Most of you have already heard of avocado and its beneficial effects on health. This fruit, grown in more than 50 tropical and subtropical countries, is still gaining importance due to its nutritional and bioactive compounds. Let’s see what’s behind these claims.
Pulp is the edible part of avocado fruit and its content varies between 50–80% in different avocado varieties. It contains roughly 67–78% moisture, 5–35% lipids, with a major portion of unsaturated fatty acids (60–85%), 1–9% carbohydrates, 1–3% protein, 1.4–9% fiber, and energetic value between 140–2300 kcal (1–3). It is also rich in sugars (0.3%) (1), like D-mannoheptulose, sucrose, and seven-carbon carbohydrates.
In addition to the high level of unsaturated fatty acids, the avocado pulp has a high concentration of potassium (340–507 mg/100 g of avocado) which regulates muscle activity and protects the body from cardiovascular diseases. It is also a good source of other minerals, like phosphorus (54–63 mg/100 g), magnesium (29–48 mg/100 g), calcium (13–29 mg/100 g), and sodium (2.8–8 mg/100 g) and also other minor elements like zinc (0.7–0.75 mg/100 g) and iron (0.6–0.8 mg/100 g) (1–3).
Avocado is a good source of antioxidants as it contains a number of beneficial bioactive compounds like pigments (f.e. carotenoids), phenolic compounds, phytoestrogens, polyphenols, tannins, and vitamins. Vitamins A (7 microg/100 g), B (Thiamine B1 0.07–0.08 mg/100 g, Riboflavin B2 0.08–0.14 mg/100g, Niacin B3 0.9–1.9 mg/100 g, Pantothenic acid B5 1.3–1.5 mg/100 g, Biotin B7 1.3 microg/100 g, folate), C (8.8–9.4 mg/100 g), D2 (2 microg/100 g), E (0.02–2 mg/100 g), K1 (21–39 microg/100 g), and carotenoids (0.3 mg/100 g, lutein 25–220 microg/100 g) are important for general health (1–3). Lutein additionally helps to protect against prostate cancer and eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration (3).
Avocado is also high in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that acts on potentially carcinogenic compounds. In its lipid fraction, avocado contains a considerable amount of phytosterol, particularly in the form of β- sitosterol which is found to be useful in reducing the levels of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol as well as improving immunity, reducing the compulsive eating and accumulation of fat in the abdominal regions (2,3)
Pulp isn’t the only part of the avocado plant with bioactive compounds. The leaves contain antioxidants and are consequently commonly used in traditional medicine. They are a potential source of saponins, alkaloids, steroids, flavonoids, and tannins (2,3). Leaves’ phytochemicals positively influence cholesterol metabolism as well. Phytochemicals like isorhamnetin, luteolin, apigenin, quercetin, and rutin help to reduce oxidative stress (2). Fluid extract of the avocado leaves is thus widely utilized in pharmaceutical products, also due to diuretic activity.
Waste or source?
The production of avocado fruits results in large quantities of peel and seeds which have been long considered as a waste. Now we know that they contain a lot of phytochemicals that have health benefits that help to reduce inflammatory diseases. The residues of avocado contain essential oils with a considerable amount of polyphenolic compounds such as proanthocyanidins, catechins, and quercetin glycosides (2). Seeds are a good source of carbohydrates like hemicelluloses, fibers, and starch (30%) (2). The high fiber content of the residues after lipid extraction allows their use in the preparation of flour, which is suitable for bakery products and pasta.
Numerous studies confirm the beneficial effects of avocado. The avocado oil can have been identified as a possible substitute for olive oil due to its health benefits (2). Avocado pulp oil is widely used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry, and in the production of commercial oils. The processed avocado pulp can be easily used as an alternative to fresh fruits or in the preparation of delicious meals. Good appetite.
1. Longvah T., Ananthan R., Bhaskarachary K., Venkaiah K. (2017): Indian Food Composition Tables. National Institute of Nutrition, Indian Council of Medical Research, Dpt. of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
2. Majid D, Dar BN, Parveen s, Jabeen A, Allai FM, Sofi SA, Ganaie TA (2016): Avocado. In: Antioxidants in fruits: Properties and Health Benefits, Nayik GA & Gull A (Eds.). Springer Nature Singapore 2020: pp.103; https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-7285-2
3. Duarte PF, Chaves MA, Borges CD, Mendonça CRB (2016): Avocado: characteristics, health benefits and uses. Food Technology, Ciênc Rural 46(4): 747–754; https://doi.org/10.1590/0103-8478cr20141516