Contrary to popular belief, avocados are not “full of bad fats” — in fact, they are stuffed to the gills with heart-healthy benefits. One of the most important nutrients avocados bring to the table is the carotenoid family — super-charged antioxidant anti-inflammatories that keep hearts strong. As well, avocado’s healthy fats boost absorption of carotenoids — even from other foods.
Here are four keys benefits that avocados provide:
1. Avocados are chock full of carotenoids. Don’t let their green skins and pulp fool you; the antioxidants we usually associate with orange carrots and red tomatoes are abundantly supplied by the avocado. In fact, studies show that they contain a huge array of carotenoids — 11 of them, to be exact. And they are all antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects, which means they protect the cardiovascular system.
2. Carotenoids slash the risk of heart disease. In a study of 374 men between the ages of 40 and 80, researchers found that people who ate more carotenoids had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease. They also had less belly fat, which is another risk factor for heart trouble. Beta-carotene and lycopene appeared to be the most powerful carotenoids. These and other studies suggest that carotenoids are super heart-protectors, and we hope to see clinical trials prove this in the near future.
3. Double your antioxidants for free! In addition to supplying carotenoids, avocados also enable us to absorb more carotenoids from other foods. And not just a wee bit. Researchers found that when avocados were added to salsa, people doubled or quadrupled the amount of carotenoids they absorbed from the tomatoes. With a romaine, spinach and carrot salad, people absorbed up to 15 times more carotenoids from the salad ingredients.
This dramatic increase occurs because we need fats to absorb carotenoids, and avocados supply the perfect mix of essential fatty acids. It’s interesting to note that heart-loving beta-carotene saw the biggest jump in absorption.
4. How to pick the best avocados. To get the best flavor, choose avocados with a “neck” instead of a round top: the neck means it spent more time on the tree. To avoid bruises, pick firm fruit which can ripen at home, and refrigerate them once soft. Add the seed to your guacamole to prevent browning and keep the flavor fresh.
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