By Sayer Ji
Sometimes the best things for your health are also the simplest. This is certainly the case with avocados. Eating just one of these tropical fruits, also known as alligator pears,[i] daily may boost your skin and brain health, fight belly fat and more.
Rich in vitamins E and B6, and packed with healthy fats, protein, carotenoids and fiber,[ii] enjoying avocados regularly supplies your body with nutrients many people are lacking. So while it can seem daunting to overhaul your lifestyle to get healthier, making small, meaningful changes can have a big impact. Here’s what you can expect if you add an avocado to your daily menu.
4 Benefits of Eating an Avocado a Day
1. Firmer, More Elastic Skin
Although avocados are technically a fruit, they’re more akin to vegetables from a nutritional standpoint. With an abundance of monounsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid, and phytochemicals like lutein, zeaxanthin, phytosterols, vitamins E and A, niacin and folate,[iii] they’re uniquely suited to supply your body with an abundance of healing nutrition.
“The natural combination of carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin, along with the unsaturated fatty acids, provides a superior combination that increases the carotenoid absorbability. It has been demonstrated that these carotenoids have the ability to reach and concentrate at the skin,” noted a team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles and the David Geffen School of Medicine.[iv]
The team studied 39 overweight women between the ages of 27 and 73, who ate their regular diets with or without a daily avocado for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the avocado group had firmer, more elastic skin on their forehead compared to those who didn’t eat the fruits.
It’s possible the carotenoids in the avocado helped ward off skin aging by stimulating cells known as fibroblasts to make collagen and elastin, along with offering anti-inflammatory effects and providing protection against ultraviolet light.[v]
2. Improved Cognitive Health
Avocados are an excellent source of lutein, a carotenoid that’s well-known for its role in vision health, as it helps filter blue light and may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Lutein concentrates in the macular area of the retina, and lutein levels in the retina are associated with lutein levels in the brain. Meanwhile, lutein concentrations in the brain are associated with positive measures of cognitive function.
A study of older adults tested the effects of avocado intake on cognition, with subjects consuming one avocado, one potato or one cup of chickpeas daily for six months.[vi] The avocado group increased their lutein levels by 25%. They also had increased macular pigment density (MPD), a biomarker for lutein levels in the brain, which was associated with improved working memory and better efficiency in approaching a problem.
The avocado group also enjoyed improved sustained attention, and the researchers concluded, “Dietary recommendations including avocados may be an effective strategy for cognitive health.” It’s interesting to note that a medium avocado contains only about 0.5 milligrams (mg) of lutein but was very effective at increasing lutein, perhaps because it’s in such a bioavailable form.
The research team had previously tested lutein supplementation of a much higher dose (12 mg/day), but it increased MPD far less than the avocados:[vii]
“The avocado intervention increased MPD by more than double that of the supplement, with only a small fraction of the amount of lutein. This suggests that other components in avocado are particularly effective in the enrichment of neural lutein. The most likely components are monounsaturated fatty acids.”
3. Less Belly Fat
Eating avocados is associated with lower abdominal obesity, less weight gain and reduced risk of being overweight or obese.[viii]
Among 105 adults who ate a meal with a daily avocado or a similar meal without avocado for 12 weeks, women in the avocado group had a greater reduction in visceral adipose tissue (VAT) and the ratio of VAT to subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, known as the VS ratio.[ix] This beneficial change could indicate a lower risk of related diseases:[x]
“Relative to other adipose tissue depots, VAT accumulation, surrounding internal organs such as the liver, is associated with type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, inflammation, increased risk of thrombosis, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Therefore, the decrease in VS Ratio among treatment group participants suggests that avocado intake imparts a beneficial abdominal adiposity profile.”
For reference, eating a daily avocado for 12 weeks led to an approximately 5% reduction in VAT among the women. A 26% reduction in VAT over 12 months has previously been linked to improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, inflammation, lipid profiles and glucose tolerance.
“It is possible,” the team said, “that maintaining the treatment regimen [eating an avocado a day] over the course of a longer period could have provided the necessary cumulative reduction in VAT to be clinically meaningful.”[xi]
4. A Healthier Heart
Consuming a healthy diet with an avocado added daily for five weeks had a positive effect on markers of heart health, including decreased circulating oxidized LDL in overweight and obese adults.[xii]
High concentration of oxidized LDL is a risk factor for heart disease. Consuming an avocado a day was also linked to a reduction in small, dense LDL particles, which are susceptible to oxidation and also linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Over the five-week period, a daily avocado decreased plasma oxidized LDL by 8.8%, the study found, along with increasing plasma lutein concentrations. “We conclude that these benefits are due to the bioactive compounds present in avocados beyond their fatty acids,” the team noted.[xiii]
More Reasons to Eat Avocados
When you browse through our avocado research database, you’ll see that avocados may benefit 46 diseases, from psoriasis and osteoarthritis to breast cancer and colitis. With 35 known pharmacological actions — including antifungal, hypoglycemic and antiulcer properties, for instance — avocados are one tasty treat you can feel good about indulging in.
Add them to your smoothies, eat them alongside eggs for breakfast or use them to make guacamole. No matter how you consume them, be sure this satisfying superfood makes a regular appearance on your menu.
References:[i] Plants (Basel). 2023 Mar; 12(5): 1201. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10007261/ [ii] World Avocado Organization 2023 https://avocadofruitoflife.com/en/nutrition/ [iii] J Cosmet Dermatol. 2022 Sep; 21(9): 4028–4034. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9786235/ [iv] J Cosmet Dermatol. 2022 Sep; 21(9): 4028–4034. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9786235/ [v] J Cosmet Dermatol. 2022 Sep; 21(9): 4028–4034. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9786235/ [vi] Nutrients. 2017 Sep; 9(9): 919. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622679/ [vii] Nutrients. 2017 Sep; 9(9): 919. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622679/ [viii] J Nutr. 2021 Sep; 151(9): 2513–2521. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8417923/ [ix] J Nutr. 2021 Sep; 151(9): 2513–2521. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8417923/ [x] J Nutr. 2021 Sep; 151(9): 2513–2521. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8417923/ [xi] J Nutr. 2021 Sep; 151(9): 2513–2521. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8417923/ [xii] J Nutr. 2020 Feb; 150(2): 276–284. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7373821/ [xiii] J Nutr. 2020 Feb; 150(2): 276–284. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7373821/
About the author:
Sayer Ji is the founder of Greenmedinfo.com, a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, Co-founder and CEO of Systome Biomed, Vice Chairman of the Board of the National Health Federation, and Steering Committee Member of the Global Non-GMO Foundation.