The popularity of the humble avocado, also known as the alligator pear, has exploded in recent years.
Today, Mexico is the biggest producer, followed by California, which produces more than 90% of the avocados in the United States.
There are many varieties, but you’re most likely to find Hass avocados at the store.
Avocados are nutrient dense and may have numerous health benefits. They’ve also been key in challenging the myth that fats are bad.
At ZOE, we know that a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition doesn’t work.
With the ZOE at-home test, you can learn about your body’s unique blood sugar and blood fat responses, as well as which “good” and “bad” bugs are living in your gut. From this information, we’ll give you nutrition advice tailored to your body.
The nutrition profile
Avocados pack a rather unique nutritional punch.
They’re among the plant foods that contain the most fat, and they have more fat than carbs. This makes them a popular choice for people with low-carb diets.
Most of the fat in avocados is monounsaturated fat. If you eat moderate amounts as part of a healthy, balanced diet, this type of fat can help lower levels of “bad” cholesterol.
Avocados also contain vitamins A, B, C, E, and K — as well as key minerals, such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Storing and preparing avocados
Avocados tend to ripen within 2–3 days of purchase.
It’s best to store your avocados at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. If an avocado is ripe, but you’re not ready to eat it yet, you can pop it in the fridge to slow the ripening process.
To avoid the disappointment of cutting into an unripe avocado, peel off the cap — the hard bit at the top where the stem would have been. Check the color underneath.
If it’s green or yellow, the avocado is ready to eat. If the cap doesn’t come off easily, the avocado isn’t ripe yet. If the area beneath is brown, it’s overripe.
Another simple method is the squeeze test. If an avocado is firm, it’s less ripe. If it’s soft, it’s on the riper side.
And a general rule is: The darker the color, the riper the avocado.
Avocados are incredibly versatile. You can add them to main dishes, serve them as a side, or incorporate them into sauces.
They can even work well in smoothies and desserts. You might try a quick avocado chocolate mousse.
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The health benefits of avocados
Because avocados are packed with such a variety of nutrients, they have plenty of potential benefits. These include supporting gut, heart, bone, and brain health.
The fiber in avocados may help you have a healthy gut and a regular poop schedule.
The gut microbiome is the community of trillions of microbes that live in your gut and affect various aspects of your health. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that act as “food” for our gut microbes.
Avocados also contain antioxidants. These compounds neutralize free radicals, which are waste products from the body’s chemical reactions. Antioxidants curb free radicals’ ability to cause damage in the body.
The fat in avocados may benefit your heart health. For example, two clinical trials explored this topic in participants with overweight or obesity.
The teams found that consuming one avocado a day over 5 weeks improved blood fat levels or reduced levels of LDL — known as “bad” — cholesterol in these participants, compared with a group who consumed no avocado.
A large-scale observational study reported similar results in 2022. They associated a higher avocado intake with a 16–22% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Avocados contain key nutrients that support bone health, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Also, half an avocado provides around 14 micrograms of vitamin K, which plays an important role in calcium absorption.
Studies have linked vitamin K with a lower risk of fracture and higher bone mineral density.
Consuming avocados may help improve brain health — possibly due to a plant chemical called lutein.
Lutein is also present in the brain, and it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Higher levels of lutein may benefit cognition.
In a 6-month clinical trial, participants who ate one avocado a day had improved cognitive function.
And a 12-week clinical trial found that daily avocado consumption led to benefits in cognitive control performance among people with overweight or obesity.
Meanwhile, findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011–2014 showed that adults who were at least 60 years old and consumed avocados had better overall global cognition scores than those who didn’t eat this fruit.
How to grow your own
It’s easier than you might think — and avocado trees have large, shiny evergreen leaves, so they make nice houseplants.
Save the avocado seed — also known as a pit or stone — instead of composting it or throwing it out.
Rinse off any residue, then plant it in a pot of moist potting soil, and wait for the first shoot.
Another popular method is to pierce the seed with four toothpicks and submerge a third of it in water. After about 6 weeks, you’ll see roots. Then, plant the seed in a pot of soil.
Water the plant weekly, and feed it liquid plant food every 2 weeks during the growing season.
The plant needs to be pruned regularly, too. Every time it grows 6 inches, cut it back by a third to a half. This will encourage the plant to put all its energy into new growth.
Avocado trees are native to Mexico, and they need plenty of warmth and moisture. In the summer, pop the plant in a greenhouse if you can. In winter, bring it indoors. Aim for partial shade without direct sunlight, as the leaves can burn.
Growing an avocado tree doesn’t take too much effort, but it does take patience. It can take 3–5 years for the tree to start producing avocados.
Avocados are a favorite fruit for many people worldwide.
They have a unique nutritional profile, containing plenty of healthy monounsaturated fats, alongside fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals.
These versatile and delicious fruits may benefit the health of your gut, heart, bones, and brain.
If you have a few minutes each week and a good deal of patience, you might even try growing your own.
At ZOE, we believe that eating nutrient-dense foods like avocados can be a great way to support your health. But we also know that all bodies are different — avocados won’t affect everyone in the same way.
With the ZOE at-home test, you can learn about your unique blood sugar and blood fat responses, as well as which “good” and “bad” bugs live in your gut. From this, we’ll provide you with personalized nutrition advice.
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Effect of vitamin K on bone mineral density and fracture risk in adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Biomedicines. (2022). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35625785/
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US older adults that consume avocado or guacamole have better cognition than non-consumers: National health and nutrition examination survey 2011-2014. Frontiers in Nutrition (2021). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34722611/