The Fruit That Could Save Your Life

While the origin of the avocado is unknown, it is widely believed to have been cultivated by both the Aztec and Incan civilizations in Mexico. This fruit is a relative of both the laurel and of the cinnamon tree from which the popular spice is harvested. In the United States, the avocado is best known for its use in guacamole; however, there are many other ways to prepare it and it may even be eaten by itself. Recent studies have shown the immense nutritional value to be gained from eating avocados. The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) both recommend the addition of avocados to the nation’s diet.

The Life-Saving Power of the Avocado
This fruit has a unique combination of qualities, including:

• It is Rich in Monounsaturated Fats
In the past, the avocado was given a bad reputation due to its high fat content; the large amount of fat seemed to make the fruit bad for those trying to lose weight. It has since been shown that not all fats are bad and monounsaturated fats have been found to be very healthy. These fats are found in a variety of foods ranging from olive oil to nuts. Monounsaturated fats help to lower the levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood while boosting levels of good cholesterol (HDL). The benefit of lower cholesterol is that an individual’s chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke are greatly reduced. The avocado is rich in fat and it is the type of fat that is digested easily when compared to that from animal products. The fat in avocados brings with it a rich supply of oil-soluble nutrients such as Vitamins A, D and E.

• It Has Several Anti-inflammatory Ingredients
These range from a group of compounds called phytosterols, to carotenoids and flavonoids. Avocados are also a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids like those found in flax seed and fish oils. These compounds all help to prevent inflammation and therefore may reduce the likelihood of encountering conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. While arthritis is known to result from inflammation, there are potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease and stroke that may also include inflammation as an element. While the research is still ongoing, it is widely thought that inflammation is a sign of the body defending itself against fatty deposits in the arteries. The inflammation causes the arteries to narrow, which leads to cardiovascular or cerebrovascular distress.

• It Contains Lots of Soluble Fiber
Avocados are also a rich source of soluble fiber; one cup contains almost 40 percent of the daily-recommended amount. It is this fiber that makes them good for maintaining bowel regularity and blood sugar levels. Blood sugar control is especially important for those with diabetes. Almost 26 million people of all ages in the United States have diabetes. The disease can cause complications ranging from blindness to kidney failure; even worse, diabetics are at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. By helping to control blood sugar, avocados may lower the risk of encountering complications associated with the disease. Another reason that this fruit is helpful to diabetics is the fact that it contains a relatively small amount of carbohydrates; since carbohydrates break down to form sugars, diabetics must exercise great care in how much of this food group they eat. It is worth noting that the carbohydrates that it does contain are very rarely found in foods and may have an effect on how blood sugar is absorbed by the body. In addition to all of this, the water-soluble fiber in avocados is thought to reduce blood cholesterol by binding to bile acids, resulting in the body excreting dietary cholesterol rather than storing it.

• It Helps to Prevent Cancer
No discussion of the avocado’s live-giving properties would be complete without pointing out its effect on what may be the most dreaded disease of all: cancer. Avocados are thought to provide benefits when it comes to the prevention of cancer; particularly those cancers that affect the mouth, skin and prostate. As with many other conditions, the benefits seem to be linked to the unique cocktail of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents that the fruit contains. The connection is logical since many of the known risk factors for cancer development include inflammation and a diet where anti-inflammatory elements are absent. Oxidative stress and a lack of anti-oxidant nutrients are also among the risk factors. What is important about the avocado’s effect on cancer is that while it seems to reduce oxidative stress in healthy cells, it also helps to eliminate cancer cells by starting their death cycle.

The health benefits of the avocado have made it an important ingredient in trendy diets such as the Mediterranean diet. It has been termed a “super food” in reference to the diversity of its nutrients.  If you’ve been searching for a “super food”, look no further than the produce aisle in your local grocery or farmer’s market.

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