We constantly nosh on avocado toasts and flaunt our trendy, avocado smoothies, but do we even know what an avocado is? Vegetable or fruit? Weight loss hero or just diet hype? Admit it — you have no idea.
Well, avocado lovers, we’re here to put your questions to rest. Below, we’ve uncovered every avocado FAQ ever asked, including what they are, what dietitians really think about them, and whether they are truly the perfect food for your waistline.
What Are Avocados Exactly?
According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Central American avocado tree originated in southern Mexico and Colombia around 7,000 years ago. By the 16th century, the Aztecs and Incas shared the avocado with Spanish conquistadors, who then named them aguacate. Later nicknamed “alligator pears” by English colonists for their green, scale-like skin and pear shape, avocados have assimilated into North American culture to such a degree that there are now 80 Californian varieties — Hass avocados being the most popular of their kind.
But what is their kind? Are they considered a fruit or a vegetable?
You may be surprised to learn that avocados are actually a fruit! Indeed, according to the California Avocado website, the avocado is botanically considered a berry because of its fleshy pulp and large single seed, and because this fruit is the product of a tree.
What’s in an Avocado? The Basic Nutrition Facts
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), these are the nutrition facts for about one-half, or 68 grams (g), of an avocado:
Dietary fiber 6 g
Total sugar 0.2 g
Potassium 345 milligrams (mg)
Sodium 5.5 mg
Magnesium 19.5 mg
Vitamin A 43 micrograms (μg)
Vitamin E 1.3 mg
Vitamin K 14 μg
Vitamin B-6 0.2 mg
Monounsaturated fatty acids 6.7 g
Overall, avocados contain quite a bit of potassium, dietary fiber, and fats. Avocado oil alone is almost two-thirds (71 percent) monounsaturated fatty acids — aka the “good fats” shown to lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesteroland increase HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, according to the Dairy Council of California. These important contents add to a number of health benefits.
The price of avocados fluctuates, but because of their “healthy-fat” status, avocados have become a popular food among people following the ketogenic diet, also called the keto diet for short. In fact, in February 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that high-fat foods like avocados are rising, likely due to the increased popularity of high-fat diets such as keto and the Atkins diet. Other high-fat foods, including olives and olive oil, have also increased in price, the article notes.
What Are the Potential Health Benefits of Eating Avocados?
The California Dairy Council notes that potassium is a main health component of the fruit — a nutrient that helps promote healthy heart contraction and reduces high blood pressure, and is on average sorely neglected in the American diet, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. But just one avocado can contain almost 15 percent of the daily recommended potassium intake, which is 4.7 g. That’s as much potassium as in one and a half large bananas (.73 g) or two small bananas (.72 g).
Additionally, avocados are loaded with nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B, vitamin E, and vitamin A.
Avocados are also a good source of dietary fiber, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, according to the California Avocados website. Dietary fiber is known to create a feeling of satiety, which can prevent snacking throughout the day. For this reason, avocados are often considered great foods for weight loss. But is this true?
What Are the Possible Beauty Benefits of Avocados?
Avocado oil may boost collagen production, further reducing signs of aging, research suggests. (Take that claim with a grain of salt, as the study was done on rats who were fed the oil.)
Are There Any Downsides to Eating Avocados?