Is it just us or does an invite to brunch imply that some form of avocado will be present and, thus, enjoyed? Although guacamole has long been a hit at parties, the popularity of avocados and the beloved brunch staple—avo toast—has increased dramatically in years past, leading to the creation of avocado restaurants, drinks, and more.
And while we can’t say we mind the avocado craze, a lot of questions and opinions still swirl around the tasty green food. Is it good for you? Is it not? Can you have too much of it? Is having it every weekend a-OK or a no-go? Before you go and change your brunch order, we break it down completely below.
First thing’s first, get its family right. “You may want to call an avocado a vegetable, due to its green color, but, technically, it’s a fruit, and more specifically a single-seeded berry,” explains Danielle Stadelman, RDN.
Avocados are also full of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, folate, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, and vitamin A, explains Lori Zanini, RD, CDE and creator of For The Love of Diabetes.
So, what makes this fruit different than other fruits—besides, well, not looking like a fruit? “The major difference is [that] avocados are a fantastic source of the healthiest type of fat—monounsaturated fats,” explains Zanini. “One medium avocado contains 15 grams of monounsaturated fats,” she says. “No other fruits can boast of this benefit,” she adds. In fact, more than 75 percent of the fat from an avocado is monounsaturated. (More on this fat later!)
In addition, avocados contain the highest amount of glutathione, a certain type of antioxidant that allows all other antioxidants to function, explains Stadelman. “Glutathione supports healthy inflammation, gut health, and protects cells against free radicals, while also detoxifying the body,” she says.
The Really Good
Not only does the high amount of antioxidants help with inflammation control, but also, Stadelman says, the presence of amino acids and essential oils in avocados also suggests that the fruit plays a preventative role against diabetes and heart health.
And those “good fats?” Yep, they’re really that important. Monounsaturated fatty acids can actually lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and then maintain HDL (good) cholesterol, as well as decrease belly fat, explains Stadelman. “One of the most abundant fatty acids is oleic acid. This same fatty acid is the main component in olive oil,” she says. “Oleic acid has been associated with reducing inflammation in the body and improving our cardiovascular system.”
A recent study even suggests that avocados also play an important role in heart health and the prevention of symptoms related to metabolic syndrome. For those not familiar, metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that can increase a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. That same study suggests that avocados have the strongest effect on cholesterol levels, but can help prevent some of these other conditions, too.
The (Somewhat) Bad
OK, we warned you there was a little bit of bad news: Avocados aren’t exactly the most diet-friendly. But, let us clarify a bit: They’re only a no-go if you’re strictly counting calories.
Our experts explain that a medium avocado is actually three servings. Each serving equals about 80 calories, so it’s not exactly a low-calorie food. And yes—to answer the question we know you have—even the good kind of fat is still fat.
Even healthy fats can cause unwanted weight gain so be cautious about your daily consumption, explains Stadelman. “Overindulging in any type of food, especially avocados, can lead to weight gain, obesity, and other health problems,” she says. Moderation is key.
That said, fat can actually be great for helping you stay full. Zanini explains that the fat in avocados promotes that full feeling after meals. “Yes, fat contains more calories per bite when compared to protein or carbohydrates, but it takes longer to digest, which is helpful in managing hunger levels,” she explains. So, even though avocados might be higher in calories, you’ll feel full sooner with each bite!
A Snapshot of Health
Bottom line, no matter how you take your avo, the health benefits are still there. Here’s a quick snapshot of the basics to keep in mind for your next snack.
1 serving = 1/3 medium avocado = 80 cals, 8 grams total fat (1 gram saturated fat, 5 grams monounsaturated and 1 gram polyunsaturated), 3 grams dietary fiber and little sugar, plus vitamins and minerals!