Not only are they delicious, avocadoes are one of the few foods that contain all the vitamins and nutrients we need. Here are seven reasons to add them to a healthy diet.
See also: Seven health benefits of strawberries
1. A nutrient-dense super food
Avocados are packed with nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, including potassium (which helps control blood pressure), lutein (good for eyes), and folate (important for cell repair). They're also a good source of vitamins C and E, as well as B vitamins, which help to strengthen the body's immune system.
2. Good for your heart
Unlike most fruits (which are mostly made up of carbohydrate), avocadoes are high in monounsaturated fat – the kind that's good for your heart. Studies have shown that monounsaturated fat helps to protect against heart disease by lowering so-called "bad" cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), while raising 'good' HDL cholesterol.
One study found that overweight or obese people who enjoyed a moderate-fat diet including one avocado a day had significantly less LDL than those who ate the same diet but skipped the avocado. Not only that, but the avocado-eaters had lower total cholesterol and levels of triglycerides (fat in their blood).
3. Good for arthritis
Many studies have found a link between diet and arthritis symptoms. Avocadoes are a good source of vitamin E, a micronutrient with anti-inflammatory properties that has been shown to decrease the risk of the joint damage seen in early osteoarthritis. The monounsaturated fats contained in avocadoes are also known to help slow the inflammation that leads to arthritis.
4. Regulates blood pressure
Avocados are particularly rich in potassium, a nutrient important for muscle strength, nerve function and heart health – and a deficiency could lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, heart palpitations and dizziness.
The potassium content in avocados regulates blood pressure and helps to protect against strokes, as well as improving digestion and helping the body to eliminate toxins.
Most people think of bananas as being a potassium-rich food – but avocadoes are even better, containing more than twice the amount contained in a banana.
5. Cancer prevention
Avocadoes are a good source of antioxidant carotenoids, including alpha-carotene, beta carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein - chemicals which interact with and neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing damage.
A recent study found a significantly lower risk of death for cancer and heart disease for those with the highest levels of alpha-carotene in their blood over a 14-year period.
Not only that, avocadoes contain oleic acid, which offers significant protection against breast cancer.
6. Skin benefits
Eating foods high in antioxidants (such as avocado) doesn't just help to lower your risk of cancer, it also helps to prevent damage to the skin. Studies show that high amounts of carotenoids in the diet can improve the skin's density, thickness, tone and general appearance.
They also stimulate production of anti-wrinkle collagen, which, together with vitamin E and fatty acids, makes them the best food to eat for younger, plumper looking skin.
7. Avocadoes and weight loss
Although avocados are high in fat, it's the healthy monounsaturated kind, so nutritionists advise including them in your diet. Experts now suggest that it's the fast-releasing energy foods (refined carbs and sugar) which cause weight gain, and some studies show that healthy fats can help to curb appetite.
Half an avocado can contain 200 calories – so if you're watching your waistline, you might want to eat half of one only two or three times a week.