- Antioxidant phytochemicals (such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein) — To help protect against various diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, it’s a good idea to eat a diet rich in phytochemicals like avocados. Antioxidant phytochemicals prevent oxidative damage (also called free radicals) that have the power to change DNA and result in cell mutations….
- Folate — Because of its high supply of the crucial nutrient folate,
avocado benefits include preventing certain birth defects like spinal bifida and neural tube defects. Research has even suggested that folate-rich foods can help prevent strokes!…Phytonutrients (polyphenols and flavonoids) —
- Anti-inflammatory compounds like phytonutrients are key to reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders that can affect every part of the body — including joints, the heart, brain, internal organ systems, skin and connective tissue.
- Avocados are a high-antioxidant food that contain lutein, a type of carotenoid that protects eye health and preserves healthy, youthful looking skin and hair. Carotenoids are the group of antioxidant phytochemicals found in veggies like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes that are known for blocking the effects of environmental toxins like pollution and UV light damage….Research shows that dietary carotenoids provide health benefits related to decreasing the risk of diseases, particularly certain cancers of the skin and age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration. (8) Lutein appears to be beneficial for eye disease prevention because it absorbs the type of damaging blue light rays that enter the eyes and skin, changing DNA and causing free radical damage. Research also shows that adding avocado to a meal helps further carotenoid absorption.
- As you now know, avocados are one of the best fruit sources of fiber. Depending on the size of the avocado, one whole fruit has between 11–17 grams of fiber! That’s more than nearly any other fruit and most servings of vegetables, grains and beans too. High-fiber foods are important for anyone with digestive tract issue because fiber helps shift the balance of bacteria in the gut, increasing healthy bacteria while decreasing the unhealthy bacteria that can be the root of some digestive disorders. Fiber also helps add bulk to stool, makes it easier to go to the bathroom, and helps pull waste and toxins through the intestines and colon.
One of my goals in this “What Now” section is to begin looking at nutrition labels as an informed consumer, so that that deciding which foods to add and which foods to eliminate from my family Grocery IQ app will be much easier.
I have even made a commitment to actually at least glance at the nutrition labels before actually tossing stuff into my cart, or letting the “resident four year old” do so.
Getting into the habit of always checking the nutritional label, as well as thinking about foods in a way that corresponds to these labels as I plan our grocery lists, will hopefully help me not only make smarter food choices now while I am learning about developing healthier lifestyle, but also make shopping for groceries easier and quicker further along this journey.
But first of all, I need to know what the heck I’m looking at and how to use this information.
So let’s take a quick run-through of the elements that make up the nutrition label, and how this applies to our first added food—the avocado.
1. The Serving Size…The first thing to consider when starting to weed out your pantry or fridge in the game called “What Not to Eat” is the “Serving Size.”
Serving Size cannot be ignored…sad, but true…
Knowing all of the nutritional value in the Serving Size given on the actual package does not do a bit of good if you’re not actually eating the size that they supposedly tell you that you’re supposed to be eating. If you eat the whole entire box of Cap’N Crunch cereal, you have obviously eaten way more calories than the number of calories that they had expected you to have eaten. And not only have you eaten way more calories, you have also jacked up all those other supposedly important nutrient numbers also…
The recommended serving size of an avocado is smaller than you’d expect. One medium avocado is actually considered to be five different servings.
2. Calories…Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. Needless to say, far too many Americans consume way more calories than they could ever actually need. Yet they hardly ever even come close to meeting the “official” recommended intakes for the many different nutrients that our bodies need.
As a general reference for looking at calorie content when looking at a Nutrition Facts label, remember that…
- Any food item containing somewhere around forty calories is considered to be a low-calorie food item.
- Any food item containing somewhere around a hundred calories is considered to be “average” or moderate.
- Any food item containing four hundred calories or more is considered a high-calorie food item.
Avocados have a lot of calories. One serving, which is only one-fifth of the typically-sized avocado, has about fifty calories…meaning that if you just ate the entire avocado, you just ate 250 calories.
3. “Limit These” Nutrients…The next section of the nutrition label details the specific nutrients contained in the food item.
The actual specific nutrients listed first are those nutrients that all of us generally eat in adequate amounts. These are shown as a percentage, showing what percentage of the amount of the recommended nutrients that food item contributes to your daily diet.
The nutrients included in this section are carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.
a. Carbohydrates...Each day we should strive to eat 300 grams of carbs. One serving of avocado contains three grams on carbohydrates.
b. Fats…No daily recommendation has been formally established by the FDA at this point, so your main goal is to limit “bad” fats and get enough “good” fats…One serving of avocado contains a total of 4.5 grams fat—1 gram “bad” fat, and 3.5 grams of the “good” monounsaturated fat. Avocados and avocado oil are some of the richest sources of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) in the world. These monounsaturated fats have been shown to reverse insulin resistance and regulate blood sugar levels.
Avocados also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can improve memory and brain activity. Oleic acid in turn helps the body with carotenoid absorption.
c. Protein…Avocados having the highest protein content of any fruit,
Unless a food item makes a claim regarding its protein content—such as being “high in protein” or is marketed specifically for infants and children under four years old, this nutrient is often now shown. This is not a big deal because studies show that most of us actually do get enough protein in our diets already.
d. Sugar…No set-in-stone daily value has actually been established for sugar either, but obviously it’s important to limit the amount of sugar you consume each day.
The amount of sugar shown will include both any naturally-occurring sugar and those sugars actually added to a food or drink. Check the ingredient list for specifics on added sugars…
Avocados have the lowest sugar content of any fruit, including a very low amount of fructose.
Also, the type of sugar contained in avocado is a specific 7-carbon sugar, which is a relatively rare form of sugar that inhibit the enzyme hexokinase. In newbie-nutrition-nerd language, this fact means that avocados control the way that our bodies process glucose, and as a result protecting the overall health of diabetics.
4. “Get Enough of These” Nutrients…The nutrients listed next are those nutrients that hardly any of us generally eat in adequate amounts. These nutrients include fiber, vitamins,
a. Fiber…The recommended daily amount of fiber that each of us should be eating each day is 25 grams.
Fiber helps keep the digestive system running smoothly—bulking up stools, ensuring the smooth passage of food through the intestinal tract, stimulating gastric and digestive juices so nutrients are absorbed in the most efficient and rapid way, promoting healthy bowel function, and reducing the symptoms from conditions like constipation and diarrhea.
Avocados contain more soluble fiber than most foods and help stabilize blood sugar levels, facilitate proper bowel regularity, and maintain proper weight control.
Avocados supply 40% of the daily requirement of fiber per serving, making them a very smart choice for optimizing your digestive health.
Not only that, eating avocados also helps prevent bad breath.
b. Vitamins…Avocados are a good source of many important vitamins, including vitamins C, B6, B-12, A, D, K, and E—such as 4% of the recommended amount of vitamin C and 6% of the recommended amount of vitamin E.
Vitamin B is important for helping to fight and avoid diseases and infections. For example, pregnant women can avoid the nausea and queasiness of morning sickness by making sure that they get enough Vitamin B6.
Vitamin K…It is important that pregnant women get enough vitamin K in order to prevent vitamin K deficiency-related bleeding (VKDB), a bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency in vitamin K that is sometimes seen in newborn babies whose mothers have not taken in enough vitamin K while they were pregnant. Avocados contain a very high amount of vitamin K—almost 40% of the daily requirement per serving.
Minerals…Avocados are also a great source of many essential—such as calcium, copper, phosphorous, selenium, and zinc—all of which help to improve the density of your bones and lower your risk of getting osteoporosis.
- Calcium...The recommended daily value for calcium is 1,000mg.
- Copper…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, copper also strengthens your blood vessels, helps keep your nerves healthy, and boosts your immune system.
- Folate…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, folate also boosts brain function, and is crucial for cell repair and during pregnancy. Avocados provide 10%DV for folate..
- Iron…Avocados provide 2%DV for iron.
- Potassium…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, potassium helps relax your blood vessels and arteries and reduces your risk of circulatory problems—such as blood clotting, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes. Avocados provide 6%DV of potassium. You would need to eat two bananas to meet the potassium content in just one whole avocado.
Finally avocados prove to be a great source of organic compounds—such as antioxidants, phytosterols, carotenoids, and flavonoids.
a. Antioxidants…Antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism. This is important because free radicals are responsible for dozens of serious conditions in the body—including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, and cognitive disorders.
- Lutein…Lutein prevents problems with your eyes—such as cataracts, eye diseases related to age, and macular degeneration. Lutein also reduce your risk of cartilage defects—such as osteoarthritis).
- Xanthophyll…Xanthophyll is an antioxidant which studies have shown could possibly help to decrease signs of the aging process on various parts of your body.
b. Carotenoids…Carotenoids are chemical compounds that give certain fruits and vegetables their bright yellow, orange or red color. Carotenoid benefits include lowering inflammation, promoting healthy growth and development, and boosting immunity, among others. Beta-carotene is one of the most common carotenoids.
c. Flavonoids…Avocados contain antibacterial flavonoids, which help kill bacteria in your mouth that can result in bad breath.
- improved heart health, hormone balance, better digestive health