BY dr ALLISON BRAGER
Avocados are not just for Millennials. Avocados, much like coffee, are one of the most exported goods across Central America, and there’s a reason for it. Avocados are a healthy source of fats and essential nutrients sufficient and necessary to perform at your best.
Below is a wealth of health benefits for why you should add a few slices of avocado to your breakfast, not shy away from guacamole (within reasonable proportions) as an appetizer, and even include it as part of a protein shake as a meal replacement or for additional calorie replenishment.
5 HEALTH BENEFITS OF AVOCADO
- They provide an optimal energy substrate
- They are a good dose of healthy fats
- They help with satiation and weight loss
- They are performance-enhancing for athletes
- They are tasty
#1 FATS ARE INDEED AN OPTIMAL ENERGY SUBSTRATE
Fats used to be shunned. About 20 years ago, the marketing fad of “fat-free” everything hit shelves, including potato chips. Avocados at least in the United States did not get much love during this time.
But times have changed, and a healthy dose of fats is essential to sustain not just physical but cognitive performance. Biochemically, avocados provide a significant amount of healthy fats. By healthy fats, we are talking about fats that provide an energy substrate that can be utilized for performance enhancement; healthy fats provide nine calories of energy use per gram whereas proteins and carbohydrates only provide four calories.
Thus, if you are focused on energy and performance sustainment throughout the workday, an avocado or two a day is the way to go.
#2 THEY PROVIDE A GOOD DOSE OF HEALTHY FATS
Most of us know there are several categories of fats. Some are healthy and promote optimal cardiovascular function such as monounsaturated and others such as saturated and trans-fat are unhealthy.
Avocados are indeed heart healthy. Anthropologic studies of cultures with the most centenarians (individuals who live past 100 years of age) around the world have unmasked that many of these sub-cultures have a diet rich in avocados. This is not to say that avocados will help anyone live well into their 90s, but avocados are indeed part of the pillars of optimal health due to their healthy dose of fats.
See the NASM Body Fat Percentage Calculator for a useful tool for calculating fats.
#3 AVOCADOS PROVIDE SATIETY
One of the auxiliary benefits of monounsaturated fats is that they contribute to overall biological signals of satiety. Avocados through their wealth of performance-enhancing calories that they provide catalyze a physiological cascade of satiety.
Therefore, avocados are an optimal nighttime snack for those who intermittently fast and/or are athletes. One reason is that avocados prevent a spike in blood glucose which can disrupt and prevent restorative nighttime sleep.
Simultaneously, avocados can prevent individuals from undesired sleep fragmentation due to an imbalance in blood glucose profiles.
#4 AVOCADOS ARE PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING
For athletes, avocados are an ideal source of energy particularly when individuals need to rely on a quick yet quality source of fuel for energy utilization during competition. Avocados are easy to digest and therefore serve as an ideal fuel source in the middle of training or competition when an athlete needs a quick dose of energy to sustain power, stamina, and overall performance.
If you are a sports nutrition coach, consider coaching clients on the benefits of avocado.
#5 AVOCADOS ARE TASTY
There is ultimately a pleasure principle with select types of foods that we eat. Avocados indeed stimulate the pleasure center of our brain. Avocados provide a healthy dose of fats and activate the “savory” (also known as umami) receptors in our brain linked to the release of dopamine: the neurochemical of pleasure.
Ultimately, a diet enriched in avocados is far healthier than a diet enriched in high (unhealthy) fats and sugars that activate the same pleasure receptors. Thus, utilize avocados as a means of reward replacement – also known as a hedonic substitution – over doughnuts & ice cream for overall health and wellness.
WAYS TO INTEGRATE AVOCADOS INTO YOUR EVERYDAY NUTRITIONAL PROFILE:
a. Add a few slices of avocado to your morning eggs. I started this during my fellowship years. I knew there were days when I’d be so busy that I wouldn’t have a moment to eat during the taxing workday physically and cognitively. When I started adding a few slices of avocado to my morning eggs I found that a combination of healthy calories, fats, and proteins helped to sustain me physically and cognitively throughout the working day.
b. Splurge with avocado toast. Ever since avocado toast became popular, I’ve recognized a few things. First, I feel completely satiated by avocado toast. This is likely due to the optimal amount of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and subsequent physiological signals of satiety that avocados provide. Second, I lose a craving for sweets when I eat avocado toast.
Many eateries that serve avocado toast often serve decadent pancakes, bread, and baked goods. I find that if I have avocado toast, I am immediately less tempted to crave pancakes or baked goods likely due to the physiological process of hedonic substitution as discussed prior.
c. Supplement your protein shake with an avocado. I think this nutritional trend amongst the many is the most beneficial for overall health and performance in recent years. Because avocados provide an immediate source of healthy and optimal fuel utilization while promoting satiety, adding an avocado to your morning or afternoon shake or bowl can help to limit the overall amount of calorie intake in a day. Plus, avocados provide a unique flavour profile to that green-enriched shake leading to an overall healthy means to accumulate one’s daily dose of vitamins and minerals.
Avocados are not just a trend in pop culture, but a vital means to acquiring essential sources of fuel and sustenance for overall physiological function throughout the day.