They call it an alligator pear in some parts of the United States. And while it’s referred to as a palta in Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia and Argentina, there are at least 10 other names for it in Spanish-speaking countries. And I don’t even know how I’d inquire about one in the northern Spain community of Basque Country. The dark green rough-rinded fruit with the creamy, green pulp and the big brown seed is an Ahuakateondoa to them.
The fruit of the avocado tree, with some 1,062 varieties and scientifically known as Persea Americana, is known to most of America as an avocado. And they eat a ton of them—or more specifically about 2 billion pounds of them last year alone.
Wednesday is National Avocado Day, and the delectable super food hailing from Mexico—though reportedly about twice as expensive as they were this same time last year—are one of the best things anyone, including seniors can eat.
It’s really not news that America loves avocados. Chipotle reported last year that its free guacamole promotion Tuesday was so popular it “broke the internet.” With an “unprecedented increase in new digital customers as a result of the free guac promo in honor of National Avocado Day,” the company had to extend its offer of free guac an extra day in 2018.
And Mayo Clinic actually posted “4 tips to avoid ‘avocado hand’” last June, because, they said, “fans of the fruit – both famous and not – are feeling the effects these days when they slice up their hands or fingers while trying to slice up the avocado.” Dr. Sanj Kakar, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic hand surgeon, said he’d “seen an increase in hand injuries requiring surgery as a result of the rise in popularity of avocados.”
While it’s generally true that fat-laden foods are bad for you, the kinds of fat that make up the alligator pear are anything but. In fact, one of the main components of the Mediterranean Diet (consistently ranked one of the top diets by US News & World Report) is healthy fats. And avocados are full of them.
Unique among most other fruits, avocados are mostly fat but contain a wide variety of nutrients, including 20 different vitamins and minerals. On average an avocado contains 14 grams of monounsaturated, nearly 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 40% more potassium than bananas (thus they may not be good for seniors needing a low potassium diet aka a kidney diet). Eating avocados also helps lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol (which clogs your arteries) and raise the “good” HDL cholesterol.
According to Healthline, some of the most abundant nutrients in a single 3.5-ounce serving of avocado include:
- Vitamin K: 26% of the daily value (DV)
- Folate: 20% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 17% of the DV
- Potassium: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin B5: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV
- Vitamin E: 10% of the DV
An avocado also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin).
With just 160 calories, the avocado also offers 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. And although it contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of those are fiber, “so there are only 2 ‘net’ carbs, making this a low-carb friendly plant food,” reports Healthline.
According to Chefs for Seniors, a company that sends professional cooks into seniors’ homes to prepare healthy meals, monounsaturated fats also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your health. “Oils rich in monounsaturated fats also contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant vitamin most seniors could use more of.”
Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fats, fatty acids reportedly necessary for proper brain function and cell growth.
Avocados contain only 1 gram of sugar, just 10 grams of sodium, no cholesterol and over 700 milligrams of potassium.
According to Chefs for Seniors, Omega-3 fats help:
- Reduce the risk for an irregular heartbeat.
- Slightly lower blood pressure.
- Slow the build-up of plaque.
Omega-6 fats help:
- Control blood sugar.
- Lower blood pressure.
Another secret weapon in an avocado is the high oleic acid content. The moisturizing fatty acid reportedly helps keep skin soft and hydrated and supports regeneration of damaged skin cells.
And according to registered dietician and licensed nutritionist, Katherine Marengo, individuals with diabetes should eat foods that help control blood sugar levels and that offer health benefits such lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. “Avocados offer all these benefits, and possibly more,” she wrote in an article for Medical News Today.
According to functional medicine expert, knowing the benefits of avocados could help the more than 30.3 million Americans with diabetes. Dr. Elroy Vojdani at RegeneraMedical.com said since avocados are low in carbs and high in healthy fats, they don’t spike blood sugar levels, but instead can provide nutritional calories to curb appetite. They’re also high in fiber, which can reduce fasting blood sugar levels and A1C levels. “Diet interventions to help eliminate or reduce insulin resistance are very effective as part of a total treatment plan for type 2 diabetes,” Vojdani said. “This revolves around overall carb restrictions with a focus on consuming large amounts of non-starchy vegetables, plant-based fats and clean-sourced proteins like salmon, bison and turkey. I tell my patients to start off with targeting a total of 60-80 g of net carbs a day and to consume plant-based fats like avocados, olive oil and nuts.”
Vojdani also cited Phytotherapy research that shows that because avocados are rich in heart-healthy fats and fiber, they have anti-diabetic properties that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Vojdani said one of his favorite ways to incorporate avocados into his daily diet is to add them to smoothies. He said they add “a very nice creamy texture and ensure that there’s plenty of healthy fat in the meal. Slicing the other half on top of a salad for lunch or with a lean protein for dinner is also a simple way to add avocados to your diet.”
Vojdani said patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for both Alzheimer’s and heart disease. “Avocados provide a large amount of unsaturated fats, which provide the building blocks for healthy brain tissue and function, and can also help reduce LDL cholesterol counts, thereby reducing the risk for heart disease,” he said.
Avocados make for a healthy complement in recipes for both inside and outside of the body. “According to the Hass Avocado Board, as of 2015, avocado consumption in the United States doubled since 2005 and quadrupled since 2000,” reports National Day Calendar. “In fact, a whopping 4.25 billion avocados were sold in the U.S. in 2015. That’s four point two five billion of this amazingly beautiful food.”
Ancient Aztecs used the avocado to beautify their skin with masks. The cosmetic industry followed suit in the 20th century using the avocado’s oil in creams, lotions and facial cleansers. Many products still tout the cosmetic usefulness of avocados today.
Established in 2015 by Camille May and Danika Brysha, Model Meals founded National Avocado Day at the peak of California avocado season, on July 31. Model Meals is a meal delivery service that works with local organic growers and farmers to create whole food-focused menus, encouraging sustainable agriculture and healthy eating. May and Brysha carry “purse avocados” as a signature for their company and for a midday dose of healthy fat and vitamins, National Day Calendar reports.
With all of this good news, the only bad news is that the prices of avocados are soaring, according to Produce Blue Book, and apparently the luscious fruit is so good, that it’s leading people to crime.
The credit and marketing information provider for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, reported today that avocados are so sought after that, “In Mexico, the main exporter of avocados to the U.S, four truckloads are stolen every day, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. The thieves are gangs in the crime-infested southern state of Michoacán, which is the only Mexican state approved to export to the U.S., and consequently sends 80 percent of its exports here.”
Well it hasn’t come to that in the U.S., at least not yet. So look for ways to celebrate National Avocado Day Wednesday with these fun activities or try a new heart-healthy Mayo Clinic recipe using avocado.
But you don’t have to reserve only one day a year for avocados. In about six weeks, the fun continues as September 16 is Guacamole Day which unofficially celebrates the delicious Mexican dip made of avocados.