Americans eat more than 1.6 billion avocados a year. Avocados are big on Super Bowl Sunday -- 79 million pounds find their way into guacamole served at football parties -- but in 2012, Independence Day surpassed even Cinco de Mayo as the holiday featuring the highest avocado consumption in the United States. This is a promising trend: Avocados are high in healthy fats, dietary fiber and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. But don't limit yourself to guacamole; use avocados as a substitute for cheese in sandwiches or as a base for a creamy salad dressing that's healthier than store-bought versions.
1. Monounsaturated Fat
According to conventional wisdom, avocados are high in fat and should be avoided if you're trying to eat a healthy diet. That isn't true, says Columbia Health. Avocados do contain a large concentration of fat -- nearly 21 total grams in each cup of fresh avocado cubes and 3 grams of saturated fat -- but most of it is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. A 1-cup serving of cubed avocado contains about 15 grams of monounsaturated fat. A high intake of monounsaturated fat is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol.
2. Dietary Fiber
Each cup of avocado cubes provides 10 grams of dietary fiber. For a woman, this amount supplies 40 percent of her daily recommended intake of fiber; for a man, a cup of avocado cubes fulfills 26 percent of his fiber requirement per day. Eating plenty of fiber-rich foods like avocados may lower your risk of diabetes, high blood cholesterol, hemorrhoids, obesity, diverticular disease and colon cancer.
Avocados are an excellent source of the B vitamin pantothenic acid. The Food and Nutrition Board says that adults need about 5 milligrams of pantothenic acid, and a cup of avocado cubes can supply 2.1 grams of this nutrient. Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B-5, aids with energy metabolism and the synthesis of hormones and red blood cells. Avocados are also rich in vitamin B-6, vitamin K, vitamin E and other B vitamins such as niacin and riboflavin.
Each cup of avocado cubes has 10 micrograms of fluoride. That's well over the full daily requirement of fluoride for both men and women. Fluoride strengthens your teeth and bones and is essential for preventing dental cavities. Other minerals that avocados are high in include copper, potassium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus.
Nutritional consultant Dr. Mike Roussell points out that avocados are dense with antioxidants known as polyphenols. Polyphenols occur naturally in plant-based foods and may help prevent cancer and the tissue inflammation that can contribute to conditions like arthritis and heart disease. Roussell suggests that for even more antioxidants, you should try eating avocados with fresh tomatoes, as the avocado may increase your absorption of the antioxidant carotenoids in tomatoes.
- Epicurious: Ten Things You Didn't Know About Avocados
- HuffPost Food: Avocado Consumption During Super Bowl Has Grown Significantly In Past Decade
- Columbia Health: Avocados are Fatty - Are They Healthy?
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Nutrient Data for 09037, Avocados, Raw, All Commercial Varieties
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber - Essential for a Healthy Diet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fluoride
- Shape: 12 Surprising Sources of Antioxidants
- American Institute for Cancer Research: Phytochemicals - The Cancer Fighters in the Foods We Eat
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