Avocado toast, avocado cookies, avocado facemasks, the ways in which we use this magic fruit nowadays are both innovative and endless. Whether we are eating them, slathering them on our face, or drooling over guacamole recipes on Pinterest, it seems we just cannot get enough of those wrinkly little guys!
So what's all the hype about? Here's the low down of one of our favourite ingredients.
Avocados were first cultivated in Mexico as early as 1200 BC and introduced to the USA via California in the 19th century. They need a warm climate with little wind to grow successfully, and their growth has been expanded to countries such as Colombia, Kenya and Peru. The most common variety is the Hass Avocado with its dark green, bumpy skin.
Whilst avocados are not the most outwardly appealing fruit (they are named after the Aztec word for testicle! We know...) they sure are popular – the global avocado trade is worth over $3 billion, and in the UK alone we spent over £145 million on avocados last year, an increase of 31% compared to the previous year.
But what is it about avocados that make them such wonder fruits? And are they all they’re cracked up to be?
Avocados are bursting with vitamins and minerals that help contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system, such as magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin B. They are also one of the only foods with high levels of both Vitamins C and E, which act together to promote cardiovascular health and to keep your blood vessels in a good condition.
They are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, also known as ‘good fat’, found in other foods such as olive oil and cashews and macadamia nuts. These act to reduce low-density lipoprotein ‘bad’ cholesterol and therefore reduce the build up of fat within blood vessels. A 2016 study from the University of the Pacific showed that diets including avocados were effective at reducing LDL-cholesterol levels, and so cutting the risk of heart disease.
Good Zing expert Dr. Michelle Storfer says, "These fats should be included in your daily diet, as they are proven to lower the risk of heart disease and aid the body in absorption of vitamins and minerals."
Compared to other fruits, avocados are incredibly low in sugar, containing an average of only 0.2g of sugar per half-fruit, compared to 8g of sugar in the same amount of banana. They also contain a sugar called mannoheptulose, found in a unique form in avocados, which has been proven to help with weight control.
As well as being low in sugar, a 2013 study by the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University in California showed that adding one-half of an avocado to a lunchtime meal significantly increased the feeling of fullness in overweight adults – brilliant news for those of us who can’t make it through the afternoon without reaching for that 3pm snack!
Although research on the effects of avocados on cancer is in early stages, there are several indicators that they could be useful in the future.
For example, avocados are bursting with an antioxidant called glutathione, which acts to prevent damage to our body’s cells. In 2009, increased intake of glutathione was linked to a decreased risk of certain types of cancer, including oral and pharyngeal cancer.
Avocados also contain compounds called carotenoids, which are yellow and orange pigments found in certain fruit and vegetables (and give avocados their yellow-ish colour). These carotenoids have many useful roles in our bodies – they can be converted to Vitamin A, which is important for healthy growth and vision.
Carotenoids have been linked to processes in your body that can help prevent breast cancer. A study from the University of California, Los Angeles showed that taking an extract directly from the Hass Avocados and adding it to prostate cancer cells stopped the cells from dividing, and so could possibly be used to stop tumours from growing. Watch this space as more research emerges on the subject.
As if there weren’t enough health benefits from avocados, they also have been linked to a reduction in skin damage and wrinkles. One of the carotenoids in avocados called lutein has been associated with preventing UV damage to the skin, a major cause of skin aging.
A 2010 study of Japanese women and their diets also proved that those with a higher intake of dietary fats and yellow/green vegetables had improved skin elasticity and fewer wrinkles. So save your anti-wrinkle creams and Botox, and munch on an avocado instead!
As well as having an anti-aging effect when you eat them, avocados are ingredients in a whole range of different beauty and anti-aging skincare products. It makes sense when you consider how moisturizing avocado oil is, making it a perfect addition to create nourishing products.
Avocado oil also contains a type of fat called sterolin, which helps to soften skin, reduce age spots and condition and hydrate hair. As the oil is quite thin, it is absorbed quickly and deeply into the skin.
Resident Good Zing nutritional therapist Zoe Stirling says, “Avocados are associated with being a ‘good mood food’ due to their tryptophan content, an amino acid required to make serotonin, our happy hormone. Although, this requires adequate levels of vitamins B3 and B6 also found in fish, meat, poultry, nuts and seeds. Both B3 & B6 are even found avocados (although in lesser quantities) making it one of the best good mood foods out there.”
So there you have it. Avo on toast everone!
Read next: The top 10 Foods To Detox Your Liver Now.