Why Avocados Are So Amazing

A fruit that’s loaded with fat may sound like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what an avocado is. More than three-quarters of the calories in an avocado come from unsaturated fat, most of which is monounsaturated, the type that helps protect your heart.

The fruit’s healthy fat content may grab all the headlines, but avocados also deliver vitamins E and C, potassium, folate, and fiber. And it contains plant sterols that may help reduce the risk for cancer, as well as the antioxidant lutein, which helps keep your eyes healthy. Numerous studies show that avocados can help reduce cholesterol levels, improve heart health, and aid in weight management.

A Nutritional Powerhouse

Talk about an avocado advantage. The super fruit is clearly good for your insides, but it’s equally beneficial for your outsides, too. Avocado is packed with nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, many of which boast skin-saving perks.

If you’re watching your weight, however, the fruit’s high-fat content means it has a lot of calories—about 320 calories for a medium avocado, and 29 grams of fat. Aim to stick with a 1-ounce serving, about one-quarter of an avocado.

If you tend to have stomach sensitivities, add avocado to your diet gradually as some people experience discomfort from high-fat foods.

Beauty-Boosting Nutrients

The avocado is packed with vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids that are great for your skin. In fact, women have been making hydrating face masks using avocado for centuries. Here's a closer look at some of the beautifying nutrients packed into this stone fruit.

Vitamin C

This immune-boosting compound also helps with tissue growth and repair, and is also necessary to form collagen (a protein that gives skin its elasticity).

Vitamin E

This antioxidant protects against free radicals, which damage the skin and other parts of your body.

Lutein

This compound, which helps boost eye health, may also help protect the skin against harsh UV damage.

Monounsaturated fats

These fats help your body absorb key nutrients and plant compounds, allowing your skin to reap as many benefits as possible from the avocado. Plus, studies show that higher intakes of total dietary fat are associated with greater skin elasticity. This is especially important as we age because skin elasticity automatically decreases.

Carotenoids

These compounds help protect against the damage caused by UV rays. The more produce you eat (including avocados), the higher concentration of carotenoids in your body.

Ways to Enjoy Avocados

There are many great ways to enjoy avocados because they are so versatile. You can slather the creamy green fruit on almost everything. Avocados add substance, flavor, and heart-healthy fat to dips, spreads, and smoothies. You can even use it in sweet dishes, including puddings, mousse, and ice pops. Try these tasty tips to incorporate avocado into some of your meals and snacks:

As a Dip

Mash avocados and mix with lime, salsa and spices to make guacamole. You can lighten up the classic dip by mixing in some nonfat Greek yogurt—you get the same smooth texture with an added hit of protein. Or try mixing an equal amount of guacamole with salsa to create a delicious salsa-mole.

Use crudités like celery, red pepper strips, or cherry tomatoes instead of chips for an even healthier treat.

On Toast

Top whole-grain toast with mashed avocado instead of butter to make avocado toast. Then add seasonings of your choice. For instance, if you like heat, you can add crushed red pepper flakes and if you like citrus, squeeze on some fresh lemon or lime juice.

As a Mayo Substitute

Avocado makes a great condiment and sandwich spread in place of mayo. You can also substitute avocado for half or the full amount of mayonnaise in your deviled eggs and other recipes.

As a Snack

Sliced avocado seasoned with fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of ground black pepper and kosher salt makes a great snack to get you over the afternoon slump.

Ice Pops

Avocado makes a creamy addition to frozen desserts. Try this refreshing Avocado Ice Pops recipe for the perfect warm-weather treat.

As a Thickener

Toss 1/2 cup avocado into your dip for a rich and creamy consistency. Try this Avocado Ranch Dip recipe. It goes great with spicy Buffalo wings.

In Smoothies

Add one-quarter of an avocado to your favorite smoothie recipe. It goes surprisingly well with cocoa!

As a Dessert

Avocado is often used in dessert recipes for people following a paleo-style diet. It's creamy texture and bland taste works well for puddings and mousse, like this Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse recipe.

As a Face Mask

For a hydrating facial, mix a tablespoon of honey with a mashed avocado, smooth over your face and neck, let sit for 20 minutes, then wash off.

Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, is the health and nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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