How To Cut It: Avocado
We constantly nosh on avocado toasts and flaunt our trendy avocado smoothies, but do we even know what an avocado is? Vegetable or fruit? Weight loss hero or just diet hype? Admit it — you have no idea.
Well, avocado lovers, we’re here to put your questions to rest. Let’s dig in on some of the most common avocado queries, including what they are, what dietitians really think about them, and whether they are truly the perfect food for your waistline.
What Are Avocados?
The Central American avocado tree originated in Colombia and southern Mexico around 7,000 years ago, according to the California Department of Public Health. By the 16th?century, the Aztecs and Incas shared the avocado with Spanish conquistadors, who then named them aguacate. Later nicknamed “alligator pears” by English colonists for their green, scale-like skin and pear shape, avocados have assimilated into North American culture to such a degree that there are now 80 Californian varieties — Hass avocados being the most popular of their kind. (1)
But what is their kind? Are they considered a fruit or a vegetable?
You may be surprised to learn that avocados are actually a fruit! It’s botanically considered a berry because of its fleshy pulp, large single seed, and the fact that it grows on a tree. (2)
Avocado Salad With Ginger-Tamari Dressing
Here's a refreshing salad?that you can have ready in a matter of minutes, using San-J Tamari. The recipe has a variety of textures, from the crunchy cucumber to the cool and creamy avocado. San-J Tamari Organic Soy Sauce has a richer and more complex taste than typical soy sauce — and it's?non-GMO and gluten-free!
CALORIES PER SERVING
PREP TIME10 min
COOK TIME5 min
TOTAL TIME15 min
Add San-J Organic Tamari Soy Sauce, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and water?to?a medium bowl.
Whisk dressing together and set aside.
On a large serving plate, scatter cilantro first, followed by the cucumbers, green onions, avocado slices, and finally the dressing.
Amount per serving
What’s in an Avocado? The Basic Nutrition Facts
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), these are the nutrition facts for about one-half, or 68 grams (g), of an avocado:?(3)
- Calories 114
- Dietary fiber 6 g
- Total sugar 0.2 g
- Potassium 345 milligrams (mg)
- Sodium 5.5 mg
- Magnesium 19.5 mg
- Vitamin A 43 micrograms (μg)
- Vitamin E 1.3 mg
- Vitamin K 14 μg
- Vitamin B6 0.2 mg
- Monounsaturated fatty acids 6.7 g
Overall, avocados contain quite a bit of potassium, dietary fiber, and healthy fats. Avocado oil alone is almost two-thirds?(71 percent) monounsaturated fatty acids — the “good fats” shown to lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, according to MedlinePlus.?These important contents add to a number of health benefits, notes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines.
What Are the Potential Health Benefits of Eating Avocados?
The Cleveland Clinic notes that potassium is a main health component of the fruit. It’s also a nutrient that helps promote healthy heart contraction, reduces?high blood pressure, and is on average sorely neglected in the American diet. (5) But just one avocado can contain almost 15 percent of the daily recommended potassium intake, which is 4,700 mg. That’s as much potassium as in one-and-a-half large bananas (731 g) or two small bananas (724 g).
Additionally, avocados contain nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin A.
Avocados are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. (6) Dietary fiber is known to create a feeling of satiety, which can prevent snacking throughout the day. For this reason, avocados are often considered great foods for weight loss. But is this true?
Can Eating Avocados Help You Lose Weight?
Abbey Sharp, RD,?a registered dietitian based in Toronto, says avocado may help you lose weight because it contains monounsaturated fat.
Another characteristic that makes avocados waistline-friendly? Their fiber. Not only is the monounsaturated fat in avocados good for you, Sharp says, but their fiber fills you up. For every 100 g of avocado, you get about 7 g of fiber. (7)
Research supports Sharp’s praise. In a small study, 26 overweight adults reported a 28 percent reduction in hunger and a 23 percent increase in satisfaction after adding half an avocado to their daily diet. (8)
What Are the Possible Beauty Benefits of Avocados?
Sharp points out that adding avocado to your diet may promote a healthy complexion. Its vitamin C may help reduce skin inflammation, accelerate wound healing, and soothe dry skin.
Avocado oil may boost collagen production, further reducing signs of aging, research suggests. (Take that claim with a grain of salt, as the study was done on rats who were fed the oil.) (9)
Are There Any Downsides to Eating Avocados?
In addition to the possible health and beauty benefits of avocados, they offer very few dietary risks. Sharp says that other than allergenic concerns, the only reason a person might worry about eating too much of the fruit is if they’re trying to lose weight.
“Because they are so high in calories,” she says, “consuming them in excess could add extra calories to your day, which may cause weight gain if they’re not compensated for elsewhere in the diet.”
Be sure to work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to find out how much avocado you can safely eat without sabotaging your weight loss goals.
What Are the Best Ways to Eat Avocados?
When it comes to the culinary boundaries of avocados, there are none! Though we are accustomed to seeing avocados spread on toast, tossed into salads, or blended in smoothies, avocados are also used in myriad ways across the world, as reflected in the more than 1,100 recipes listed by the California Avocado Commission. (Avocado ice cream, anyone?) All in all, this versatile fruit goes incredibly well with almost anything, including soups, salads, dips, desserts, smoothies, and as an addition to breakfast, or even on its own, sprinkled with salt and pepper.
How Can You Keep Avocados From Browning?
We’ve all attempted those “tried-and-true” strategies to keep our avocados looking fresh: lemon juice, water, pit inside, onions, and more. But Sharp insists that “the best way to prevent browning is to add some acid, like vinegar, lemon, or lime juice to the avocado and cover tightly with plastic wrap.” Another tactic is to add a light coating of oil before you wrap it up, she says.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Harvest of the Month: Avocados [PDF]. California Department of Public Health. 2011.
- The Avocado: Fruit or Vegetable? California Avocados. February 12, 2015.
- Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. May 2013.
- Deleted, October 15, 2022.
- Cogswell ME, Zhang Z, Carriquiry AL, et al. Sodium and Potassium Intake Among U.S. Adults: NHANES 2003–2008. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. September 2012.
- Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet. Mayo Clinic.?January 6, 2021.
- Avocados, Raw, All Commercial Varieties. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 1, 2019.
- Wien M, Haddad E, Oda K, Sabaté J. A Randomized 3x3 Crossover Study to Evaluate the Effect of Hass Avocado Intake on Post-Ingestive Satiety, Glucose and Insulin Levels, and Subsequent Energy Intake in Overweight Adults. Nutrition Journal. November 27, 2013.
- Werman MJ, Mokady S, Nimni ME, Neeman I. The Effect of Various Avocado Oils on Skin Collagen Metabolism. Connective Tissue Research. 1991.
- Facts About Monounsaturated Fats. MedlinePlus. June 22, 2022.
- 10 Foods That Are High in Potassium. Cleveland Clinic. February 24, 2021.
- Avocado Recipes. California Avocado Commission.