Avocado is a health food. Really. In fact, it is one of the healthiest fruits on the planet. How could a creamy indulgence loaded with calories and fat qualify as nutritious? It's all about the type of fat.
Although it's true that an avocado packs a lot of calories and fat into a small package -- an average California variety has 289 calories and 24 grams of fat -- only 4 of those fat grams are saturated. Most are monounsaturated (17 grams), which lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol and raises "good" HDL levels. The remaining fat (3 grams) is polyunsaturated. According to a study from Ohio State University, the fat in avocados may aid your body's ability to absorb certain nutrients. One such nutrient is lycopene, which may help prevent heart disease and prostate cancer; others include beta-carotene and lutein, which may decrease the risk of certain cancers and eye diseases.
But there's more to avocado than its good-for-you fat. Per ounce, avocados contain more fiber than other fruit; a typical whole avocado has a whopping 14 grams, which even rivals the fiber in a serving of shredded wheat and bran cereals. They also provide more protein than most fruits, making them a great energy source (since you need carbs, fat, and protein for sustained energy).
Still not convinced? Compared to most fruits, avocados have higher concentrations of many B vitamins, as well as beta-carotene, magnesium, and vitamins E and K. These nutrients support and sustain your overall health, not to mention your energy, metabolic functioning, and strong bones. Avocados are loaded with potassium -- even more than bananas -- which research shows may help lower blood pressure when part of a healthy diet. They also serve as a great source of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that fights unhealthy free radicals.
When you consider all the nutrients housed in a single avocado, the calories no longer loom so large -- especially if you give it a starring role on your plate, as you would a serving of meat or fish. So go ahead and indulge in avocado -- slice it on a salad, smash it and spread it on some bread, or try our recipes above.