The avocado is a tree native to South Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. Avocados are commercially valuable and are cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the world. In the United Kingdom, the term “avocado pear” is still used as applied when avocados first became commonly available in the 1960s. It is known as “butter fruit” in parts of India and in some other Asian countries. In Taiwan, it is known as luo li that’s mean “cheese pear”. Here are 6 health benefits of avocado that are supported by scientific research.
1. Crushes cholesterol
The avocado is high in fat — 30 grams per fruit, but it’s mostly monounsaturated fat. This fat helps protect good HDL cholesterol, while wiping out the bad LDL cholesterol that clogs your arteries. That means you not only lower your bad cholesterol, you also improve your ratio of good HDL to total cholesterol.
But there’s more than just monounsaturated fat at work. An avocado contains 10 grams of fiber, as well as a plant chemical called beta-sitosterol. These both help lower cholesterol. Throw in vitamins C and E powerful antioxidants that prevent dangerous free radicals from reacting with the cholesterol in your blood and it all adds up to a healthier you.
In fact, one study from Australia demonstrated how eating half to one-and-a-half avocados a day for three weeks could lower your total cholesterol by more than 8 percent without lowering your HDL cholesterol.
During the same study, a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet also lowered the participants’ total cholesterol but slashed the “good” cholesterol by almost 14 percent.
2. Lower your blood pressure.
You’ve probably heard that bananas are a good source of potassium. What you probably don’t know is those avocados, with over 1,200 milligrams of potassium per fruit, contain more than two-and-a-half times as much potassium as a banana. This is important because many studies show that potassium helps lower your blood pressure.
Magnesium, another important mineral found in avocados, could help lower your blood pressure, too. Some researchers think magnesium relaxes blood vessels and allows them to open wider. This gives blood more room to flow freely, reducing blood pressure. But results have been mixed. Some studies show magnesium lowers blood pressure, while others show no effect.
3. Reduce the risk of stroke
When it comes to taking on a deadly killer like stroke, who wants to fight fair? Gang up on stroke with avocados three heavy hitters — potassium, magnesium, and fiber. In the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which included more than 43,000 men, researchers found that the men who got the most potassium in their diet were 38 percent less likely to have a stroke as those who got the least. Results were lower for fiber (30 percent) and magnesium (30 percent).
4. Reduce risk of heart disease
By controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure, avocados can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
But avocados offer more protection. I f you increase your daily fiber intake by 10 grams, the amount in one avocado, you decrease your risk of heart disease by 19 percent. Vitamin C, potassium, and folate, part of the B-vitamin family, have also been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Folate also helps your heart by keeping homocysteine from building up to dangerous levels. Homocysteine, a by-product of protein metabolism, can harm your arteries and increase your chances of a heart attack or stroke. According to the California Avocado Commission, avocados have more folate per ounce than any other fruit.
5. Defends against diabetes
If you have diabetes, you’re probably looking for ways to replace the saturated fat in your diet with more carbohydrates. Instead, consider substituting some of those carbohydrates with monounsaturated fat, the kind you get from avocados. Not only do avocados lower your LDL cholesterol without lowering HDL cholesterol, they also can reduce the amount of triglycerides, another type of fat, in your blood. A high triglyceride level can be a warning sign of heart disease.
Eating high-fiber foods, like avocados, can benefit people with type 2 diabetes in several ways. One study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a high-fiber diet (50 grams per day) lowered cholesterol, triglyceride, glucose, and insulin levels. Avocados have earned the backing of the American Diabetes Association, which has included avocados in its collection of suggested recipes.
6. Protective effect against cancers
Another reason to eat a lot of fiber is its possible protective effect against certain cancers, particularly colon and breast cancer. Researchers looking at data from The Seven Countries Study recently concluded that adding 10 grams of fiber to your daily diet could cut your risk of dying from colon cancer by 33 percent over 25 years.
Although a few studies have found fiber ineffective in preventing cancer, many experts still recommend eating plenty of high-fiber foods. Avocado’s arsenal of powerful antioxidants glutathione and vitamin C also help fight cancer by neutralizing harmful free radicals that can damage your cells. Glutathione may ward off oral and throat cancers, and vitamin C has been linked to lower rates of oral, breast, lung, stomach, and cervical cancers. And don’t forget about beta-sitosterol and folate. They may protect you from colon and breast cancer, too.
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