If you’re like me your relationship with avocados goes something like this: buy them, wait for them to ripen, forget about them, then, when you want to use them, they aren’t any good. Sound familiar?! There really is a fine line between unripe and overripe when it comes to avocados 🥑!
But we really do need to work these little green gems into our daily food intake, especially if you’re approaching middle age. Why? Well, according to a study done at Tuft University, avocados are very high in lutein, a plant nutrient that keeps our brain healthy.
Lutein a member of the carotenoid family of phytonutrients, is closely related to vitamin A and beta-carotene. Lutein is often connected with another carotenoid called zeaxanthin in relation to eye health, but it’s benefits go beyond the eye.
Reduced risk of vision disorders
Improved cardiovascular health
Improved cognitive health
Back to the Tuft University study. Researchers recruited 40 healthy individuals age 50 and over, and tested the lutein content in their brain. Scientists had half the test subjects eat one avocado per day for 6 months, while the control group ate either one potato or one cup of chickpeas per day. Potatoes and chickpeas have very low lutein levels. Both groups kept all other aspects of their diets the same.
At the end of 6 months, the avocado group had a 25% increase in lutein levels, versus no increase in the control group. Other improvements seen in the avocado group include: significantly improved memory and problem solving skills. The study was led by Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. She said:
“Eating one avocado a day is particularly effective at enriching neural lutein levels. A balanced diet that includes fresh avocados may be an effective strategy for cognitive health.”
If you’re like me, you always mean to eat more avocados, but they ripen so quickly. It seems one day they’re unripe, then the next, they’re over ripe. Well, when I began receiving avocaods in my produce delivery every week, I knew I needed to solve this problem, and preserve them until I could throw them in my smoothies. That’s when I started to freeze them.
I cut each half into 1/8’s, place them on a parchment covered tray in a single layer and place them in the freezer for a few hours. After they’re frozen, you can put them in a ziplock bag. FYI, this is for use in smoothies. 2 pieces are 1/8 of an avocado. I haven’t yet used them to make guacamole. If I do, I’ll let you know how it goes. For now, I throw a couple of pieces in every smoothie I make. Best of all, I’m not throwing away past ripe avocados any more!
Wow, it’s been a while since I posted a nutrient blog. The last time was on January 25, and that was only a review, which you can find HERE. So, let’s jump right back in, with a short reminder of what this series is about.
This series is designed to break down each essential nutrient to the human body. When we define “ESSENTIAL”, we mean the human body CANNOT make it on it’s own. Therefore, we get it from outside sources of food or supplements or the sun, in the case of Vitamin D.
And that’s where we’ll continue on today, with Unsaturated fats… FIRST…let’s talk briefly about fats, or lipids, before we hit unsaturated fats.
Fats and oils fall into a class of nutrient known as “lipids”. By definition, lipids are:
“relatively water-insoluble, organic molecules consisting mostly of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. In other words, lipids are hydrophobic (“water fearing”).”
Lipids are typically one of the following
Oils – These substances are liquid at room temperature – such as olive oil.
Fats – These substances are solid at room temperature – like butter.
The major categories of lipids include:
fatty acids – we will be focusing on these types of lipids
fat soluble vitamins – these vitamins will be discussed later on in the series.
Now that we remember the definition of a fat or lipid, what exactly is an unsaturated fat?
REMEMBER, Fatty acids are broken down further into 2 other groups, based on the chemical bonds between the carbon atoms in the chain. These bonds can either be single or double bonds. These bonds affect the properties and characteristics of the fatty acid.:
Saturated Fatty Acid – SFA – have all single bonds between the carbon. Because there are no double bonds in the chain, SFA’s are rigid and inflexible, and completely surrounded or SATURATED with hydrogen. This rigid nature makes them quite dense, and, therefore solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated Fatty Acid – UFA – have one or more double bonds. The existence of double bonds, makes the UFA’s flexible or bendable. It also means there are fewer hydrogen atoms, so the UFA are not surrounded or saturated by hydrogen, therefore, they are UNSATURATED. The flexibility of these acids make them highly unorganized, preventing them from coming together, making them liquid in most cases.
MonoUnsaturated Fatty Acid – MUFA – have one double bond – These fats are liquid at room temperature, but solidify when refrigerated. (2)
PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acid – PUFA – have two or more double bonds – liquid at room temperature and upon refrigeration.
All fats, whether saturated or unsaturated, contain 9 calories per gram. This is more than double that of protein or carbs, which contain 4 calories per gram. Therefore, while healthy sources of fat are essential to human health, they should be consumed in moderation.
What are the health benefits of mono-unsaturated fats (MUFA) and where can they be found? (2)
Oleic Acid is the most common MUFA. It is commonly found in:
olive oil, nuts
Protection from heart disease
Improved insulin sensitivity
Helps with weight loss
Shown to reduce risk of cancer
What are the health benefits of poly-unsaturated fats (PUFA) and where can they be found? (3)
Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) include omega-3 fatty acids, which have been scientifically proven to improve health. Due to the complex nature of Omega fats, I will be doing a separate article on Omega-3’s but for now, here are some healthy sources of PUFA and omega-3:
Cold water fish
Reduces blood pressure
THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT VEGETABLE OILS
You’ll hear many in the field of nutrition, as well as the U.S.A. federal government push the supposed “health benefits” of VEGETABLE OILS. While it’s true that vegetable oils contain HIGH amounts of PUFA’s, they are EXTREMELY unhealthy. Here’s a short video revealing the UGLY TRUTH about vegetable oil…
STOP EATING THESE OILS IMMEDIATELY… (DR. AXE)
In the following video, Dr. Axe talks about the oils you should NEVER consume, and gives you 5 alternatives. The video is on the long side, 16:24. You can either watch it, or I’ve summed it up for you below.
Why avoid them? They are linked to:
WHICH OILS SHOULD YOU AVOID AT ALL COSTS? VEGETABLE OILS! – Including anything labeled vegetable oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil
GMO ingredients -HIGHLY TOXIC/DANGEROUS!
They kill off the GOOD bacteria in your gut!!! The fewer of these little critters you have, the weaker your immune system. You’ll also absorb fewer vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Cause kidney/liver problems – clogs your liver (liver stagnation) and liver toxicity. (BTW…the liver is very resilient, and if you actually start exhibiting symptoms of liver disease, it’s “really far gone” as Dr. Axe says below)
exposed to Trans-fats
can cause weight gain (belly fat)
WHICH OILS SHOULD YOU START CONSUMING RIGHT AWAY?
Coconut oil –
Contains MCT’s – medium-chain triglycerides – they are burned as energy
Contains lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid – anti-microbial – kills off bad bacteria and pathogens
I’ve had mousse/pudding made with avocado and it really is pretty tasty. If you’re looking for a healthy chocolate fix, this could do the trick. Avocado is an incredible source of healthy fat and very high in fiber. Since avocado has such a mild flavor, you can’t tell it’s is in the mousse.
NOTE: This recipe calls for Agave…DO NOT USE AGAVE!!! It is extremely high in fructose, and actually just as bad for you, if not worse, than high fructose corn syrup. Use raw honey or 100% maple syrup instead.