Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Some call avocado a super-food, but what does that mean anyway? I guess it depends on how you define super-food. Regardless, years of research suggest that avocado, like most fruits, offer incredible health benefits, and here are some reasons why adding avocado to your diet may be a super idea:

1. Avocado can lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels while increasing good cholesterol[1]
2. Avocado may potentially lower risk of diabetes[2]
3. Components in avocado are being investigated for anti-cancer activity (more info below)
4. Avocados are packed with essential fats, are high in fiber, and are loaded with various vitamins (even have more potassium than bananas)

Avocado is a unique fruit in that it serves numerous culinary and dietary purposes. Avocados are primarily known for their high fat content, but that’s part of what makes them so healthy.

Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, and is the main fat component in avocado. Oleic acid is present in most cooking oils and is suspected to be the primary reasons for the blood pressure reducing effects of olive oil.[3] The consumption of monounsaturated fats in general have been widely associated with decreased LDL and cholesterol.[4] Additionally, a study in 2014 showed that dietary consumption of oleic acid increases sex-hormone-binding globulin in men, which is great since low levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.[5]

The small amount of saturated fat content comes from palmitic acid which is also found in a number of meat and dairy products. Although high amounts of this particular fat would likely cause more harm than good, research shows that balance among different types of fats is paramount to good health, though that topic is an entire conversation for another day. Nevertheless, a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that eating more oleic acid compared to palmitic acid reduces blood LDL levels.[6] Fortunately, there is significantly more oleic acid than palmitic acid in avocados.

Linoleic acid belongs to the omega-6 fatty acid family, one of the two essential families of fatty acids (meaning our body cannot create it, rather we must consume it). It plays a significant role in the biosynthesis of arachidonic acid which is then converted to several different prostaglandins that serve various normal physiological purposes.

Like everything else, not all fats are created equal.

Avocado Meal Ideas
Avocado keeps me (Jenny) really full and tastes great with many different protein combinations. I recommend adding a vegetable into each sandwich with protein. It will help keep you fuller longer. The more meat and less carbs, the more muscle mass you can gain and slim down.

Here are my favorite combinations. The number of ideas is truly endless. A whole wheat wrap, full or open faced/half sandwich with avocado spread in a wrap or sandwich goes well with:
1. Turkey and tomato slices
2. Bacon and tomato slices
3. Cherry tomatoes roasted in the oven with a little bit of olive oil or vinaigrette 
4. Fried egg and bacon
5. Hard boiled egg
6. Canned tuna in olive oil or water (water is less calories and healthier) and lettuce and tomato.
7. Chicken, lettuce and tomato
8. Cheese, tomato and basil with a teaspoon of olive oil
9. Dijon mustard and salmon
10. Shrimp and sprouts with a tiny bit of soy sauce

Whole wheat wrap with avocado, bacon and tomato 
Photo Credit: Jenny 

Flax bread with avocado, bacon and egg from Lucia's Wine Bar in Minneapolis. 
Photo Credit: Jenny

Avocado Pasta with Homemade Noodles
Photo by Jenny

Need even more reasons to like avocado? Here are some scientific findings in the last couple years:

A national survey published in Nutrition Journal showed an association between avocado consumption and lower risk of metabolic syndrome in adults.[7]

In 2013, researchers in Mexico published a study demonstrating that defensin peptides from avocado possess antimicrobial properties against E. coli and S. aureus.[8]

Also in 2013, extracts from avocado were shown to have powerful pro-apoptotic (pro-death) properties toward leukemia cells, indicating a potential alternative therapy (or at least enhancement) for leukemia treatments.[9]

More recently, in 2014, scientists in Iran demonstrated that avocado extracts inhibit the growth of cancer cells from esophageal squamous carcinoma and colon adenocarcinoma. Again, this highlights the powerful anti-cancer effects from avocados which could potentially be used as alternative therapies to cancer.[10]

Overall, despite its fatty makeup, there is overwhelming evidence to support the numerous health benefits of avocado. Remember, as a wise person once said, too much of anything can be bad, and moderation is key.

[1] Ledesma et al. Arch-Med-Res. 1996; 27 (4): 519-23.
[2] Gondwe et al. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol. 2008; 30 (1): 25-35.
[3] Teres et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2008; 105 (37): 13811-6.
[4] Pérez-Jiménez et al. Atherosclerosis. 2002; 163 (2): 385-98
[5] Sáez-López et al.  Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014; 58 (4):760-7.
[6] Kien et al. Am J Clin Nutri. 2014;. 99: 436-45.
[7] Fulgoni et al. Nutrition Journal. 2013; 12:1.
[8] Guzmán-Rodríguez et al. Biomed Research International.  2013.
[9] Bonilla-Porras et al. Pharm Biol. 2013.
[10] Larijani et al. Acta Med Iran. 2014; 52 (3): 201-5.

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