Text and Photos y Henrylito D. Tacio
Avocado is often said to be the most nutritious fruit in the world. The reason, according to “Health Online Zine,” is that the fruit “contains in excess of 25 essential nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.”
Avocado also contains fiber, protein, and beneficial phytochemicals such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione, and lutein, which help protect against various diseases and illnesses. In addition, “avocado is one of the high calorie fruits that you could be eating. This is due to its larger amounts of fat content, approximately 20 times the average of other fruits.”
Yes, you read it right! This is the reason why most people avoid eating avocado because of its high-fat content. But what they don’t know is the fact that the fat the fruit contains is healthful monounsaturated fat, which has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Nutritionists claim avocado contain goodly amounts of Vitamin C (necessary for the production of collagen needed for the growth of new cells and tissues, prevents viruses from penetrating cell membranes, and also a powerful antioxidant), thiamine (which converts carbohydrates to glucose to fuel the brain and nervous system), and riboflavin (helps the body to release energy from proteins, carbohydrates, and fat).
Avocado also has 60% more potassium than a banana. Potassium is a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. As such, adequate intake of potassium can help guard against circulatory diseases, like high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke. In addition, avocado also provides calories for energy and beneficial phytochemicals such as glutathione.
The fruit helps maintain a healthy heart. Avocado contains vitamin B6 and folic acid, which help regulate homocysteine levels. High levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Besides that, the vitamin E, glutathione, and monounsaturated fat that it contains aid in maintaining the heart to be healthy.
“Avocados aid in blood and tissue regeneration, stabilize blood sugar, and are excellent for heart disorders,” says Dr. Ed Bauman, director of Bauman College. “They’re loaded with fiber (11 to 17 grams per fruit) and are a good source of lutein, an antioxidant linked to eye and skin health.” Unsaturated fats are those found in dairy and animal products.
Avocado is the fruit that people with diabetes should eat as it can regulate blood sugar levels. “Health Online Zine,” explains: “The monounsaturated fats in avocados can reverse insulin resistance, which helps to regulate the blood sugar levels. Avocados also contain more soluble fiber, which keeps blood sugar levels.”
Recent studies have also shown that high avocado intake has an effect on blood serum cholesterol levels. Specifically, after a seven-day diet rich in avocados, hypercholesterolemia patients showed a 17% decrease in total serum cholesterol levels. These subjects also showed a 22% decrease in both LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol”) and triglyceride levels and 11% increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol”) levels.
Avocado reduces strokes risk and protects a person against cancer. “The high levels of folate in avocados also protect against stroke,” “Health Online Zine” states. It cited a study that showed individuals who ate a diet rich in folate had a lower risk of stroke than those who do not.
In the Philippines, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer of women; one in 13 Filipinas will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Among Filipino males, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer (after lung cancer). “Health Online Zine” points out: “Many studies have shown that avocado can inhibit the growth of prostate cancer. The oleic acid in avocado is also effective in preventing breast cancer.”
Some dermatologists recommend using – not eating! – avocado for those with dry skin. Here’s how to use it: Rub the inside of the skins against clean skin. For a face mask, mix 1/4 cup each of avocado puree and sour cream. Gently rub on face and neck, avoiding the sensitive areas around the eyes, and let it soak in about 15 minutes. Rinse with tepid water. Then gently massage the invisible oil into the skin with an upward and outward motion.
Overall, avocado is considered a complete food: it has vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, calories and fiber, no cholesterol, and is sodium-free. As such, avocado is ideal for growing up children, adults, and even for babies, especially when blended with other fruits. For athletes, avocado is a nutritious energy booster to rev up the body’s strength.
In the past, avocado has been considered to be an aphrodisiac. In fact, the Aztecs used the avocado as a sex stimulant and its name for the fruit as ahuacatl, which means “testicle.” Because of this well-entrenched reputation for inducing sexual prowess, the avocado wasn’t purchased or consumed by any person wishing to protect their image from slanderous assault.
Although edible by themselves, avocados are commonly used as a base in dips. In areas where the fruit is commonly grown, a common breakfast is avocado on toast. This is made by mashing the avocado with some lemon juice, salt, and pepper and spreading it on hot, freshly toasted bread.
Actually, the avocado fruit is not sweet but fatty, distinctly yet subtly flavored, and of smooth, almost creamy texture. In Brazil and Vietnam, avocados are frequently used for milkshakes and occasionally added to ice cream and other desserts. In Indonesia, a dessert drink is made with sugar, milk or water, and pureed avocado.
But before you pile avocados onto every dish, remember that when it comes to calories, avocados have lots of them – because of all that fat. Fat of any type has double the calories of the same amount of carbohydrates. “Avocados add great variety to a well-balanced, low-fat diet, but you have to eat them in moderation,” reminds Melanie Polk, a registered dietitian, and director of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.
Another word of warning: There is documented evidence that animals such as cats, dogs, cattle, goats, rabbits, rats, birds, fish, and horses can be severely harmed or even killed when they consume the avocado leaves, bark, skin, or pit. The avocado fruit is poisonous to some birds.
The reason for this is that avocado leaves contain a toxic fatty acid derivative known as persin. The symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory distress, congestion, fluid accumulation around the tissues of the heart, and even death. Birds also seem to be particularly sensitive to this toxic compound. Negative effects in humans seem to be primarily in allergic individuals.