The avocado rose, served on toast with a screw of black pepper and lemon juice, is the latest way to eat one the the world’s healthy ‘super foods’.
And you don’t get much more super than avocados.
Since they were first introduced to the UK over 40 years ago, avocados have become a staple of the British diet.
We love their smooth creaminess and nutty buttery taste and eat more than 35 million of the green fruits each year.
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Avocados have become a staple of the British diets since they were first introduced to the UK 40 years ago
And it’s not just our taste buds which are benefiting from our fondness for avocado vinaigrette and guacamole.
Multiple scientific studies have linked avocados with health benefits ranging from anti-ageing to warding off heart disease and even cancer.
Writing for medical blogging website, The Hippocratic Post, experts reveal how the fruit can help everything from heart health to arthritis.
WHY ARE AVOCADOS SO GOOD FOR YOU?
Sue Baic, a registered dietitian and co-author of Nutrition for Dummies, said: ‘Avocado is an extraordinary food and can offer significant benefits as part of a healthy lifestyle.
‘It contains a lot of nutrients that we need in a convenient package which tastes great and keeps well.’
Ms Baic added: ‘Beneath the inedible skin is a fruit which is largely made up of monounsaturated fat, one of the healthiest form of fats which is also found in rapeseed and olive oils.
Half a large avocado contains 180 calories as they are also chock-full of other beneficial nutrients including potassium and vitamin E
‘Half a large avocado contains 180 calories and counts as one of your recommended five daily portions of fruit and vegetables.
‘Avocados are also chock-full of other beneficial nutrients including potassium and vitamin E.
‘They are naturally low in salt and contain fibre. In addition, they contain hundreds of powerful antioxidant plant chemicals – many of which are believed to have widespread health benefits.’
Avocados are naturally low in salt and contain fibre meaning you feel full for longer
Tantalisingly, there may be many more announcements of health boons linked to eating avocados on the horizon.
Professor Donald Singer, a member of the British Pharmacological Society, said: ‘There are over 200 types of plant steroids (phytosterols) – although avocados contain large amounts of several of these active chemicals, we really don’t yet know enough about what they do.
‘In laboratory tests, sterols reduce the growth of cells which could mean they have an action against inflammation and cancer, although this is yet to be tested robustly in humans.’
There is also theoretical evidence that these sterols and other chemicals in avocados could help to reduce the pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.
He added: ‘We know enough about them to know that they have very powerful properties in the test-tube.
‘Now, we have to carry out rigorous studies on humans to see if the effects are felt outside the laboratory too.’
KEEPING A HEALTHY HEART
Avocados, which contain monounsaturated fatty acids, may be able to help lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol while boosting ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in the body.
High levels of HDL cholesterol seem to protect against heart attack while LDL cholesterol clogs up arteries.
In one study, scientists discovered that people who ate avocados every day for three months dramatically cut their levels of LDLs.
Linda Main, dietetic advisor for Heart UK, said: ‘Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol which is going to have heart health benefits.
In one study, scientists found people who ate avocados every day for three months dramatically cut their levels of bad cholesterol
‘There is also a small but significant boost to HDL cholesterol too.
‘We are not quite sure why this happens although it may be that monounsaturated fats improve the function of LDL receptors in the liver.
‘These recognise LDL circulating in the body and take it out of circulation.’
Avocados also contain high levels of potassium – a third again more than bananas weight for weight – which is essential for protecting the vascular system and helps to regulate the heart as it pumps blood around the body.
HELP WITH WEIGHT CONTROL
People who are trying to lose weight can expect to feel ‘fuller’ and eat less if they make sure that avocados are part of their diet, according to a study published in the journal, Cell Metabolism.
This is because they contain unsaturated fats which trigger production of a compound in the small intestine that curbs hunger pangs.
Avocados contain unsaturated fats which trigger production of a compound in the small intestine that curbs hunger pangs and makes people feel ‘fuller’
Rob Beale, head of sport, health and fitness for David Lloyd Leisure, says avocados are recommended eating as part of their wellbeing course.
He added: ‘Avocados are a great source of essential nutrients and healthy fats such as oleic acid, which may help in lowering cholesterol levels, and the ideal choice for any weight loss programme.
‘They contain enough calories in healthy fat to nourish but not to induce excess weight gain – if eaten in moderation on a regular basis – and in fact possess properties that have been shown to speed up metabolism.’
MOISTENS AND SOFTENS SKIN
Victoria Beckham swears by a facemask made of mashed avocado.
A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found certain avocado sugars including D-manno-heptulose may help to boost epidermis collagen.
Ms Baic added: ‘Nutrients from avocados will not penetrate the skin, although the flesh may help to moisten and soften the epidermis temporarily.’
Victoria Beckham uses a facemask made of mashed avocado to help fight wrinkles
PROTECTS AGAINST CANCER
Diets rich in fruit and vegetables of all types do have a protective effect against certain types of cancer, including oral, stomach and lung. But variety is important.
Yinka Ebo, health information manager at Breast Cancer Now, Cancer Research UK, said: ‘You can’t pick out a particular fruit or vegetable in isolation.
‘The evidence suggests that there is a link between a varied diet and anti-cancer effects.’
A study carried out by researchers at Ohio State University and published in 2007 did suggest avocados may help to prevent mouth cancer.
Extracts from Hass avocados were found to kill some oral cancer cells and prevent pre-cancerous cells from developing.
However, Ms Ebo points out that human trials still need to be done, and the US scientists tested an extract in laboratory conditions – hardly the same as eating raw avocados.
She added: ‘The human body is very complex and a lot more goes on within it than goes on within a petrie dish. More research is needed before we can say anything is proved one way or the other.’
KEY NUTRIENTS FOR PREGNANCY
Avocados contain high amounts of the B vitamin, folic acid, which protects against birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Folate is an important regulators of embryonic and fetal nerve formation and helps to reduce the risk of giving birth too early.
The green fruits contain high amounts of vitamin B – which helps to protect against various birth defects
Rosie Dodds, senior policy advisor at NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said: ‘The government recommends all women who are considering pregnancy take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day until the 12th week of pregnancy.
‘Even if you didn’t take folic acid beforehand, it is worth starting as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.
‘It’s also a good idea to eat more foods containing folic acid, such as green leafy vegetables, wholemeal bread and brown rice.’
ANTI INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES
Around 8.5 million people in the UK suffer from osteoarthritis, which is a painful condition disease caused by cartilage loss in the joint.
Research has found that a combination of avocado and soybean oil may reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis.
This is because both foods contain chemicals called phytosterols, or plant steroids. These seem to act as anti-inflammatories and reduce pain.
A combination of avocado and soybean oil may reduce the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis because they contain plant steroids which act as anti-inflammatories
Jo Cumming, head of information and helpline manager at Arthritis Care says the compound is ‘very interesting’ although it is not yet available to buy in the UK.
She added: ‘It does sound promising and people are quite excited about this. In studies, it significantly reduced pain and improved walking. It also had very minor adverse effects.’
Eating raw avocado may also give benefits because the fruit is rich in Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant.
Ms Cumming said: ‘As part of a Mediterranean-style diet, avocados have an important role to play, alongside lots of other kinds of fruit and vegetables, olive oil and oily fish.’
This article has been reproduced with the permission of The Hippocratic Post.