Have fun all you want, but avocados are a mainstay of the millennial diet for a reason — for many reasons, in fact. Unlike other sugar-laden members of the fruit family, avocados are extremely rich in nutrients, explains Kim Shapira, RD, a celebrity dietitian and nutritional therapist. Beneath the slightly bumpy skin of a single avocado is a varied buffet of healthy fats, protein, fiber and more – all of which the body needs to thrive.
Avocados are also extremely versatile. One can be the main event at breakfast, lunch or dinner – spread on toast, mixed into a chocolate mousse or sliced atop a bowl of salmon and grain. Avocado can even be used in sauces and pureed into dips (see your favorite guacamole). Their relatively mild flavor is the perfect vehicle for toppings and seasonings, and a little salt makes them shine.
Among plant foods, avocados stand out by offering healthy fats in addition to fiber and potassium, which could explain why they are associated with such a wide range of health benefits. Here are eight ways avocados can help your health.
1. They may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
“There are a few thoughts on how avocados protect against diabetes,” explains Shapira. “The monounsaturated fats and fiber in avocado contribute to improved insulin sensitivity, which helps regulate blood sugar levels while helping to reduce inflammation, a factor linked to insulin resistance.” Research confirms this – a study published in the Journal of Nutrition found an association between avocados and lower fasting blood glucose levels, lower fasting insulin and a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.
In another study, 93 adults were advised to replace carbohydrates with avocado for twelve weeks. At the end of the study, they reported improved glucose control, as well as reduced biomarkers of cardiometabolic risk and healthier overall dietary patterns, including increased fiber and vegetable intake.
“Avocados are relatively low in carbohydrates and contain potassium and magnesium, two nutrients thought to be beneficial for glucose control and improving glucose tolerance, respectively,” says Kim Rose, RD, a dietitian in Sebring, Florida. Researchers say it’s difficult to pinpoint one nutrient responsible for the lower incidence of diabetes, she adds, but avocados generally seem to help.
2. Their unsaturated fats are good for heart health
Elevated cholesterol levels are a possible cause of atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of the arteries) and therefore of cardiac events such as heart attacks and strokes. Avocados can balance cholesterol through their healthy monounsaturated fats, which “help reduce the amount of cholesterol and other fats in the blood,” explains Rose. For example, one systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that avocado consumption can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels for people with high cholesterol.
Shapira adds that the mineral potassium in avocados is linked to blood pressure regulation. “Avocados also contain phytosterols, a plant compound that competes with the absorption of cholesterol, further helping our hearts,” she says.
If you eat meat, Brookell White, RD, a dietitian at MyFitnessPal, suggests replacing some animal fats, which are mainly saturated fats, with those from avocados. “Americans typically consume too much saturated fat, and overconsumption of saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease,” she adds.
3. An avocado-rich diet is linked to a more active lifestyle
A study published in December 2023 American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that avocado consumption was associated with a significant increase in physical activity among Hispanic and Latinx participants. It’s unclear exactly why, and more research is needed, but researchers wrote that the results may be related to an increased feeling of satiety and therefore higher energy levels, thanks to avocados’ nutrient density. There has also been some research on avocados as an effective anti-inflammatory in people with osteoarthritis, so pain management may have helped increase exercise.
Shapria adds that avocados complement an active lifestyle. “They help with energy, muscle function and recovery,” she says. “The combination of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals provides essential nutrients for our active bodies.”
4. Avocados are great for your gut
In a randomized controlled trial of overweight or obese adults, those who ate avocado one meal per day had a greater presence of healthy gut microbes compared to a control group. The research was funded in part by the Hass Avocado Board.
While more research is needed on this topic, there’s no denying that avocados contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are crucial for gut health, says Rose. “Soluble fiber ferments in the intestines and produces byproducts that help strengthen the intestinal barrier, improve intestinal function and positively impact the entire body,” she adds.
Soluble fiber is also known as prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria in the gut (also called probiotics) for a thriving environment. “On average, a medium avocado contains between 13 and 17 grams of fiber,” says Shapira. “The fiber will also contribute to regular bowel movements and help prevent constipation.”
5. Avocados, as a regular part of your diet, can help you lose weight
The aforementioned fiber content of avocados is also ideal for weight loss, as fiber – an indigestible nutrient – increases satiety. “Avocados’ combination of healthy fats and fiber promotes feelings of fullness, which reduces overall calorie intake,” says Shapira. A small study of 31 overweight or obese adults found that replacing carbohydrates in a high-carb meal with a calorically equivalent amount of avocado increased feelings of fullness and hunger-regulating hormones. Avocados can be high in calories, so portion control is crucial, but adding a few to a meal can keep you feeling full longer than other foods.
“Avocados also help improve metabolism by affecting the way our body stores and uses fat, reducing visceral fat, the fat stored around the organs,” says Shapira. This point was demonstrated in a study that found that avocados change the distribution of abdominal fat in overweight or obese women.
6. Nutrients in avocados can boost your brain
Research has shown that an avocado-rich diet is associated with several types of brain benefits, including improved cognition in older adults (which in turn could prevent Alzheimer’s disease) and relief from depression.
“There is some evidence that there is a link between folate deficiency and depression,” says Rose. Folic acid is popular for maternal health, but it also helps bring blood flow, and therefore nutrients, to the brain, which can affect mood. “Because the body doesn’t produce folic acid, it’s essential to get it from foods like avocados,” says Rose.
7. The nutrients in avocados can give your skin a glow
A balanced diet is just as important for your skin as it is for the rest of your body. Avocados are full of healthy fats and antioxidants, both of which have been linked to skin health. In a small study, UCLA researchers assigned 39 women to consume one avocado daily, or a control group that followed an avocado-free diet for eight weeks. The results indicated that the avocado eaters had noticeably firmer skin on their foreheads and greater skin elasticity. Although more research is needed, these results are promising.
Avocados are a good source of vitamins that have been linked to skin health, including biotin and vitamin E.
8. Antioxidants in avocados have been linked to sharper vision
Avocados are also high in antioxidants and the carotenoid lutein. “These free radical fighters are beneficial for eye health and may help age-related macular degeneration,” says Shapira. Lutein is known to prevent, or at least delay, the effects of eye aging.
A small study funded by the Hass Avocado Board found that adults aged 50 and older who ate one fresh avocado daily saw a 25 percent increase in lutein levels in their eyes after six months. The subjects also significantly improved their working memory and problem-solving skills.