By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
What are some of the key nutrient’s avocado contain?
Avocados are amazing! They are nutrient dense and a great source of fibre. They contain beneficial fats including oleic acid and alpha-linolenic (an omega 3 fatty acid), and contain over twenty vitamins, minerals and vital nutrients including vitamins B, C and E. They are also a great source of the mineral’s magnesium and potassium. Avocado also contain many phytonutrients including carotenoids, flavonoids and phytosterols. Avocados are fruits and are also known as ‘alligator pears’ due to the texture of the skin and being shaped like a pear!
Why are they so good for our health?
- Aiding blood sugar regulation – contain small amounts of carbohydrates so have little impact on blood sugar. They are thought to improve insulin sensitivity due to the monounsaturated fats which they contain.
- Cardiovascular health benefits – blood fat and cholesterol levels are lowered it seems after avocado consumption and so can help with weight management too. They are a uniquely high source of plant sterols, which is the part of the plant that corresponds to cholesterol in people. Eating plant sterols has been proven to lower cholesterol and increase heart health in several research studies by lowering the blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing the HDL levels.
- Lowering blood pressure – due to the potassium levels in avocados.
- Helps to block oestrogen absorption –They contain key plant sterols that can reduce excess oestrogen. This allows increased progesterone to be present in women and testosterone in men. Increased oestrogen levels can lead to weight gain, tiredness, headaches, water retention, breast tenderness and insomnia.
- Avocados can also help to lower homocysteine levels (an amino acid produced when proteins are broken down) due to the B vitamins that they contain. High homocysteine levels have been linked to blood clots and damaged arteries. Avocados also provide oleic acid and omega 3 which help to keep our heart healthy.
- Anti inflammatory properties – Avocados contain an array of nutrients with reduce inflammation such as: phytosterols, omega 3 fatty acids and carotenoid antioxidants.
- Help to balance hormones – Avocados also contain beta-sitosterol, a compound that balances stress hormones such as cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. The monounsaturated fat also provides the building blocks the body needs to make both oestrogen and progesterone.
Why are avocados good for gut health?
In a very recent study conducted at the University of Illinois and published in the Journal of Nutrition it has been found that “Avocado consumption alters gastrointestinal bacteria abundance and microbial metabolite concentrations among adults with overweight or obesity: a randomized controlled trial”. While the high dietary fibre content of avocado and the associated gut health benefits of eating fibre have been well known, understanding how daily avocado consumption might influence the microbiome was still something of a mystery. The researchers set out to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fibre in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota.
The researchers found that people who ate avocado every day as part of a meal had a greater abundance of gut microbes that break down fibre and produce metabolites that support gut health. They also had greater microbial diversity compared to people who did not receive the avocado meals in the study. The study found that eating one avocado every day for 12 weeks had a positive effect on the diversity of the gut microbiome. This was only a small study but I am sure that there will be plenty of research to follow.
- Why not make your own guacamole using ripe avocados, a squeeze of lemon and some chopped garlic -much nicer than bought!
- Smashed avocado on wholemeal toast with a poached egg and chilli flakes for breakfast
- Add to salads and soups.
- Substitute mayonnaise with avocado in sandwiches
- Avocado pancakes
- Avocado and tomato salsa
- Avocado and chocolate mousse
Fancy making this lovely Pomegranate Guacamole?
Mash up 3 ripe avocados and combine with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a finely chopped chilli (optional). Sprinkle with the seeds of a fresh pomegranate and combine! Enjoy as a dip or in wraps.
Avocado and Berry Boost smoothie – start your day off well!
Why not start the day off with this avocado and berry ‘On the go breakfast smoothie’ and give yourself a magical nutritious energy boost! There is a great balance here of good fat, protein, carbs and lots of vital vitamins and minerals. So, if you are in a rush whizz one of these up and take it with you! Don’t skip breakfast!
(Makes 1 large glass or 2 smaller ones)
1 handful of each of the following: Fresh or frozen Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
1 heaped tablespoon of chia seeds
100ml of milk of your choice
Place into a blender and whizz together! Enjoy!
Turkey, avocado and pomegranate salad
- 2 British turkey breasts
- 2 tablespoons miso paste
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 50g of kale
- 1 tbsp of coconut oil
- 30g of toasted flaked almonds
- 1/2 pomegranate
- 1 avocado
- 2 tbsp of freshly chopped mint
Add the honey, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, miso paste, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Season with a little salt and pepper. Finely chop the kale and place in a large bowl, and drizzle over ¾ of the dressing made above and mix. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan and cook the turkey for a round 5 minutes on both sides. Leave to the side to cool. Slice the avocado and mix with the kale. Remove the pomegranate seeds and sprinkle into the salad. Shred the turkey and mix in with the salad, sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top along with the freshly chopped mint. Enjoy!
Want to read more?
Sharon V Thompson, Melisa A Bailey, Andrew M Taylor, Jennifer L Kaczmarek, Annemarie R Mysonhimer, Caitlyn G Edwards, Ginger E Reeser, Nicholas A Burd, Naiman A Khan, Hannah D Holscher. Avocado Consumption Alters Gastrointestinal Bacteria Abundance and Microbial Metabolite Concentrations among Adults with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, 2020; DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxaa219