Millennials get flak for being the avocado toast generation. But they’re definitely on to something. Avocados are as nutritious as they are delicious and they come with some great health benefits.
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Registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, says, “Avocados are a great addition to a healthy diet.” Jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients, here are some good reasons to give these wrinkly green fruits a second look and add them to your regular rotation.
One avocado, a ton of nutrients
There are hundreds of avocado varieties, ranging from big to small, 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.
Whether you’re adding a slice to a salad or sandwich or using them as an ingredient in a more complicated recipe, avocados have a lot going for them, health-wise, Zumpano says. Here are some of the many nutrients and vitamins packed into just a single avocado.
- Monounsaturated fats: Avocados are rich in these heart-healthy fats, which help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Low LDL levels reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Folate (B-9): Avocados contain a significant amount of folate, which is important for normal cell function and tissue growth
- Vitamin K-1: Vitamin K-1 is important for blood clotting and may have benefits for bone health
- Potassium: This is an essential mineral that is beneficial for blood pressure control and heart health. Avocados contain more potassium than bananas.
- Copper: Copper is low in a standard American diet. Copper plays a role in iron metabolism
- Vitamin C: Aids in immune function and skin health.
- Vitamin E: This vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that prevents cells from damage.
- Vitamin B-6: B vitamins help convert food into energy.
- Fiber: Avocados are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. And fiber can lower cholesterol and blood sugar, keep you regular and help you feel full and satisfied after a meal.
- Low sugar: Compared to most fruits, avocadoes rank VERY low on the sweet scale.
How to enjoy avocados
A perfectly ripe avocado is slightly firm but not rock-hard. Can’t wait to eat it, but it’s not ripe? Store it in a paper bag on the counter until it gives a little when you squeeze it. Once it’s ripe, you can store it in the fridge for a day or two to keep it from going soft too quickly. (Or just dive right in, since a ripe-but-not-too-ripe avocado is a time-limited treasure.)
But don’t go overboard. Avocados are packed with nutrients, but they’re not exactly low in calories. A 50-gram portion — about a third of a medium-sized avocado — has about 75 calories. An entire large avocado can add upward of 400 calories to your daily diet.
Like most things, says Zumpano, moderation is key. “As long as you’re paying attention to portion sizes, avocados are great foods to include in your diet,” she says.
Avocado recipes even skeptics will love
The avocado is an all-ages treat, says Zumpano. Lots of babies love it mashed with banana. For an older palate, there are almost endless ways to use it. Some ideas to get you started:
- Adorn burgers and burritos with avocado slices.
- Cook them into quesadillas.
- Start your day with a delicious combo of veggies, avocado and poached eggs.
- No time for guacamole? Buy some store-bought salsa and mash avocado into it for a quick guac-hack.
- Add them to a salad, such as a tomato avocado salad with shallot-lemon dressing or zesty mango, avocado and black bean salad.
You can also use the smooth, creamy fruit to replace the less-healthy fats in your diet, Zumpano says. Here are some additional ways you can add avocado to your diet.
- Instead of slathering a sandwich with mayonnaise, spread some avocado on the bread.
- Swap in avocado slices instead of shredded cheese on your salad.
- Skip the butter on your toast and, yes, embrace avocado toast.
- Rather than snacking on dips made with cheese or sour cream, dunk your veggies in guacamole.
- Replace the butter or oil in recipes with mashed avocado (such as in these chocolatey avocado brownie bites).
“If you use avocado to replace other fats, you can enjoy the flavor and nutrients and also cut down on saturated fats,” she says.