It’s no secret that pretty much everyone has become incredibly fond of avocados. The proof is in the statistics, which show that the average person downs 8 pounds of avocado each year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). That’s triple the amount of avocados folks were eating just two decades ago.
Since fruits and vegetables don’t come with labels, few of the avo-obsessed are aware of the complete avocado nutrition facts, never mind the countless health benefits of avocados. But good news: “Avocados are one of the most complete foods you can eat,” says Kris Sollid, R.D., a registered dietitian and senior director of nutrition communications for the International Food Information Council.
“Many people think of avocados only for their healthy fat content, but they boast a ton of other nutritious benefits,” adds Jenna A. Werner, R.D., creator of Happy Strong Healthy. “Avocados provide nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and are a good source of fiber, which many don’t realize,” she says.
Here, discover these health benefits of avocados, plus get prep tips and inspiration about how to add more of the silky ~superfood~ to your diet.
What Is Avocado?
First off: Yes, avocado is a fruit. It may be used like a vegetable and lack the sweet taste of most other fruits, but it’s a fruit nonetheless. Avocados are thought to have originated in southern Mexico, and were cultivated there and in Central and South America before European colonialists brought the fruit elsewhere around the world, per Perdue University’s College of Agriculture. They grow best in tropical or near-tropical climates with lots of humidity. Oh, and BTW, there isn’t just one type of avocado — actually, there are dozens of varieties of avocados grown around the world.
Avocado Nutrition Facts
First things first: One serving is not an entire avocado (or even half of one). “One serving of an avocado is a third of a medium-sized avocado, which is about 80 calories,” explains Christy Brissette, R.D., a registered dietitian and the founder of Chicago-based nutrition and food counseling company 80 Twenty Nutrition. However, “I usually eat half at a meal and some of my clients eat the whole avocado based on their goals,” she adds.
As for avocado nutrition? “Avocados are a nutrient-dense food, meaning they give you a lot of health bang for your buck. The majority of the fat is heart-healthy monounsaturated, and they’re naturally sodium-free,” says Werner. Whoop, there it is: the f-word, fat. Long gone are the days when all fats were considered dietary devils and thank goodness for that. Today, it’s all about eating the right fats, such as unsaturated fats — one of which (monosaturated) can be found in avocados.
The fruit is also loaded with other nutrients: ICYMI above, a single serving of the fruit serves up nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, including (but definitely not limited to) 40 micrograms of folate and 240 milligrams of potassium (which, BTW, is more than that in a banana). Be it from an avocado or a ‘nana, potassium is one of the best minerals for boosting your workout performance and controlling blood pressure.
Here is the nutritional information for one serving of avocado (around 50 grams, or 1/3 of a medium fruit), according to the USDA:
- 80 calories
- 7 grams fat
- 1 gram protein
- 4 grams carbohydrate
- 3 grams fiber
- <1 gram sugar
The Health Benefits of Avocado
Numbers are great and all — and the avocado’s nutrition facts are pretty stellar — but they’re just one part of the picture. To really understand what makes this fruit worthy of all the hype, you need to take a look at the health benefits.
Lowers Cholesterol and Keeps Heart Healthy
Clocking in at about 5 grams per serving, the monosaturated fats in avocados — aka omega-9s, the same as those found in olive oil — have the power to lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and, in turn, reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. In fact, adding one avocado each day to a moderate-fat diet was linked to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. And compared to those who ate a low-fat, high-carb meal with the same calories, overweight or obese adults who consumed a half or whole avocado with their meal showed fewer signs of inflammation and improved markers of heart health, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients.
Helps with Digestion
Like many of its fellow fruits, avocados are full of fiber. More specifically, about 30 percent of the fiber in avocados is soluble, while 70 percent is insoluble, according to research. Why is that important? Well, both types of fiber are important for your digestive health. Soluble fiber is (you guessed it) soluble in water and forms a gel-like substance when it comes into contact with fluids. This causes it to take up more space in your stomach and keep you fuller for longer. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, isn’t water-soluble; it works to bulk up and soften stool, which makes it easier to pass.
Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Soluble fiber can also help stabilize blood sugar — another one of the many health benefits of avocados. Research published in Nutrition Journal found by adding about one-half of an avocado at lunch, participants reported increased satisfaction and decreased desire to eat more afterward, and tests showed no rise in blood sugar.
Strengthens Your Bones
Also on the list of 20 vitamins and minerals in each serving of the all-star fruit? Calcium and vitamins C, D, and K — all of which are key to maintaining strong bones. Simple as that. (If you didn’t know, lifting weights strengthens bones too.)
Aids In Nutrient Absorption
Eat a nutrient-dense diet? Good for you — but don’t stop there. Equally as important to consuming nutrients is being able to absorb them (to ultimately reap their benefits). Enter: avocados. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to salad or salsa can dramatically increase nutrient absorption.
Potential Risks of Avocado
Avocado lovers might be tempted to eat an excess of the green fruit, but this could cause some adverse reactions. Yes, there can be too much of a good thing, even considering the all-star panel of avocado nutrition facts. For one thing, you might eat too much fiber, which can cause stomach issues and constipation.
Plus, there are benefits to diversifying the foods on your plate. “If you’re crowding out other foods by eating a certain food — even the most nutritious one — so much, that can be unwise,” advises Brissette. “Variety is key to a healthy diet, so if avocados are your only fat source, you’re missing out on different health benefits from nuts and seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil,” she notes.
The biggest detail to devote attention to, suggests Werner: portion size. “Portion depends on your nutrition goals. Eating healthy in general can be very different than eating healthy for a specific goal, such as weight loss or weight gain. Knowing your goal can help you find the proper portion and cadence of consumption for you,” she elaborates. One serving (again, one-third of a medium-sized fruit) a few times each week should be a safe place to start.
TL;DR: “If you’re eating an avocado every day and choosing a variety of other healthy foods, great!” says Brissette. “Do you want to add an entire avocado to every meal? Probably not, unless you’re trying to gain weight and want to boost calories,” she continues.
It’s also possible to be allergic to avocado, though not incredibly common. Those who have an allergy to birch pollen can also have a sensitivity to avocado in the form of oral allergy syndrome, according to the NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. Symptoms include swelling or itching of the mouth or throat. You can also have an allergic reaction to avocados if you’re allergic to latex; a cross-sensitivity to some fruits (including this one) is fairly common to those allergic to the material, per the NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. Symptoms of this allergic reaction include hives, swelling of the lips, sneezing, and in rare cases, anaphylaxis.
How to Prep and Eat Avocado
Now that you have the full rundown on the nutritional value of avocado, it’s time to slice and serve the superfruit. You’ll find avocados in the produce section of your grocery store or health food market. Not sure how to pick a ripe avocado? The trick is to hold the fruit in the palm of your hand and gently squeeze with your fingers; if there’s a bit of give to the flesh, it’s ready for eating, according to the University of California. And be sure to avoid mashing it with your thumb, as this can cause bruising (of the avocado, that is).
After you’ve selected a perfectly ripe avocado, use these tips and tricks to prep and store it smartly:
- Rinse it. “Even though you don’t eat the outside of the avocado, remember to wash it before you cut it!” advises Werner. “Just like any fruit that you slice, any dirt, germs, or bacteria on the outside can be brought inside by the knife you’re using,” she explains. To further convince you, an investigation by the FDA reported that almost 18 percent of avocado skin samples tested positive for listeria, so you really shouldn’t skip this step.
- Slice smartly. Avoid “avocado hand,” aka a potentially serious injury from improperly cutting an avocado, by prepping like a pro. Slice all the way around the length of the fruit and twist to separate the halves. Carefully but forcefully land the blade in the center of the pit, and twist the fruit to remove, advises Morgan Bolling, executive editor at Cook’s Country.
- Splash it with citrus. To maintain that fresh green color a little longer after cutting, squeeze on some lemon or lime juice, suggests Sollid. “Acidic juices like these help slow the browning process. Then cover it with clear plastic wrap and make sure to get a good tight seal. Oxygen speeds up the browning process, so for an extra layer of protection, you can place your wrapped avocado in an airtight container,” he explains.
- Vacuum-seal it. “Vacuum-sealing leftover halves of avocados will keep them green much longer than pretty much any other method,” since oxygen exposure triggers the browning, says Bolling.
Now try these expert- and editor-approved ways to use it (beyond avocado toast):
As a healthier fat substitute. Want more healthy fats but don’t want to bite down on a plain avocado? Sneak it into your favorite foods by, for example, using avocado instead of mayonnaise in egg salad or chicken salad. You can also substitute avocado for butter in baked goods.
As a smoothie add-in. Take your go-to smoothie up a notch by adding some fresh or frozen avocado. The rich avocado will make your smoothie thick and creamy, guaranteed.
As an ice cream base. Yes, avocado ice cream is a thing — and it’s delicious. You’ll get a silky, creamy texture, and you can make it at home without a fancy ice cream machine.
As a simple dinner ingredient. For a quick dinner idea that’s packed with nutritious benefits, grill and stuff avocado halves with corn and bean salsa.