Avocados: The Perfect Fruit
The perfect fruit? Aren’t avocados a vegetable?
AKA The Alligator Pear
Avocados, along with tomatoes, squash, and eggplant, are technically fruit according to botanists because they are the edible seed-bearing part of a flowering plant. However, nutritionists place them in the vegetable food group because of their nutrient content, taste, and culinary use. Regardless of how you categorize avocados, they offer a wide variety of nutritional, health, and culinary benefits.
Avocado consumption is associated with improved overall diet quality and nutrient intake.  This fruit/vegetable is low in carbohydrate and high in heart-healthy monosaturated fat and fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Avocados are nutrient dense; a quarter of one has only about 60 calories and is a good source of vitamin K, folate, and vitamin E. Avocados have more potassium than bananas and are low in sodium. In addition to nutrients, they provide a variety of phytochemicals, including carotenoids and the plant sterol, beta-sitosterol.
The nutritional benefits of avocados carry over into health benefits. The high fat content of avocados increases the bioavailability of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Because of their high fat and low carbohydrate content avocados have a very low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods help manage blood glucose levels and hunger, reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes .
Diets high in avocados are associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk. Some of this cardioprotective effect is due to their monounsaturated fat content.  Replacing other fats, particularly those from high fat animal products like whole mike, cheese, and processed meats, with avocados has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels.  The plant sterols in avocados help lower total and LDL cholesterol because they compete with cholesterol for absorption. The fiber in avocados not only helps lower blood cholesterol but also promotes a healthy microbiota.
This perfect fruit can be sliced, diced, whipped, and blended to provide a variety of textures to a meal. Avocado oil is useful in frying. It has a neutral flavor and does not burn even at high temperatures. They are widely used in vegetarian diets providing a creamy texture and interesting flavor to sandwiches, sauces, and smoothies. Next time you top your burrito with guacamole you can rest assured that you are adding nutrients as well as flavor to your meal.
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 Fulgoni VL 3rd, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008. Nutr J. 2013; 12:1. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-12-1.
 Dreher ML, Cheng FW, Ford NA. A Comprehensive Review of Hass Avocado Clinical Trials, Observational Studies, and Biological Mechanisms. Nutrients. 2021;13(12):4376. doi: 10.3390/nu13124376.
 Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(7):738-750. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.556759.
 Schoeneck M, Iggman D. The effects of foods on LDL cholesterol levels: A systematic review of the accumulated evidence from systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovas Dis. 2021;31(5):1325-1338.
Initially posted March 2022.