A description of one popular food sometimes sounds too good to be true. It’s delicious, creamy and fills you up because it’s high in fat. What’s more, many experts believe this food can actually help you lose weight while offering important benefits for your heart and brain.
My long-time readers also know it’s one of my favorite foods.
I’m talking about the avocado.
Many people believe the avocado is a vegetable, but it’s actually a fruit whose soft flesh provides the body with great taste and great nutrition.
The research on the natural chemicals in avocados has turned up an impressive list of compounds important for health.
For instance, studies on an avocado compound called NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide), demonstrate that it’s used by the body to make NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucelotide), a key substance necessary for cells to produce energy.
Expensive NAD-boosting supplements have become popular the past few years. Why not eat avocado instead?
Fuels the Body and Slows Down Aging
Lab tests at the Washington University School of Medicine reveal that when cells use NMN to supply themselves with NAD, the effects on cells’ mitochondria – the organelles in each cell that produce energy – can offset some of the problems of aging. For instance, researchers noted improvements in weight, insulin insensitivity, energy level and even ability to exercise.
The tests show that NMN’s benefits are widespread. They range from improving muscle and liver function, to boosting bone density, to strengthening the immune system and vision.1
At the same time, research at the University of Guelph in Canada shows another natural avocado compound may prevent processes in our cells that pave the way for diabetes.
The Candian researchers explain that when you gain a lot of weight – enough to be classified as obese – the mitochondria in your cells struggle to completely oxidize the fatty acids in your diet to produce energy. That incomplete oxidation leads muscle cells and pancreas cells to become more vulnerable to insulin resistance.
But the substance called avocatin B (AvoB), a fat molecule exclusive to avocados, can offset this incomplete oxidation in muscle and pancreas cells. The result: reduced insulin resistance which could otherwise lead to serious blood sugar issues and a host of health problems related to aging.2
Boost Your Memory and Sharpen Vision
A growing body of research is also showing that avocados can help your brain and your eyes function more effectively.
A study at Tufts finds that eating an avocado a day improves mental sharpness in older people – and also may improve eye health. These scientists attribute at least some of the benefits to the lutein in avocados.
Lutein is a carotenoid pigment that helps give avocados their characteristic yellow color. If you’re a supplement devotee, you probably know it’s is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that circulates in the blood and accumulates in the tissues of the eyes and brain, and has been shown to fight degenerative diseases in both.3
“The results of this study suggest that the monounsaturated fats, fiber, lutein and other bioactives make avocados particularly effective at enriching neural lutein levels, which may provide benefits for not only eye health, but for brain health,” says researcher Elizabeth Johnson, who is with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University.
Safe, Natural Weight and Appetite Control
Studies have also shown that simply eating an avocado – or half an avocado – every day can help you lose weight.
A study at Loma Linda University on people who were overweight found that a lunchtime serving of half an avocado decreased the urge to eat by an average of 40 percent over the next three hours and 20 percent over the course of five hours compared to eating lunch without an avocado. It also reduced blood insulin levels.4
And research at the Illinois Institute of Technology revealed similar findings. Their study demonstrated that if you substitute an avocado for refined carbohydrates – like bread or pasta – at a meal, it makes you feel full and more satisfied and less likely to snack later.5
Why? The tests show that consuming an avocado stimulates the release of an intestinal hormone called PYY which signals the brain to stop sending hunger signals to the stomach.
Imagine: a natural, delicious, high-fat food that’s satisfying, good for you, and quenches hunger for hours. Contrast that with processed foods that are designed by food chemists so they don’t satisfy you and you keep eating more, more, more.
Be Wary of Many Avocado Oils
Although avocado oil has become popular in recent years as a replacement for unhealthful vegetable oils, researchers at at the University of California-Davis have issued a warning: be careful when buying just any old avocado oil at your local grocery or online.
Their tests show that some of the avocado oil they examined turned out to be unhealthy soybean oil and not avocado oil at all. Perhaps worse, most of the bottled avocado oils they checked out — a frightening 82 percent — were rancid.6
How can this be? There are no international standards set for avocado oil production. In fact, olive oil is the only cooking oil with international standards.
As with olive oil there are also differences in processing avocado oil.
There’s expeller-pressed versus cold-pressed. Expeller-pressed avocado oil is derived from squeezing the avocado fruit without heat. Meanwhile, cold-pressed is extracted in a temperature-controlled room and is said to retain more natural avocado flavor and nutrient potency. There’s also refined versus unrefined avocado oil and food-grade versus cosmetic-grade.
What’s a person to choose?
Well, not long ago the Chicago Tribune reported on different types of avocado oil. Their top pick was an organic, cold-pressed, unrefined oil called AVOHAS Extra Virgin Avocado Oil. At almost $20.00 for an 8.5-ounce bottle, it’s definitely not for the budget conscious.
Another option the reporter noted is far more affordable, La Tourangelle Avocado Oil.7
Perhaps you’ll just choose to eat avocados the old-fashioned way, by slicing them open with a knife. But even that now comes with a modern-day warning…
Watch Out For “Avocado Hand”
Avocados have become so popular that people in the U.S. are eating six times more avocados annually than they did 35 years ago.
As avocados rise in popularity so does an injury that some urgent care center doctors have dubbed “avocado hand.”
It happens when people hold the avocado in their hand and use a very sharp knife to slice it open. You can guess what often happens: the knife slips and slices open their hand, too.
Doctors advise using only a bread knife. I agree. Although I haven’t hurt myself cutting up an avocado, I’ve sliced up my hands more times cutting up other foods than I care to recall. I’ve found that a serrated knife works just as well as a sharp paring knife for much of the slicing and peeling I need to do, and it’s a heck of a lot less deadly if you make a mistake.