HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE: Avocado health benefit awareness

Lisa Says:  we try to average half an avocado a day – about 3 a week.  Just cut it in half, scoop it out, and eat it with a little salad dressing with your salad.  Avocados are NOT on the Dirty Dozen List so they do NOT have to be organic.

ARTICLE  by Rand Green  02/27/2008
Remember when avocados weren’t good for you? Well,
actually, they were always good for you, but there was
a time when lots of food writers and even
nutritionists didn’t think so. Because of their high
oil content, they were thought to be fattening and
hard on the arteries, so to speak.

But avocados benefited enormously from a vast
accumulation of scientific studies over the last
decade or two, differentiating between what are now
frequently referred to as “good fats” and “bad fats,”
and confirming that the oils in avocados are actually
the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated types,
including omega-3 fatty acids, which are important in
the diet.

Thanks in large measure to the public relations
campaigns of organizations such as the California
Avocado Commission, those important facts are now
widely recognized. Only rarely now does one see an
article questioning the advisability of eating
avocados. Rather, references to how important it is to
include in the diet the kinds of oils found in
avocados abound in newspapers and magazines. It has
been a major paradigm shift and, from a marketing
perspective, a highly successful public relations
effort. It is undoubtedly one reason that avocado
consumption in the United States has doubled in less
than a decade.

As an example of that PR outreach, a press release
issued by the commission in October 2003 stated:
“Today’s nutrition science reveals three steps to a
healthier heart: replacing ‘bad’ fats with ‘good’
fats, increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake and
consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
California avocados meet all three.

“Uniquely, avocados are one of few fruits that provide
‘good’ fats. Unsaturated fats like monounsaturated fat
found in avocados have been linked to a reduced risk
of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Avocados also
contain polyunsaturated fat, which includes omega-3
fatty acids that can protect against heart disease,
depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Replacing artery-clogging saturated fat in the diet
with unsaturated fat can easily be accomplished by
incorporating versatile California avocados into a
healthy diet.”

But there are many more health-related reasons to
include avocados in one’s diet in addition to the
beneficial unsaturated fats they contain, which
ongoing research is revealing. For example, avocados
have been found to contain a number of phytochemicals
that are believed to have beneficial effects on the
prevention of certain types of cancers.

In 2005, researchers at the University of
California-Los Angeles published a study in the
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. According to a
commission press release, those research findings
“indicate that nutrients in avocados can work together
to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.”

That study also identified avocados as “the richest
source of lutein among commonly eaten fruits.” Lutein
is a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant and that
has been linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer in
previous studies, but the UCLA study suggested that
the combination of lutein and other nutrients in
avocados are more effective than lutein alone.

Other studies have shown lutein to be beneficial in
helping to protect against eye diseases such as
cataracts and macular degeneration.

Avocados also contain vitamin C, vitamin E, an
antioxidant called glutathione, and beta-sitosterol
that helps lower blood cholesterol.

A 2005 Ohio State University study showed that
avocados act as a nutrient booster, allowing the body
to absorb significantly more heart-healthy and
cancer-fighting nutrients like alpha-cartone,
beta-carotene and lycopene, which are found in various
fruits and vegetables. “Our latest research shows that
the natural fat content in avocados increases
carotenoid absorption,” said Steven Schwartz, an Ohio
State researcher.

More recently, researchers at Ohio State’s
Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that extracts
from Hass avocados can kill or stop the growth of
“pre- cancerous cells that lead to oral cancer.” The
findings may also have implications for other types of
cancer, according Steven M. D’Ambrosio, editor of the
journal Seminars in Cancer Biology and a collaborator
in the Ohio State study.

“The future is ripe for identifying fruits and
vegetables and individual phytonutrients with
cancer-preventing activity,” Mr. D’Ambrosio wrote in a
September 2007 editorial in the journal. Avocados, he
said, are loaded with beneficial antioxidants and
other phytonutrients and are a healthy addition to any
diet.

(For more on California avocados, see the Feb. 25
issue of The Produce News.)

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