Avocados pack a punch


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 30 Nov 2017

Highly beneficial: Foods high in healthy fats such as salmon, nuts and avocados with vegetables and herbs.

Yes, avocados are relatively high in fat and calories, but they’re also packed with nutrients and heart-healthy compounds. 

PETALING JAYA: Real estate mogul Tim Gurner once claimed the inability of Australian millennials to purchase a home was due to this South American fruit.

Its green hue, creamy, buttery texture features heavily as the core ingredient in a millennial’s Sunday brunch costing as much as RM20.

An avocado (Persea americana) with eggs toast can cost RM18, while an avocado salad can set you back RM20 at hipster cafes.

Notwithstanding its purportedly prominent role in modern socio- economics, the avocado is a superfruit that provides a subtantial amount of vitamins and minerals, with relatively few calories.

According to the California Avocado Commission, avocados boast a plethora of health benefits containing vitamins A, C, E, K, folic acid, potassium and other B-vitamins.

“The main health benefit is related to its unsaturated fatty acid content, mainly oleic acid.

“It is able to raise good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is why it is claimed to be ‘heart-healthy’,” said Nutrition Society of Malaysia president Dr Tee E Siong.

Dr Tee said pulp from the avocado can be made into avocado oil.

“Avocado oil contains high levels of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, with the main fatty acid being oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid,” he said.

Dr Tee added that as much as 70% of the fatty acid in avocado is oleic acid, with another 13% or so of polysaturated fatty acid.

“This composition is rather similar to that of olive oil,” he said.

Although avocados are said to contain “good fats”, Dr Tee said its fat content is higher than other fruits.

“It has about 10g of fat per 100 gram. For quick comparisons, bananas in general have lower fat, less than 0.5g per 100 gram. Durian, an exceptionally high-fat fruit, has about 3g fat per 100 gram,” he said.

Hence, he advised Malaysians not to consume avocados in excessive amounts.

“It doesn’t mean that if a fat or oil has good fat, it can be consumed in large amounts. Avocado fat should be consumed as part of our total calorie needs. Excessive intake can result in too much calorie intake, like any calorie-rich foods,” he said.

Avocados can also be used in several ways to complement a person’s existing diet. It can be used in salads, sushi, dipping sauce, soups and sandwiches.

“The oil can also be used for cooking, grilling or baking,” Dr Tee said.

If you are looking to increase your avocado intake, here are several reasons why you should consume one.

Eye health

Researchers have found that avocado added to a salad or salsa helps absorb pigments in other salad vegetables.

These pigments, such as beta carotene, lutien and zeaxanthin, are found in the eye’s macular.

Evidence suggests that taking supplements with those vitamins may help delay the onset of the condition.

Dr Tee said avocados contain lutien, a carotenoid that has anti- oxidant effects.

He added that the Malaysia Food Regulations has also permitted a health claim in relation to lutein: “As the predominant macular pigment in the retina, lutien is able to filter blue light and may protect the eyes.”

Hence, he said that lutien contained in avocados may be beneficial for eye health.

“It is said to be able to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related eye disease,” he said.

A 2013 study found that total carotenoid concentrations in avocados were found to be the most abundant in the dark green flesh closest to the peel.

Cardiovascular Health

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that having an avocado per day has beneficial effects beyond its fatty acid profile – it decreases low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and other cardiovascular disease risk factors.

National Heart Institute Food Service Dietitian, Dietetics And Food Services Deputy Manager Siti Farhath Sehu Allavudin said avocado consumption may help reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides significantly.

“It is also able to lower potentially harmful LDL cholesterol and increase good HDL cholesterol,” she said.

Siti Farhath said avocados are a great source of healthy fats, namely monounsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid, which may help protect not just against heart disease but also diabetes and cancer.

She also recommended an average person to keep daily avocado intake to half a fruit a day to maintain a healthy heart.

Weight reduction

Sunway Medical Centre consultant general and colorectal surgeon Dr Chong Hoong Yin said that the consumption of healthy foods, including vegetables and fruits, is associated with lower weight and body mass index (BMI).

Dr Chong said strong and consistent evidence has indicated that dietary patterns that are relatively low in energy density improve weight loss and weight maintenance among adults.

Hence, avocados, which have a medium energy density of 1.7 kcal/g, dietary fibre and fruit oil matrix, appear to enhance satiety.

“A few studies have also suggested that avocados support weight control similar to other fruits,” he said.

Consequently, Dr Chong said avocados are recommended for those who are on a weight reduction programme.

Constipation

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, dietary fibres are important for digestive health.

The insoluble fibre manages the stool and makes the waste move through the digestive tract more quickly. Thus, it is good for the gut as it helps to prevent constipation.

Meanwhile, soluble fibre helps this process by making the stools softer and easier to pass.

“It is beneficial for improving digestion and encouraging regular bowel movements, which can help prevent constipation,” Dr Chong said.

He said avocado fruit carbohydrates are composed of about 80% dietary fibre, consisting of 70% insoluble and 30% soluble fibre.

He added that avocados are often recommended as a mild laxative for people having trouble going to the toilet.

“If you’ve been having problems with bowel movement, whether constipation or diarrhoea, then getting more fibre-rich foods like avocados can definitely help keep you regular (going to the toilet),” he said, adding that avocados also help to lower the risk of colon cancer and can assist in weight loss by making a person feel more full and wanting to eat less.


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