Avocados have grown in popularity over the last decade and for good reason.
On Instagram, there are well over 10 million posts with the hashtag “avocado” with inspiring photos of avocado on toast to perfectly sculpted in the shape of roses.
They have become so popular that it is often the first food introduced to babies when they are starting to eat solids. A recent warning of potential shortages even made the national news.
The nutrition benefits of avocados is a list that is growing. Well known as a fruit that is considered high in fat and calories, it is now promoted for the healthy type of fat that it contains. It is also packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that may promote health benefits.
The heightened popularity of avocados has coincided with a shift in what is considered healthy eating and good nutrition. The old low fat, high carbohydrate (LFHC) diet has adjusted slightly to more moderate carbohydrate intake (emphasizing whole grains) that is more inclusive of fat – as long as it is a healthy fat source (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats).
This article reviews avocado nutrition facts, how they fit within guidelines for Americans, and ways that they may help promote health.
Avocados are an energy-dense fruit that provides 215-220 calories depending on their size. Hass avocados are the most popular type consumed in the United States. There are Florida avocados that are much larger and may provide up to 500 calories.
The following nutrition facts below are based on one medium California avocado (136 grams).
- Calories: 218
- Protein: 2.72 g
- Total Fat: 19.9 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.89 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.47 g
- Carbohydrates: 11.6 g
- Sugar: 0.898 g
- Vitamin C: 13.6mg
- Vitamin E: 2.82 mg
The calories in avocados come from fats, carbohydrates, and protein. Avocados have very little protein (2.72 grams) and most of the calories come from fats (19.9 grams).
The fat in avocados is considered good fats (polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat). About 70% of the fat in avocado is from monounsaturated fat (13.3 grams and mostly oleic acid) and there is very little saturated fat (2.89 grams).
The high-fat content of avocados helps with the bioavailability of certain micronutrients as fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K) require fat for absorption.
The total carbohydrate (11.6 grams) that is in avocados is mostly dietary fiber (9.11 grams) and there is minimal sugar (0.898 grams) in an avocado. Dietary fiber is an indigestible form of carbohydrate.
Since avocados are a fruit and are plant-based, they are cholesterol-free. Cholesterol is only found in animal products.
Additionally, avocados contain vitamins and minerals. They are a great source of vitamin C (13.6 mg), vitamin E (2.82 mg), vitamin K (28.6 mcg), pantothenic acid (2 mg), folate (110 mcg), and vitamin B6 (0.35 mg). Avocados have more potassium (660 mg) than a banana and are a good source of magnesium (39.4 mg).
Avocados also contain high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants important to eye health) (369 mpg) (1, 2).
Why Is Avocado Good for You?
Incorporating avocado into your diet may offer many health benefits.
Both the dietary guidelines for Americans (3) and the American Heart Association (4) suggest a greater intake of fruits and vegetables. They also suggest limiting saturated fat and the use of more monounsaturated fats.
Avocado is a fruit that contains healthier monounsaturated fat.
Research suggests that avocado consumers tend to have better diet quality and less risk of metabolic syndrome. They get more fiber, vitamin K, vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium in their diet. They also have higher good cholesterol numbers, lower weights and body mass indexes, and lower waist circumference.
It is important to note that the association does not necessarily mean that the avocado intake caused these changes. It could be that these consumers are more health-conscious overall leading to these differences (5).
2. Prevention of Heart Disease
The healthy fats in avocados have been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels, LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides but improve HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol) (2,6,7,8).
Saturated fat should be avoided for heart health and avocados have very little saturated fat.
Avocados also may help meet fiber intake recommendations. Fiber may help prevent heart disease by controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Men should have 30-38 grams per day and women should get 21-25 grams per day of fiber.
The B vitamins found in avocados (folic acid and vitamin B6) may help keep homocysteine levels controlled. Higher levels of homocysteine are associated with increased cardiac disease risk (2).
3. Prevention of Hypertension
Avocados can be incorporated into a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Hypertension occurs when blood pressure is elevated. This diet relies heavily on the intake of fruits and vegetables and has been shown to improve hypertension (9).
Avocados contain high amounts of potassium and magnesium, nutrients that are important in managing hypertension.
They also have minimal amounts of sodium, a nutrient that should be limited for individuals with hypertension.
4. Weight Loss
Avocados can also support weight control efforts. Avocado consumers had lower weights and body mass indexes compared to study participants that did not consume avocado (5,10).
Studies that included avocado in a meal resulted in reports of increased satiety and greater feelings of fullness. Including 1/2 an avocado also resulted in feeling full for a longer amount of time (11, 12).
When avocado is used in place of carbohydrates for a meal, there was a reduced post-meal glucose level and insulin spike (12, 13). This may be related to the fat and dietary fiber content in avocados.
5. Diabetes Management
The management of diabetes is directed towards weight control, glucose control, and secondary disease prevention.
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease. The reasons that avocados are good for weight loss and heart health are also applicable here.
One study of diabetics found that an avocado rich diet (compared to low fat, high carbohydrate diet) resulted in lower triglyceride levels but did not affect glucose levels and other lipid profile markers (2).
6. Prevention of Cancer
It has been suggested that avocados could have a role in cancer prevention.
Avocados have a higher content of glutathione (an antioxidant) compared to other fruits. Greater intake of glutathione has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer (2). Studies are still needed to determine if avocados could in fact prevent certain types of cancer.
7. Cognitive Health Improvements
Lutein has been studied for its role in cognitive health. A study found higher blood levels of lutein in healthy volunteers that consumed one avocado per day.
This resulted in better attention and memory as seen through cognitive testing (14).
Is It Healthy to Eat an Avocado a Day?
Avocados can be part of a healthy diet and contribute to your intake of fruits and vegetables.
Avocados are nutrient-dense providing healthy fats, fiber, vitamin c, vitamin e, vitamin k, folate, potassium, and lutein. They are very low in less desirable nutrients such as saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar.
Research done on avocados has included anywhere from 1/2 to 1-1/2 avocados daily and none of the studies report weight gain as a undesirable side effect of their intake. If you enjoy them, there is no harm to eating a portion of avocado daily.
Yet, getting all of your nutrients from a variety of fruits and vegetables is still recommended.
When Is Avocado Is Not Good for You?
As with any food, it is possible to overdo it and eat too much of one particular food. A single serving is considered to be 1/3 of an avocado.
While the amounts used in research have been greater, it is still prudent to avoid excessive intake. This is especially true if weight loss or weight control is your goal.
Can Avocado Make You Gain Weight?
When avocado was used in addition or in place of carbohydrate in studies, it did not result in weight gain. There is no evidence that eating one will make you gain weight. Yet we do know that calorie intake in excess of calories used leads to weight gain.
So if you are eating 2 or more avocados daily this could easily add 500 or more calories to your daily intake from one item. As always, portion sizes are important.
What Are Healthy Ways to Add Avocado to Your Diet?
Avocados are not just for guacamole anymore. Try incorporating 1/3-1/2 of avocado by:
- adding to toast in the morning
- adding to a green salad with veggies
- blending into a healthy smoothie
- topping your favorite chili or soup
- slicing to add to a sandwich
- topping over your scrambled eggs with hot pepper flakes
- enjoying with your tacos
The Final Word
Avocados are a healthful food that can be included in your daily nutrition and help meet the recommendations in the dietary guidelines for Americans.
Avocados contain a wealth of nutrients that may help with weight loss, blood pressure control, heart disease prevention, and possibly more.
It does not appear that the calories from adding a medium avocado will result in weight gain but avocados contain more calories from fats than other fruits and proper portions should be taken into consideration.
- US Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Accessed May 4, 2020. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov.
- Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(7):738-750. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/pdf/bfsn53_738.pdf
- US Department of Health and Human Services; USDA. 2015-2020 Dietary guidelines for Americans. 8thed. Accessed May 5, 2020. http://health.gove/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines.
- American Heart Association. The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. Accessed May 6, 2020. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations
- Fulgoni VL, 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;2:12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3545982/pdf/1475-2891-12-1.pdf
- Wang L, Bordi PL, Fleming JA, Hill AM, Kris-Etherton PM. Effect of a moderate fat diet with and without avocados on lipoprotein particle number, size and subclasses in overweight and obese adults: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Heart Assoc.2015;4(1):1355. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4330060/pdf/jah3-4-e001355.pdf
- Mahmassani HA, Avendano EE, Raman G, Johnson EJ. Avocado consumption and risk factors for heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018; 107(4):523-536. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/107/4/523/4964644
- Peou S, Milliard-Hasting B, Shah SA. Impact of avocado-enriched diets on plasma lipoproteins: a meta-analysis. J Clin Lipidol. 2016;10(1):161-171. https://www.lipidjournal.com/action/showPdf?pii=S1933-2874%2815%2900427-4
- Sacks FM, Svetkey LP, Vollmer WM, et al. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet. N Engl J Med. 2001;344:3-10. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200101043440101
- Heskey C, Oda K, Sabate J. Avocado intake, and longitudinal weight and body mass index changes in an adult cohort. Nutrients. 2019;11(3):691. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6471050/pdf/nutrients-11-00691.pdf
- Wien M, Haddad E, Oda K, Sabate J. A randomized 3×3 crossover study to evaluate the effect of Hass avocado intake on post-ingestive satiety, glucose and insulin levels, and subsequent energy intake in overweight adults. Nutr J. 2013;12:155. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4222592/pdf/1475-2891-12-155.pdf
- Zhu L, Huang Y, Edirisinghe I, Park E, Burton-Freeman B. Using the avocado to test the satiety effects of a fat-fiber combination in place of carbohydrate energy in a breakfast meal in overweight and obese men and women: a randomized clinical trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):952. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567160/pdf/nutrients-11-00952.pdf
- Park E, Edirisinghe I, Burton-Freeman B. Avocado fruit on postprandial markers of cardio-metabolic risk: a randomized controlled dose response trial in overweight and obese men and women. Nutrients. 2018;10(9):1287. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164649/pdf/nutrients-10-01287.pdf
- Scott TM, Rasmussen HM, Chen O, Johnson EJ. Avocado consumption increases macular pigment density in older adults: a randomized, controlled trial. Nutrients. 2017;23(9):919. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622679/pdf/nutrients-09-00919.pdf