reasons to give these wrinkly green fruits a second look — plus, how to add them to your regular rotation.

Are avocados good for you?

“Avocados are a great addition to a healthy diet,” Zumpano confirms, “and there are hundreds of varieties to choose from, ranging from big to small and wrinkly to smooth.”

What they have in common: A big round pit, creamy green flesh and a whole lot of nutrients crammed into a handy, pear-shaped package.

Just don’t go overboard. Avocados are packed with nutrients, but they’re also packed with calories. A 50-gram portion — about a third of a medium-sized avocado — has about 75 calories. And an entire large avocado can add upward of 400 calories to your daily diet.

Like most things, Zumpano says, moderation is key. “As long as you’re paying attention to portion sizes, avocados are very healthy foods to include in your food repertoire.”

Benefits of avocados

Whether you’re adding a slice to a salad or sandwich or using them as an ingredient in a more complicated recipe, Zumpano says avocados have a lot going for them health-wise.

Here are some of the many nutrients and vitamins packed into just a single avocado:

High in ‘good’ fats

You might’ve heard that avocados are high in fat — and that’s true, but it doesn’t mean you should avoid them! A medium avocado has 22 grams of fat, which includes 15 grams of monounsaturated fats, aka “good” fats.

“Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which help lower your LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol,” Zumpano says. “Low LDL levels reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.”

The American Heart Association says most of the fats you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, confirming that avocados fit the bill as part of a healthy diet.

You can even swap avocado in for less-healthy fats in your home cooking. Here are some additional ways you can add this smooth, creamy fruit to your diet.

  • Spread avocado on a sandwich in place of mayonnaise.
  • Instead of dunking veggies into dips made with cheese or sour cream, try guacamole.
  • Forego shredded cheese on your salad and add avocado slices instead.
  • In baking recipes, replace butter or oil with mashed avocado, like in these chocolatey avocado brownie bites.

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“If you use avocado to replace other fats, you can enjoy the flavor and nutrients and also cut down on saturated fats,” Zumpano says.

Lots of vitamins

Let’s talk vitamins: In simple terms, avocados have a lot of them! Here are the vitamins that are most abundant in avocados and what they do for your health:

  • Vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, is important for blood clotting, which helps stop wounds from bleeding. It also plays a role in strengthening your bones. For most adults, the daily recommended amount of vitamin K ranges from 90 to120 micrograms. Half an avocado has about 21 mcg.
  • Vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, helps keep your immune system healthy. It also plays a role in the health of your tissues, blood vessels, bones and more. Depending on your age and sex, you need anywhere from 75 to 120 milligrams of vitamin C per day; half an avocado has about 10 mg.
  • Vitamin E, or alpha-tocopherol, is a powerful antioxidant that prevents cell damage and helps maintain muscle function. Most adults only need 15 mg of vitamin C per day, and half an avocado will give you about 4 mg of it.
  • Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, helps your body convert food into energy. You only need a small amount of vitamin B6 each day (just 1.2 to 2 mg, depending on your age and sex), but half an avocado has about .25 mg, putting you well on your way to that daily goal.
  • Folateis a B vitamin that’s important for normal cell function and tissue growth. It helps your body form red blood cells and DNA, which is especially critical when you’re pregnant (but still important if you’re not). Half an avocado has about 20% of your daily recommended amount.

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Low in sugar

Though most fruits are high in natural sugars, avocados rank very low on the sweetness scale. “A whole avocado has under 1.5 grams of sugar, while one medium apple, by comparison, has about 19 grams,” Zumpano points out. (Psst: It’s important to note that not all sugars are created equal! Fruit is still super-healthy.)

High in fiber

Avocados are a good source of fiber, which is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t break down. You need both soluble and insoluble fiber — and lucky for you, avocados have both.

“Fiber can lower cholesterol and blood sugar, keep you regular and help you feel full and satisfied after a meal,” Zumpano states. Most adults need 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day, depending on your age and sex. Half an avocado provides about 7 grams.

Packed with potassium

Surprise! “Avocados actually contain more potassium than bananas,” Zumpano reveals. Half a large avocado provides about 485 mg of potassium, while a whole banana provides about 420 mg. (Most adults need 2,600 to 3,400 mg per day.)

This essential mineral is beneficial for blood pressure control and heart health. Low blood potassium can increase your blood pressure, raise your risk of kidney stones and even pull calcium out of your bones.

Increases your copper intake

Think past pennies: Copper is actually an essential trace mineral that your body needs in order to function correctly. Most Americans don’t get enough of it in their diets, but half an avocado will get you 20% of your daily recommended amount.

“Copper helps your body metabolize iron, and it plays a role in a healthy immune system and nervous system,” Zumpano explains.

Tips for enjoying avocados

“A perfectly ripe avocado is slightly firm but not rock-hard,” Zumpano says. “If it’s not ripe but you can’t wait to eat it, store it in a paper bag on the counter until it gives a little when you squeeze it.”

A ripe-but-not-too-ripe avocado is a time-limited treasure, so dive right in and get creative with your avocado creations, or embrace the millennial method and enjoy some avocado toast.

But if you need to store it for a couple of days, just be sure to keep it in the fridge — not submerged in water, as some TikTokkers recommend. Some people call it a “food hack,” but it can easily lead to foodborne illness.

“You can even freeze avocado slices if you’re worried you won’t use them in time,” Zumpano suggests. “Then, you can easily throw them into a smoothie.”

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