Food trends are constantly changing, but thanks to the health benefits of avocado, the fruit has been in the spotlight for quite some time now. Its fame is partially due to its deliciously creamy, nutty taste–and, of course, how photogenic it is when spread atop toast. But we also need to give credit where credit is due: There are tons of nutrients packed into each and every avocado.
Avocados are one of the only fruits that contain healthy, monounsaturated fats, Lori Zanini, R.D., a California-based dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF. “Including healthy fats in our meals during our day is important in order to keep us full and satisfied after meals, since fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates or proteins,” Zanini says. The majority of the fats in avocado are monounsaturated, which are lauded for having anti-inflammatory benefits and for helping to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Some research also shows that healthy fat can positively impact insulin levels and blood sugar and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. “Additionally, avocados are naturally sodium and cholesterol free,” Zanini adds.
Smash it on toast, spread it on a sandwich, or slice it on top of eggs or salad. The possibilities really are endless. Just be sure not to go overboard (we know, hard to do)–because of their fat content, avocados are pretty high in calories, so too much of a good thing can backfire here. Zanini recommends sticking to 1-ounce servings, “which is about 2 to 3 slices or about 1/4 of a small avocado.”
Avocados are also full of vitamins and nutrients our bodies need to function properly. Here’s what’s packed under that hard green skin and some of the ways each one benefits your health:
- Promotes normal blood clotting and prevents and treats weak bones.
- Contributes to cell growth and repair–from your skin to your nerves. It’s also an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage by harmful intruders (called free radicals) that cause health issues like heart disease and cancer.
- Promotes healthy immune function, nerve function, and formation of red blood cells.
- Helps the body make red blood cells and boost immune function. It’s also an antioxidant, and essential for hair and skin health.
- Promotes healthy cell and tissue development. It’s also essential for proper brain and spine growth in a developing fetus, so is especially important for pregnant women (it’s actually recommended that all women of reproductive age take a folate supplement). Zanini says it’s also important for preventing one type of anemia.
- Important for muscle and nerve function, and also supports immune health and bone strength, regulates blood sugar, and helps with energy production. For those who suffer from migraines, getting more magnesium can be an effective way to prevent them (doctors will probably suggest a supplement rather than food sources, but getting more in your diet is good, too).
- An electrolyte that helps maintain a normal fluid balance in our bodies, aids nerve and muscle function, protein synthesis (building muscle), and keeps the heart beating normally. Bonus: It’s also great for reducing bloat.
- It keeps you regular, promotes colon health, lowers cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar (which helps control appetite and keep you fuller for longer), and is helpful in maintaining a healthy body weight. Like many fruits, avocadoes have both soluble and insoluble fiber.