Why avocado really is a superfood

THE word 'superfood' is thrown around a lot these days, but experts say avocado is one that truly makes the grade.

While we all love the buttery texture and delicate flavour, it's not just our taste buds that are benefiting from our love of avo on toast.

Scientific studies, detailed in the medical website, The Hippocratic Post, have linked avocado to a range of health benefits including warding off heart disease, helpng with weight control, and providing a boost of antioxidants.

Why are avocados so good for us?

Sue Baic, a registered dietitian and co-author of Nutrition for Dummies, told the Daily Mail: "Beneath the inedible skin is a fruit which is largely made up of monounsaturated fat, one of the healthiest form of fats which is also found in rapeseed and olive oils.

Loaded with nutrients, including potassium and vitamin E, avocados also contain healthy monounsaturated fat, with the added benefit of being low in salt.

Another key benefit is the powerful antioxidant punch the fruit provides.

"There are over 200 types of plant steroids (phytosterols) - although avocados contain large amounts of several of these active chemicals, we really don't yet know enough about what they do," Professor Donald Singer, a member of the British Pharmacological Society, told the Daily Mail.

"In laboratory tests, sterols reduce the growth of cells which could mean they have an action against inflammation and cancer, although this is yet to be tested robustly in humans," he said.

"We know enough about them to know that they have very powerful properties in the test-tube. Now, we have to carry out rigorous studies on humans to see if the effects are felt outside the laboratory too.'

Here are some other health benefits of the humble avo:

Heart health

With their high amounts of "heart healthy" monounsaturated fatty acids, avos may assist in lowering the levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol, while boosting the amount of 'good' HDL cholesterol in the body.

In one study, scientists discovered that people who ate avocados every day for three months dramatically cut their levels of LDLs.

Avocados also one third more potassium than bananas weight for weight, which is essential for helping to regulate blood pressure and pump blood around the body.

Weight control

It's become common knowledge that fats help to make us feel full and satisfied, and avocados are no exception.

Rob Beale, head of sport, health and fitness for David Lloyd Leisure in the UK, told the Daily Mail that despite being high in healthy fats and nutrients, avocados are seldom responsible for weight gain.

"Avocados are a great source of essential nutrients and healthy fats such as oleic acid, which may help in lowering cholesterol levels," he said.

"They contain enough calories in healthy fat to nourish but not to induce excess weight gain - if eaten in moderation on a regular basis - and in fact possess properties that have been shown to speed up metabolism."

Softens skin

When applied to the skin, nutrients from the fruit can penetrate the epidermis and temporarily soften the skin, and some studies even suggest avos can help to boost epidermis collagen.

No wonder starlets like Victoria Beckham are so keen on avocado face masks.

Nutrient boost during pregnancy

Avocados are rich in the B vitamin, folic acid, which helps to protect against birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Other sources include green leafy vegetables, wholemeal bread and brown rice.

Rosie Dodds, senior policy advisor at NCT, the UK's largest charity for parents, told the Daily Mail: "The [UK] government recommends all women who are considering pregnancy take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day until the 12th week of pregnancy.

"Even if you didn't take folic acid beforehand, it is worth starting as soon as you find out that you are pregnant."

Protects against cancer

While studies are in the early stages, research from Ohio State University has suggested avocados may help to prevent mouth cancer, as extracts from Hass avocados were found to kill some oral cancer cells and prevent pre-cancerous cells from developing.

However, experts say diets rich in all types of fuit and vegetables can have a protective effect against certain typs of cancers, including oral, stomach and lung.

Anti-inflamatory benefits
Research suggests avocado, as well as soybean oil, may help to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis, a painful condition caused by the loss of cartilage in the joint.

This is thought to be because both foods contain chemicals called phytosterols, or plant steroids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

Raw avocado is also rich in vitamin E, which is known as a powerful antioxidanrt, and is especially beneficial for the skin.

- NZ Herald