Avocado: A Superfood that You Can Grow Today

There’s a ton of reasons why everyone must grow this fruit in their backyards. Avocado is considered a superfood for its variety of benefits in terms of nutrients, monosaturated fats and fiber.

This fruit is good for diabetics and those who want to lower their cholesterol levels, without sacrificing the goodness that comes with eating most fruits.

Here are some of the most abundant nutrients, in a single 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving (3):

  • Vitamin K: 26% of the RDA.
  • Folate: 20% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin C: 17% of the RDA.
  • Potassium: 14% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B5: 14% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin E: 10% of the RDA.
  • Then it contains small amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin).

Mono-saturated fat is the kind that’s easily synthesized for energy extraction and avocado is considered to have lots of it and yet low in fructose, which is good for diabetics.

It has more potassium than banana. Potassium cations are important in neuron (brain and nerve) function, and in influencing osmotic balance between cells and the interstitial fluid, This will benefit weight trainers who need to keep their blood cells at optimum quality.

An Avocado a Day May Help Lower Bad Cholesterol

Previous research has suggested that avocados might help improve lipid profiles, both in healthy individuals and in those with mild hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol levels).

In one such study,5 healthy individuals saw a 16 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol level following a one-week long diet high in monounsaturated fat from avocados.

In those with elevated cholesterol levels, the avocado diet resulted in a 17 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol, and a 22 percent decrease of both LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, along with an 11 percent increase of the so-called “good” HDL cholesterol.

More recently, researchers at Pennsylvania State University tested three different cholesterol-reducing diets, to assess and compare their effectiveness.6,7,8 Forty-five overweight participants were enrolled in the study, and were assigned to follow one of the tree diets:

  1. Low-fat diet, where saturated fats were substituted for more carbohydrates, including plenty of fruit and whole grains
  2. Moderate-fat diet (without avocado), where saturated fats were substituted with monounsaturated fats in the form of canola and sunflower oil. About 34 percent of daily calories came from fat, but aside from that, it was very similar to the low-fat diet, which included poultry and low amounts of red meat
  3. Moderate-fat diet with avocado. Aside from including one whole Hass avocado per day, this diet was identical to the other moderate-fat diet, and the overall fat ratio was the same

The results, reported by the NPR,9 “surprised” the researchers:

“At the end of the study, the researchers found that the avocado diet led to significant reductions in LDL cholesterol, compared with the other two diets.

To put the difference in perspective, the avocado diet decreased LDL cholesterol about 14 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Compare that with a decrease of about 7 mg/dL for the low-fat diet, and about a 8 mg/dl drop from the moderate-fat diet.

“I was surprised to see the added benefit [of the avocado],” Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition scientist at Penn State and the lead author of the study, tells us.” It’s something in the avocado” other than just the fat composition, she says.”

All Fats Are Not Created Equal

It’s worth noting that canola and other vegetable oils (used in the moderate-fat diets in the featured study) are typically hydrogenated, which  means they contain trans fats, and trans fats wreak havoc on your heart and cardiovascular health. So I for one am not surprised at the results of this study.

Previous research10 has actually shown that replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (found in soybean, corn, and safflower oil) leads to increased small, high-density LDL particles, increased oxidized LDL, and reduced HDL.

Research has confirmed that large LDL particles do not contribute to heart disease. The small, dense LDL particles, however, do contribute to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, and trans fat increases small, dense LDL. (Saturated fat, on the other hand, increases large, fluffy—and benign—LDL.)

Research has also shown that small, dense LDL particles are increased by eating refined sugar and carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and most processed foods. Together, trans fats and refined carbs do far more harm than saturated fat ever possibly could. One tool designed to help you eliminate trans fats are the Naturally Savvy Get Healthy Challenges that I helped create.

A Note on the DASH Diet…

On a brief side note: In the CBS video above, they also make mention of the DASH diet, which has been found to lower blood pressure by as much as five points, rivaling the effects of blood pressure lowering medications.

The DASH diet is quite similar to the Mediterranean diet, promoting the consumption of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and recommends avoiding sugars, red meat, and salt.

Many believe that the low-sodium is responsible for its success. However, there’s compelling evidence suggesting that the real reasons it works so well for both hypertension and weight loss is because it increases potassium and restricts your intake of fructose—as does the Mediterranean diet.

Fructose is actually a far more important factor than salt when it comes to hypertension. The connecting link between fructose consumption and hypertension lies in the uric acid produced. Uric acid is a byproduct of fructose metabolism, and increased uric acid levels drive up your blood pressure.

Now, when you reduce sugar in your diet (from sources such as added sugars, processed fructose, grains of all kinds, and processed foods), you need to increase the amount of healthy fat. And avocado is an excellent choice to bolster your fat consumption and overall nutrition.

I have been consuming an avocado daily for the last several years. On most days, I will add a whole avocado to my salad, which I eat for lunch. This increases my healthy fat and calorie intake without seriously increasing my protein or carbohydrate intake. You can also add about ¼ to 1/3 of an avocado as a healthy banana substitute when making smoothies or your protein shake.

Avocado Benefits Your Heart and Brain

Besides its beneficial influence on your cholesterol, avocados have also been found to provide other heart-healthy benefits. For example, one interesting 2012 study11 found that eating one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado with a hamburger significantly inhibited the production of the inflammatory compound Interleukin-6 (IL-6), compared to eating a burger without fresh avocado.

Also, just like avocado does not raise your blood sugar levels, fresh avocado did not increase triglyceride levels beyond what was observed when eating the burger alone, despite the avocado supplying extra fat and calories. According to lead author David Heber, MD, PhD, the findings offer “promising clues” about avocado’s ability to benefit vascular function and heart health. Healthy fats are also vital for optimal brain function, and for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s. As noted in a recent issue of Scientific American:12

“The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low carbohydrate diet, which unfortunately is relatively uncommon in human populations today,” reports David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain. “Mayo Clinic researchers showed that individuals favoring carbohydrates in their diets had a remarkable 89 percent increased risk for developing dementia as contrasted to those whose diets contained the most fat.

Having the highest levels of fat consumption was actually found to be associated with an incredible 44 percent reduction in risk for developing dementia.” …‘Good’ fats include monounsaturated fats, found abundantly in olive oil, peanut oil, hazelnuts, avocados and pumpkin seeds, and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 and omega 6), which are found in flaxseed oil, chia seeds, marine algae oil and walnuts.”

To Maximize Benefits, Peel Your Avocado the Right Way

Interestingly, the manner in which you de-skin your avocado can affect how much of its valuable phytonutrients you get out of it. UCLA research has shown that the greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids, for example, is located in the dark green fruit closest to the inside of the peel. In 2010, the California Avocado Commission issued guidelines for getting the most out of your avocado by peeling it the right way.13 To preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants, you’re best off peeling the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana:

  1. First, cut the avocado length-wise, around the seed
  2. Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed
  3. Remove the seed
  4. Cut each half, lengthwise
  5. Next, using your thumb and index finger, simply peel the skin off each piece

How to Get More Avocado into Your Diet

While avocado is commonly eaten raw, on salad or alone, there are many other ways to include avocado in your diet. Its creamy, mild flavor tends to go well with many foods, making it a refreshing and nutritious addition to various recipes. For example, you can use avocado:

  • As a fat replacement in baking. Simply replace the fat called for (such as oil, butter, or shortening) with an equal amount of avocado
  • As a first food for babies, in lieu of processed baby food
  • In soups. For examples, see Lucy Lock’s Chilled Mediterranean Soup, or her Raw Creamy Carrot Soup
  • As a banana substitute in smoothies or your protein shake

The California Avocado Commission’s website14 contains hundreds of unique recipes that include avocado. All in all, avocado may be one of the most beneficial superfoods out there, and may be particularly valuable if you’re struggling with insulin and leptin resistance, diabetes, or any other risk factors for heart disease. Last but not least, avocados are also one of the safest fruits you can buy conventionally-grown, as their thick skin protects the inner fruit from pesticides.

On top of that, avocados have been rated as one of the safest commercial crops in terms of pesticide application,15 so there’s no real need to spend extra money on organic avocados. I’ve had my own team test avocados from a variety of growers in different countries, sold in several major grocery stores, and they all tested free and clear of harmful chemicals. For more fun and interesting avocado facts, check out the following infographic.

Avocado Uses and Health Benefits

Discover interesting facts about avocado, including its uses and benefits, through the infographic “Avocado Uses and Health Benefits: Facts About This Food.” infographic. Use the embed code to share it on your website.

<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/avocado-uses-health-benefits.jpg" alt="Avocado Uses and Health Benefits" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Discover interesting facts about avocado, including its uses and benefits, through the infographic <a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/avocado-uses-health-benefits.htm"><strong>Avocado Uses and Health Benefits: Facts About This Food.</strong></a> infographic.</p>

The Avocado Advantage: Uses and Benefits of This Tropical Fruit

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How to Plant an Avocado Tree

Two Methods:Water sproutingGround growing

The next time you eat an avocado or use one in a recipe, save the stone or pit. Planting your own avocado tree is fun and easy. It is a perfect task for all ages – for the garden, for indoors, and also makes a great project for class or at home!

Method 1 of 2: Water sprouting

Preparing the seed

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    1

    Remove the pit. Cut into the avocado carefully, so as not to injure the pit, which is in the fruit’s center. You can do this by scoring the skin/fruit about ½ an inch (1.3 cm) deep all the way around the outside, and then twisting the two halves in opposite directions to open it. Carefully remove the pit and set it aside.

    • So that you don’t waste the fruit, use the avocado meat to create the tasty dip/topping known as guacamole.
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    2

    Clean the pit. Wash the avocado pit gently to remove all the flesh. Use warm water and your hands, and avoid using soap. Be careful not to remove the seed cover which is light brown, as this may destroy the pit and make it less likely to grow.

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    3

    Insert toothpicks into the pit. Holding the pit “narrow” (pointed) side up, stick four toothpicks into the middle section at even intervals, to a depth of about 5 mm (.2 inches). This will allow you to balance the pit on the inside of a cup, without completely inserting it into the cup.

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    4

    Fill a cup/jar with water. Add some water to a small, slender container (preferably glass) until it reaches the top rim. Your container’s opening should be wide enough to accommodate the full width of the avocado pit easily. However make sure that it is not too wide, otherwise the toothpicks will not be able to reach and the pit will fall in.

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    5

    Set your avocado pit (with inserted toothpicks) on the top rim of the container. The toothpicks should sit on the rim of the container, leaving the pit only half-submerged in the water. Make sure the pointed end is up and the rounded end is in the water, otherwise your avocado will not grow.

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    6

    Wait for the pit to sprout. Set the avocado-topped container in a temperate, undisturbed place – near a window or any other well-lit area to begin rooting and the growth process.

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    7

    Change the water every 1-2 days. Do this to ensure that contaminants (i.e. mold, bacteria, fermentation, etc.) do not hinder the avocado’s sprouting process. Ensure the base of the avocado always remains moist and submerged in water.

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    8

    Wait patiently for the pit to sprout roots. Over the next 2-3 weeks, the avocado’s brown outer layer will begin to dry out and wrinkle, eventually sloughing off. Soon after, the pit should begin to split open at the top and bottom. After 3-4 weeks, a tap root should begin to emerge at the base of the pit.[1]

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    9

    Continue to water the plant accordingly. Take care not to disturb or injure the tap root. Continue to allow the avocado pit time to establish its roots. Soon, the avocado will sprout at the top, releasing an unfolding leaf-bud that will open and begin to grow a shoot bearing leaves.

Planting the avocado tree

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    1

    Select a location. Avocado trees are very particular in terms of their ideal climate and growing conditions. Most of the time, avocado trees should be planted in a pot and, and moved around to meet the changing weather. Only consider growing your avocado tree outside if the temperature does not drop below 50ºF (10ºC) at any point throughout the year.[2]

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    2

    Prepare the soil. Avocado trees prefer soil at almost any pH level, but that is low in saline and has plenty of drainage. The soil does not need to be heavily fertilized until after the tree is about 1 year old. At that point, use a 10-10-10 fertilizer twice a year to help the tree out. Otherwise, use regular potting soil and add some rocks to the bottom of the pot to aid in draining excess water.[3]

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    3

    Prepare your plot. Use a 20-25 cm (7.8-9.8 inches) terracotta pot filled with enriched soil to 2 cm (.8 inches) below the top. A 50/50 blend of topsoil and coir (coconut fibre) works best. Smooth and slightly pack the soil, adding more soil as needed. Once the soil is prepared, dig a narrow hole deep enough to accommodate your avocado’s roots and pit.

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    4

    Get the seed ready. When the roots are substantial and the stem top has had a chance to re-grow leaves (after at least one pruning), your baby avocado tree is ready to be planted in soil. Remove the sprouted pit from the water container, and gently remove each of the toothpicks.

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    5

    Plant the avocado seed. Carefully bury the avocado pit in the soil such the top-half of pit shows above the surface of the soil. This ensures the base of the seedling trunk doesn’t rot under the soil. Pack the soil lightly around the pit.

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    6

    Keep the tree hydrated. Water your plant daily or enough to keep the soil moist. Avoid over-watering to the point the soil becomes muddy. If the leaves turn brown at the tips, the tree needs more water, while if the leaves turn yellow, the tree is getting too much water and needs to be permitted to dry out for a day or two.[4]

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    7

    Maintain your avocado tree. Continue to tend to your avocado plant regularly, and in a few years you will have an attractive and low-maintenance tree. Your family and friends will be impressed to know that you cultivated and grew your own tree from an avocado pit salvaged from your guacamole recipe.

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