If you‘re a fan of this healthy food, you know why we‘re so excited to be talking about it. Avocados are often touted as a ‘superfood’ and are extremely popular because of their nutty or grassy taste and creamy, almost buttery texture.
Because they are not very sweet, you may think they’re a vegetable, but avocados are actually a fruit. More specifically, they‘re technically classified as berries because they have a fleshy pulp and contain a seed.
Avocados are perhaps best known as the main ingredient in guacamole. They are also popular in salads, and smoothies, eaten on their own, and are even used as a substitute for butter and oil in baked goods. This is partly because of their various health benefits, but they’re also delicious and versatile!
Beyond their great flavor, avocados also have several health benefits—and not raising your blood sugar levels may be one of them! Read on to find out more about what these benefits are, and their relationship with blood glucose levels.
The Origins of Avocados
It‘s a great addition to any meal plan, but what are the origins of the avocado? They‘re native to Western Hemisphere and were first cultivated in tropical America, from Mexico to the Andean region of South America. Avocado trees grow best in warm, tropical climates.
Today, the top producers of avocados are Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Indonesia, and Colombia. They are also commercially grown in Florida, California, Chile, and Brazil.
Avocados are a diverse fruit. Some can be as small as an egg, with others weighing up to four pounds. They can be round, egg-shaped, pear-shaped, or have a long, slender neck like a gourd, and they can range in color from light green to dark purple to black.
The three main species of avocado are the Mexican, West Indian, and Guatemalan varieties, and there are over 1,000 varieties between those species. Hass avocados are the most commonly grown and sold in the U.S. and originated in southern California.
There are many things to love about avocados, but are they good for you? Avocados can be high in calories and fat, but is this fat considered a ‘good fat‘ or healthy fat? Are avocados safe for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Is it healthy to eat an avocado every day, or should you limit them in your diet?
The Nutritional Benefits of Avocados
Avocados are a nutritious fruit low in carbohydrates, so you can include them in your low-carb diet plan. Because of their high fat and fiber content, you're more likely to feel full faster after eating one.
A whole avocado contains:
- About 322 calories.
- 29 grams of fat (20 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat)
- 4 grams of protein
- 13 grams of fiber
This low glycemic index food (more on that below) is also low in sugar, with only about 1.3 grams, and sodium, with only 14 milligrams. They contain no cholesterol.
You may have heard that avocados have a lot of fat. It’s true, but most of their fat content is monounsaturated fat.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the majority of fats in a heart-healthy diet should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fat can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke. Monounsaturated fats also contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that most Americans (over 90 percent, according to research) don’t get enough of in their diet.
Avocados are a source of several B vitamins, necessary nutrients that help turn your food into energy. They contain thiamin, also known as vitamin B1, which keeps your nervous system functioning smoothly.
Thiamin may also strengthen the immune system and is what helps the body’s cells convert carbohydrates into energy. This vitamin is also essential for the functioning of the heart and muscles.
Avocados also contain Riboflavin. Also known as vitamin B2, Riboflavin is an antioxidant that fights free radicals, particles in the body that can damage your cells and DNA.
Antioxidants may reduce or prevent some of the destruction these free radicals cause in the body. Riboflavin is also vital for maintaining healthy vision.
Avocados are rich in pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and niacin (vitamin B3). Like other B vitamins, niacin and pantothenic acid are crucial in turning the food you eat into energy and keeping your nervous system healthy.
Pantothenic acid is also essential for metabolic functions like making and breaking down fats. At the same time, niacin is necessary for the development and function of your cells.
Avocados are high in fiber, containing about 13 grams in a whole avocado. Fiber is essential in maintaining a healthy and functioning digestive system. Fiber isn’t digested by the body, bulking up your stool and making it easier to pass through your body.
A diet high in fiber can help you maintain a healthy weight, prevent hemorrhoids and diverticular disease, and help control blood sugar levels.
Avocados are rich in potassium, a mineral that your body relies on for several body functions and that most people in America don’t get enough of.
You need potassium for proper kidney, heart, and nervous system function. Potassium may also counter the effects of sodium on your blood pressure.
Avocados contain a lot of vitamin C, another antioxidant that helps protect your cells against harmful free radicals. Vitamin C also helps your body form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and the collagen found in bones.
A diet rich in vitamin C can also potentially prevent cancer, age-related macular degeneration (an eye disease that blurs your vision), and cataracts.
Potential Risks of Avocados
So avocados are high in necessary nutrients, so they may be a good option to help lower risk factors for various health conditions. But are there any health risks? Read on to find out.
While most of the fat in avocados can be beneficial for overall health, an avocado does contain about four grams of saturated fat. While whole food sources of saturated fats are not inherently bad, you may want to monitor your consumption of these fats if you’re at risk for conditions such as high cholesterol or heart disease for some individuals.
Saturated fats in animal products (like beef, pork, poultry, and eggs), full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils (like coconut oil)
Avocado and Latex Allergies
If you are allergic to latex, you may also want to avoid avocados. Curiously, avocados contain the same allergens found in latex.
If you’re allergic to latex, there is a high chance you could also be allergic to avocados, so talk to your doctor if you experience allergy symptoms like itching your mouth or throat after eating an avocado.
Environmental Impacts of Avocados
Avocados are healthy and delicious, but you may want to consider where they're grown and how.
The commercial growing of avocados has a high environmental impact. Avocados need a lot of water to grow, and they are typically grown in regions of the world where water resources are limited.
And because the fruit travels long distances to reach consumers in the United States, avocados have a high carbon footprint.
For this reason, it could be a good idea to buy locally-grown avocados as much as possible.
Avocados and Blood Glucose
So, what effect do avocados have on blood sugar? Studies have found that avocados do not significantly impact blood sugar levels.
Even better, a 2007 study suggests that foods high in monounsaturated fats may improve insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant people, help stabilize blood sugar, promote satiety, and even improve glucose response after eating carbohydrates.
Avocados, rich in monounsaturated fat, could be a great addition to the diet of people who have insulin resistance. Generally, avocados are considered safe for people with diabetes. Still, talk to your doctor about changing your diabetes food plan.
The Glycemic Index of Avocados
The glycemic index, or GI, system was developed as a tool for people with diabetes to make healthy food choices. The GI system assigns a number to certain goods according to how much the food will increase blood sugar.
Avocados have a glycemic index, or GI, of about 40. A low GI food has a GI value of 1-55, making avocado a food low on the GI scale.
There are limits to the GI system, and it shouldn’t be the only consideration in choosing what foods will be healthy for you. You should see this as just one tool to help you figure out what’s suitable for your individual needs.
If you're unsure whether you should add avocados to your diet or want to learn more about low glycemic index foods, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
Adding Avocado To Your Diet
Avocados are incredibly versatile and can be eaten in sweet or savory dishes, so don’t hesitate to add them to your meal plan. This fruit has many health benefits, including managing prediabetes, lowering blood pressure, adding dietary fiber to your diet, preventing blood sugar spikes, and helping with cognitive health and heart health.
When choosing an avocado, look out for how ripe it is—you’ll want to choose one that slightly yields to firm, gentle pressure when squeezed. You don’t want one that is too mushy, which means it’s overripe and won’t taste as good. An avocado that is too hard is not ripe yet.
Generally, a ripe avocado has a darker peel, but it’s best to go by feel because colors can vary. The peel, while technically edible, is hard and bitter, so you will want to discard it before eating your avocado.
In picture one, you can see his response to his smoothie when he added the avocado to his smoothie. In picture two, you can see how his blood sugar spiked when he didn’t add the avocado.
His dietitian, Yvonne M. tells us, “In picture one, Stuart enjoyed a smoothie with almond milk, 2 ounces of avocado, cocoa plant-based protein powder, cymbiotika red yeast rice, and peanut butter.
As you can see on the graph, he had a great response! His glucose only increased 20 points, and there was no large glucose peak.
In the second image, you can see Stuart enjoyed the same smoothie, only he did not add the avocado. His glucose went up 35 points, and he had a peak of 140.”
So why did a similar smoothie have such different responses? Yvonne explains, “The 2 ounces of avocado provided healthy fat and some extra fiber to his smoothie!! Fat and fiber slow down digestion, which creates a smaller glucose curve!”
Heather’s Tips on How to Pick an Avocado
Our dietitian, Heather Davis, explains more about how to pick an avocado:
1) Avocados range in ripeness, and it's sometimes hard to know how ripe an avocado is just from its color. Hass Avocados will turn from light green to dark forest green or black as they ripen, but some other avocado types stay lighter green regardless of ripeness.
2) To test ripeness, press down on the top of the avocado by the stem to see how soft it is. If you can press in easily, but the avocado retains its shape, that's an avocado ready to eat! You may want to wait a few days if it's hard as a rock.
3) If you see any discoloration like splotchy dark areas, this could be a sign the fruit is overly ripe. You might notice this avocado will be a lot softer when pressed.
4) If you're stocking up for a week's worth of avocados, try picking them in slightly different stages of ripeness, planning to save the less ripe ones for a little further down the road.
5) Unless you're planning to use a large bag of avocados for a big batch of guacamole, I'd recommend skipping the bulk bags of avocados to avoid having them pass their prime!
5 Avocado Recipes We Love
Here are five avocado recipes that we love!
1) Guacamole from The Modern Proper
There is nothing like homemade, fresh guacamole. This recipe from The Modern Proper is easy to make and takes just 15 minutes!
- 3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorn
- 3 ripe avocados
- ½ jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
- ¼ cup red onion, finely minced
- ½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
What Heather Thinks:
This is a classic guacamole recipe, so it’s hard to go wrong! For the best dipping companion that will go easy on your blood sugar, I like to recommend some lower-carb chip options such as parmesan crisps or zucchini chips (either baked or cooked in the air fryer).
2) Avocado Sweet Potato Tacos from Love & Lemons
This simple vegetarian recipe from Love & Lemons takes 30 minutes to make and would make a delicious meal for any season.
- 1 medium sweet potato, cubed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 4 to 6 tortillas
- 1 cup black beans, cooked, drained, and rinsed
- Lime slices, for serving
- ½ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
- 1 small avocado
- ½ garlic clove
- Juice of 1 lime
- Sea salt & fresh black pepper
- 1 small avocado, diced
- 2 scallions, diced
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Pickled onions
- Micro greens or fresh cilantro
What Heather Thinks:
The total carbs in this meal might be a little bit on the higher side due to the combination of the sweet potato and beans, especially if you’re opting for a higher-carb tortilla option.
You may try subbing in a lower-carb tortilla and throwing in a bit more protein, perhaps from some tofu, to improve glucose response.
3) Avocado Chicken Salad from Delish
This recipe from Delish is great on its own but can also be served in a chicken salad sandwich.
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 avocados, cubed
- 1 small mango, cubed
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
- ½ cup fresh or frozen corn
- ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
What Heather Thinks:
This is loaded with a lot of great nutritional variety. However, if you're worried about the slightly higher carb content attributed to the combination of mango, honey, corn, and tomatoes, I'd recommend dropping out the honey and experimenting with how much mango and corn work with your body's glucose response.
4) Veggie, Pineapple, and Avocado Smoothie from California Avocado
This refreshing smoothie is healthy, filling, and great for hot summer days.
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple pieces
- ½ cup cucumber slices
- 1-inch by ¼-inch ginger slice, peeled
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- ½ ripe, fresh California avocado, seeded, peeled, and cubed
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (whey, soy, pea, or rice)
What Heather Thinks:
The protein powder in this recipe may help offset some of the glucose response brought on by the sugar in the pineapple and coconut water, but if you want to minimize that response further, I'd recommend swapping the pineapple out for berries (which tend to be lower in sugar).
You can also try reducing the amount of coconut water and replacing it with regular water or ice, or even swapping out the protein powder for whole food-based protein sources like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or even silken tofu, which might help blunt your glucose response more than a protein isolate and will also have more nutritional value.
5) Avocado Pesto from Detoxinista
This healthy alternative to traditional pesto would be great on pasta, toast, or to dress a salad.
- 1 cup fresh basil, tightly packed
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 ripe avocado
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
What Heather Thinks:
This recipe is simple and great! I'd recommend pairing it with a protein-rich pasta dish such as baked chicken and buckwheat soba. Or, if you're looking for other healthy noodle or pasta alternatives, check out our article on healthy noodles.
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