Written by Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN
Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD
Avocados have been increasing in popularity over the years due to their high healthy fat content. In 1985, 436 million pounds of avocado were consumed in the US. In 2020, more than 2.7 billion pounds of avocado were consumed.
To put that increase into perspective, individuals consumed about 2 pounds each of avocado in 2000 and almost 8.5 pounds per person in 2021 in the US.
Wow! How about we learn more about the awesome avocado?
Avocados have a smooth, buttery, creamy texture, and a slightly nutty flavor. The edible part of an avocado is the light green to yellow flesh inside the skin.
Avocados boast alternative names including alligator pear (for its bumpy skin and pear shape) and avocado pear.
Which leads into a common question: Are avocados a fruit or a vegetable? Drum roll please… Avocados are actually classified as a nutrient-dense fruit! Technically speaking, this is because they are a berry with one large pit/seed.
Avocados, grown from the Persea americana tree, are native to Central America and Mexico. They were first domesticated in the US (Florida) in 1833 and then expanded to California in 1856. California is now the leading avocado producer in the US.
Worldwide? Mexico takes the gold medal of top avocado producer. In 2021, Mexico harvested around 2.4 million tons of avocados.
Nutrient Profile of Avocados
An average-sized avocado provides 240 calories, 3 grams of protein, 22 grams of fat, almost 13 grams of carbohydrate, and 10 grams of fiber. Avocados are also cholesterol-free and are low in sodium at less than 11 mg per avocado.
Avocado Ripening Tips
Most of us can probably relate to the woes of ripening avocados. You bring them home from the store and they are hard and unripe for what feels like forever. Then, when you turn your back for ⅛ of a second, they are overripe and ready for the compost bin.
Avocados are hard in the stores because they are picked when they are immature. They only ripen after harvest and sometimes this takes a little patience.
A tip to help ripen your avocados is to try placing them with a few apples in a bowl on the counter. Apples emit ethylene gas which ripens other produce quickly. Placing your unripe avocados with apples will ripen them faster than if the avocados were sitting by themselves.
For storage, once the avocados are ripe, keep them in an airtight container. The oxygen deprivation will help prevent them from ripening further. Additionally, if you need to store your avocado for one day or less, try keeping them in your refrigerator with both skins together.
Another tip is to not buy too many avocados at once. Sometimes they all become ripe at the same time and then you have more than you need at that moment.
Where to use Avocado
Avocados are such a versatile nutrient-dense food. They can be added to almost anything, savory or sweet, or they can be enjoyed raw.
Where you can add avocado:
- Guacamole (of course!)
- Sandwiches (and anywhere that you can use it to replace butter or mayo)
- Chocolate pudding
- Ice cream
- And so much more!
A quick avocado fun fact about incorporating the fruit in your diet: Did you know that you can actually grind up the seed/pit and eat it? How amazing!
What About Avocado Oil?
Avocado oil is unrefined oil that is pressed from avocados. Unrefined means that it retains some of its green coloring and slightly nutty flavor. It is high in unsaturated fats making it a heart healthy oil.
Avocado oil has much of the same health benefits as avocados, but can also lend a hand when cooking and is used in skin care products to help with moisturization.
Benefits of Avocado Smoothies
Have you ever added avocado to your smoothies? If you haven’t, buckle up. Smoothies with avocado are creamier and have a boost of nutrients. Oh, and did we mention that avocado smoothies are delicious too?!
Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #1: Heart Health
As we learned above, avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats help to reduce blood pressure, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, decrease your risk of blood clots, improve cholesterol levels, and improve your overall heart health. (1)
Avocados are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALAs help to prevent heart disease.
Additionally, potassium that avocados provide helps with cellular function, blood pressure regulation, and may prevent artery hardening.
As we can see, avocado smoothies can help improve your heart health! Try adding a handful of frozen avocado to your next smoothie to create a creamy, heart healthy masterpiece.
Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #2: Eye Health
Avocados are great for heart health, but they are also a great food for eye health. Our retinas, the inner tissue layer of our eyes, have increased concentrations of fatty acids.
We need to continue eating foods that are rich in fatty acids to keep our eyes healthy and functioning efficiently. Cue the avocado.
Additionally, lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in avocados, are helpful in preventing and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. (2)
By adding avocado to your smoothies, you can help protect your eye health. Try adding a small handful of kale to your smoothie to boost those eye health nutrients!
Pro tip: remove the stalk and stems from kale before blending.
Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #3: Brain Health
The healthy plant fats found in avocados have been shown to assist in improving cognitive function and brain health.
The monounsaturated fat and B vitamins in avocados help with memory and may help reduce homocysteine levels. (3) Note that increased homocysteine levels are risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Along with reducing the risk of dementia, AD, and cognitive decline, adding avocados to the MIND diet can be helpful in protecting your brain health.
The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. These diets focus on foods that increase heart health and protect brain health.
To boost your brain health even more, try adding some almonds to your next avocado smoothie. The nutty-tasting smoothie will be both satiating and delicious!
Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #4: Pregnancy Health
Avocados are great to consume during pregnancy – for both mom and baby. Avocados are nutrient-dense and help with satiety due to their high calorie content.
Additionally, avocados offer a rich source of folate. Folic acid helps to form the baby’s neural tube which can help prevent neural tube defects and anencephaly.
Folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, but folate is the natural form of the vitamin and folic acid is the form of folate that is added to supplements and used to fortify some foods.
Folic acid is better absorbed by the body, but folate and folic acid are equally important for our health.
Add some leafy greens, like spinach, to your avocado smoothie to get more folate in your diet!
Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #5: Cancer Prevention
As noted above, avocados are a great source of fat-soluble carotenoids. Carotenoids are phytochemicals that are reported to have anti-cancer properties. (4)
However, data surfacing about avocados and their role in cancer prevention is still very new. Many more studies need to be conducted before cancer prevention from avocados is confirmed or not.
Pro tip: to access most of the carotenoids that avocados offer, scrape away the flesh that’s really close to the avocado skin.
Combining avocado with pumpkin in your smoothie will increase the amount of carotenoids that you’re consuming. For a super easy smoothie, opt for frozen, cubed avocado and canned pumpkin puree.
Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #6: Bone Health
Both vitamin K and zeaxanthin from avocados can help improve your bone health. Vitamin K and zeaxanthin can help to strengthen bones, assist with bone metabolism, help to reduce the risk of fractures, and may reduce the risk of an osteoporosis diagnosis. (1,5,6)
When preparing your avocado smoothie, toss in a handful or two of spinach. Spinach contains both vitamin K and zeaxanthin and can help support your bone health.
Benefits of Avocado Smoothies #7: Bowel Health
Avocados are looking more and more like a superhero superfood! One of the main avocado nutrients that we haven’t talked about yet is fiber. Avocados are high in soluble fiber and can help promote a healthy digestive system.
With 10 grams of fiber per avocado and a low sugar profile, avocados are a great way to get your fiber without the discomfort of gas and bloating.
Want to add more fiber to your avocado smoothie to help with your bowel health? Try adding ½ cup of raspberries or blackberries.
Pro tip: when increasing your fiber, start slow and make sure to stay hydrated!
Wrap Up: Benefits of Avocado Smoothies
Avocado is an amazing, nutrient-dense fruit. Adding it to your smoothies can help with satiety (feeling fuller for longer) and it can help with:
- Heart health
- Eye health
- Brain health
- Pregnancy health
- Cancer prevention
- Bone health
- Bowel health
And don’t forget about all the other ways you can incorporate the versatile avocado into your meals and snacks! We’d love to hear how you’ve used avocado in your smoothies!
If you’re interested in learning more about the awesome avocado, then head over to our podcast, My Wife the Dietitian, and check out episode #55. Don’t miss it!