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Avocado: More Nutrients from the Same Amount of Food

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(Photo: Foodie Factor / Pexels)

Avocados serve as a versatile addition to a wide range of recipes, as a quick look online will show! Regular avocado consumption also tends to boost diet quality compared to the recommended American diet by increasing fibre, magnesium, potassium and fat-soluble vitamin intake [1].

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More than just Tasty Salad, Salsa and Guacamole. Eating avocado has great “side-effects”. An experiment that measured the amount of vitamins absorbed from a salad showed that adding avocados increased α-carotene, β-carotene, lutein and lycopene absorption [2]. Adding avocado oil alone to the salad also increased the absorption of these nutrients. Avocado has also been shown to increase α- and β-carotene absorption, as well as vitamin A levels, when added to tomato sauce and raw carrot dishes [3]. Whereas there is not direct experimental evidence, the chemical responsible for many health benefits in chillies (i.e. capsaicin) is also soluble in oil, and so it’s possible that avocado may boost all the benefits we receive from spicy food. As such, it appears the fat/oil content of avocados is able to increase the nutritional quality of a whole range of plant-based dishes.

“Fatty nutrients” for the Heart. Lycopene is a red-pigmented molecule found in tomato, carrots, potatoes, papaya and other fruit and veg. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that can lower the risk of depression [4] and give significant protection from prostate cancer [5]. A review of the literature has shown that dietary lycopene direct from food is much more effective (than other forms) at lowering blood pressure and inflammation, and improves endothelial function [6]. All of those factors protect against cardiovascular disease. The same phenomenon has been shown for most known antioxidants; fruits and veg are the only way to eat antioxidants that work [7, 8, 9].

Get even more vitamins from the same amount of veg with avocado (Photo: RitaE / Pixabay)

Food for Thought. Avocado is a rich source of the pigment lutein that our bodies concentrate in the macular pigments of our brains [10]. After 6 months, eating avocados regularly was able to not just elevate circulating levels of lutein in the bloodstream, but boost lutein content of the macular pigment and actually improve memory, attention and problem solving [10].

Fatty ingredients against the Heart. Cholesterol is a fatty molecule usually present in an omnivorous diet but practically absent in a vegan/plant-based diet. Interestingly enough, the body produces it’s own cholesterol in the liver, a process that is inhibited by the drug “simvastatin” [11]. Cholesterol predominantly circulates in the body in the more commonly known forms of “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol” (actually HDL and LDL respectively). LDL distributes cholesterol from the liver into circulation in the bloodstream so that relevant tissues and organs can use cholesterol properly. But when LDL is oxidised, by an “low antioxidant” omnivorous diet for example, cholesterol becomes a problem and can block the bloodstream [12]. This is why an “antioxidant-rich” plant-based diet can reverse many heart and circulatory illnesses [13].

Avocado Aficionado. The fat content that makes up 15% of an avocado’s weight is mostly the healthy kind (i.e. over 70% mono- and poly-unsaturated fat) [14]. A review of the benefits of eating avocado indicated that eating avocados on a regular basis can significantly improved the cholesterol profile of patients with diabetes, those with inherited high cholesterol, and people eating a calorie-restricted diet [14]. Since the fatty vitamins that avocados help us absorb are antioxidants (i.e. lycopene, carotene etc.), the benefits that avocado aficionados experience makes perfect sense! Fatty antioxidants are likely to circulate the body and help protect LDL from oxidation, or possibly reverse LDL oxidation.

Get that Lycopene Love (Photo: RLievi / Pixabay)

Although many “refined” vegetable oils are also able to increase the body’s absorption of fatty nutrients [15], your arteries may not appreciate it [16]. Avocados offer a higher-quality conduit to boost absorption of all these fatty vitamins, but in theory could potentially deliver fat-soluble toxins that often concentrate in “omnivorous foods” [17] (avocados delivering food-borne pollutants has not been researched directly). The best possible approach to extracting the most nutrients possible from your foods is to add avocado to salads and other plant based meals.

Disclaimer: If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor before implementing the opinions in this article.

N. Baiden PhD.

(References)

1. Fulgoni, V. L., III, Dreher, M. and Davenport, A. J. (2013) Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nutrition Journal. 12

2. Unlu, N. Z., Bohn, T., Clinton, S. K. and Schwartz, S. J. (2005) Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. Journal of Nutrition. 135, 431–436

3. Kopec, R. E., Cooperstone, J. L., Schweiggert, R. M., Young, G. S., Harrison, E. H., Francis, D. M., Clinton, S. K. and Schwartz, S. J. (2014) Avocado Consumption Enhances Human Postprandial Provitamin A Absorption and Conversion from a Novel High-beta-Carotene Tomato Sauce and from Carrots. Journal of Nutrition. 144, 1158–1166

4. Niu, K., Guo, H., Kakizaki, M., Cui, Y., Ohmori-Matsuda, K., Guan, L., Hozawa, A., Kuriyama, S., Tsuboya, T., Ohrui, T., Furukawa, K., Arai, H., Tsuji, I. and Nagatomi, R. (2013) A tomato-rich diet is related to depressive symptoms among an elderly population aged 70 years and over: A population-based, cross-sectional analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 144, 165–170

5. Zu, K., Mucci, L., Rosner, B. A., Clinton, S. K., Loda, M., Stampfer, M. J. and Giovannucci, E. (2014) Dietary Lycopene, Angiogenesis, and Prostate Cancer: A Prospective Study in the Prostate-Specific Antigen Era. Jnci-Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 106

6. Burton-Freeman, B. M. and Sesso, H. D. (2014) Whole Food versus Supplement: Comparing the Clinical Evidence of Tomato Intake and Lycopene Supplementation on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Advances in Nutrition. 5, 457–485

7. Bjelakovic, G., Nikolova, D., Gluud, L. L., Simonetti, R. G. and Gluud, C. (2012) Antioxidant supplements for prevention of mortality in healthy participants and patients with various diseases. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

8. Lv, J., Qi, L., Yu, C., Yang, L., Guo, Y., Chen, Y., Bian, Z., Sun, D., Du, J., Ge, P., Tang, Z., Hou, W., Li, Y., Chen, J., Chen, Z., Li, L. and China Kadoorie Biobank, C. (2015) Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: population based cohort study. Bmj-British Medical Journal. 351

9. Gao, X., Cassidy, A., Schwarzschild, M. A., Rimm, E. B. and Ascherio, A. (2012) Habitual intake of dietary flavonoids and risk of Parkinson disease. Neurology. 78, 1138–1145

10. Scott, T. M., Rasmussen, H. M., Chen, O. and Johnson, E. J. (2017) Avocado Consumption Increases Macular Pigment Density in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 9

11. Mauro, V. F. (1993) Clinical pharmacokinetics and practical applications of simvastatin. Clinical Pharmacokinetics. 24, 195–202

12. Lloyd-Jones, D. M., Hong, Y., Labarthe, D., Mozaffarian, D., Appel, L. J., Van Horn, L., Greenlund, K., Daniels, S., Nichol, G., Tomaselli, G. F., Arnett, D. K., Fonarow, G. C., Ho, P. M., Lauer, M. S., Masoudi, F. A., Robertson, R. M., Roger, V., Schwamm, L. H., Sorlie, P., Yancy, C. W., Rosamond, W. D. and Amer Heart Assoc Strategic, P. (2010) Defining and Setting National Goals for Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Reduction The American Heart Association’s Strategic Impact Goal Through 2020 and Beyond. Circulation. 121, 586–613

13. Esselstyn, C. B., Jr., Gendy, G., Doyle, J., Golubic, M. and Roizen, M. F. (2014) A way to reverse CAD? Journal of Family Practice. 63, 356-U363

14. Dreher, M. L. and Davenport, A. J. (2013) Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 53, 738–750

15. Mashurabad, P. C., Palika, R., Jyrwa, Y. W., Bhaskarachary, K. and Pullakhandam, R. (2017) Dietary fat composition, food matrix and relative polarity modulate the micellarization and intestinal uptake of carotenoids from vegetables and fruits. Journal of Food Science and Technology-Mysore. 54, 333–341

16. Rueda-Clausen, C. F., Silva, F. A., Lindarte, M. A., Villa-Roel, C., Gomez, E., Gutierrez, R., Cure-Cure, C. and Lopez-Jaramillo, P. (2007) Olive, soybean and palm oils intake have a similar acute detrimental effect over the endothelial function in healthy young subjects. Nutrition Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. 17, 50–57

17. Vogt, R., Bennett, D., Cassady, D., Frost, J., Ritz, B. and Hertz-Picciotto, I. (2012) Cancer and non-cancer health effects from food contaminant exposures for children and adults in California: a risk assessment. Environmental Health. 11

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