Why Eat Avocados?
By Suzy Cohen, R.Ph.
QUESTION: A friend of mine, who is a nutritionist, says I should eat avocados to reduce my risk for heart disease. My doctor says not to eat them -- they're too fatty. Can you settle this and tell me what to do?
ANSWER: Sure, but what kind of answer do you think you'll get? I love avocados and believe that the benefits far outweigh the fat content.
Technically, both your nutritionist and your doctor are correct. Avocados are high in calories -- about 200 calories for half a cup, according to the USDA Nutrient Database. Between 70 and 90 percent of the calories in avocados are from fat but it's "monounsaturated" fat, which lowers cholesterol and subsequently your risk for heart disease. It's the same with olives and olive oil.
The avocado beats all other fruits (yes, it is a fruit) in beta carotene and potassium content. If you are on certain diuretic drugs and have been told to eat a banana or drink orange juice daily for potassium, you should know that avocados are even better -- they contain more potassium than both bananas and orange juice. For diabetics, avocados -- also called "alligator pears" because of their shape and skin -- are a great choice because they don't contain a lot of sugar or starch.
Avocados contain heaps of protein, potassium, folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin E and vitamin K. Two other nutrients stand out as crucial to health. The first is beta sitosterol, which may ease symptoms of BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy). Guys, you may end up needing medicine costing hundreds of dollars a month, but one avocado will set you back about a dollar and lab analysis shows that avocados contain about 76 milligrams of beta sitosterol per three and a half ounces of raw, edible fruit. I'm not suggesting dollops of guacamole on top of meat-stuffed cheese burritos; I mean sliced-up avocados on top of a salad.
The second nutrient in avocados is glutathione. You need glutathione to stay alive and process dangerous by-products in the body. We produce it, but aging, certain drugs and disease conditions wipe it out. Avocados contain 15 to 20 millgrams of glutathione per 3 1/2 ounces. Glutathione is so helpful to the liver and digestion that studies have shown a correlation between eating glutathione (from fruits and veggies) and a lower risk for cancer, specifically oral and pharyngeal cancer.
Glutathione may be depleted from the body by many drugs, including acetaminophen (Tylenol), and depletions can cause joint pain. If you take this medication, it's good to supplement with glutathione, or eat lots of foods that contain it.
This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. To contact her, visit Welcome to Dear Pharmacist, Inc..
Dear Pharmacist. Distributed by Tribune Media Services.