Avocado: The Clean, Green, Fat Fighting Machine

AvacadoWhat fruit can be considered a complete meal in and of its self? The avocado. You may be surprised that this energy packed, nutrient dense food is classified as a fruit. These delicious fruits are grown from trees and were first introduced to the United States during the 1870’s. The largest produced and consumed variety is the Hass avocado which contains a smooth, light green-yellow fruit covered by a dark green to black, bumpy skin. The thick skin of the avocado is disease and insect resistant, allowing environmentally sustainable production methods with reduced pesticide and chemical applications and no added preservatives or taste enhancers.

Aside from the delicious flavor and decadent texture of the avocado, there are many nutritional benefits that support a numerous aspects of a Spartan’s performance and fitness goals. Research has linked avocado consumption to decreased cancer risk, increased satiety and fat loss, as well as promoting healthy blood cholesterol levels.

The nutrient distribution for avocados is as follows, 4% protein, 77% fat, and 19% carbohydrate, thus making it a perfect snack or compliment to any meal. Although the fruit is high in fat, the monounsaturated, poly-unsaturated and saturated fat types that it contains can benefit your healthy lifestyle. Some studies have supported a 9-43% reduction in total cholesterol in subjects that consumed 0.5-1.5 avocados per day. A separate study suggested that avocado consumers have higher good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) levels, lower weight, and waist circumference than those who not consuming the fruit. An added benefit of the fats in avocados are their ability to aid the absorption of fat soluble phytochemicals such as carotenoids, phenolics, and phytosterols. All of these compounds are found in fruits and vegetables, however when consumed without fat, our bodies cannot absorb them properly. Thusly, we miss out of their important health benefits, providing more reason to add diced avocado to a salad or smoothie.

Of the carbohydrates in the avocado, 80% are dietary fiber. Consuming one whole avocado provides 9.2 grams of dietary fiber, approximately 1/3 of the adequate intake of fiber recommended per day. With such a large portion of carbohydrates composed of fiber, there leaves less than 0.2 grams of sugar found in one-half an avocado. This combination of high fiber and low sugar levels allows a glycemic index close to zero and increased satiety prolonged well after eating the fruit.

Certain phytochemicals show anti-carcinogenic properties in numerous cancer research studies. Avocados contain a large variety of these phytochemicals, including carotenoids, terpenoids, phenols, and glutathione. Research has focused around cancer of the larynx, pharynx, and oral cavity, but anti-cancer benefits of these compounds extends to the protection from breast and prostate cancer as well.

Where some fruits and vegetables lack in nutrient diversity, avocados set themselves apart. Each avocado contains vitamins K, C, E, & B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, lutein, and magnesium. All of these components help fuel you through workouts, reenergize after enduring a tough week of training, promote fat loss, and aid rebuilding muscle tissue. Take the advice from a four-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Lenny Krayzelburg. During his training days, he relied heavily on avocados as a primary fat source due to “their poly and monounsaturated fat content and because they contribute nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients”.

References

Commission, C. A. (2013, September 24). California Avocado. Retrieved from California Avocado: http://www.californiaavocado.com/

Ding, H., Han, C., Guo, D., Chin, Y., Ding, Y., Kinghorn, A., & D’Ambrosio, S. (2009). Selective induction of apoptosis of human oral cancer cell lines by avocado extracts via a ROS-mediated mechansim. Nutr. Cancer, 348-356.

Dreher, M. L., & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 738-750.
Grant, W. (1960). Influence of avocados on serum cholesterol. Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med., 45-47.

Jones, D., Coates, R., Flagg, E. W., Eley, J., Block, G., Greenberg, R., . . . Jackson, B. (1992). Glutathione in foods listed in the NCI’s health habits and history food frequency questionaire. Nutr. Cancer, 57-75.

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