Loving the BITE: Quick Avocado Smoothie Meal

  • Carotenoids: When I think of carotenoids, I usually think of carrots and other orange or red vegetables.  However, avocados are a great source (as is our other green friend, spinach link to http://lovingthebike.com/cycling-nurition/loving-the-bite-green-berry-smoothie).   In fact, they contain a spectacular array of carotenoids including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, neochrome, neoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and violaxanthin, many of which directly support eye health.  It’s this diverse and vast array of carotenoids that researchers believe is responsible for much of an avocado’s anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Carotenoid Absorption: Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants, lycopene and beta-carotene, increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to otherwise avocado-free vegetables, such as in a salad. One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%.
  • Healthy Fats: Like other sources of healthy fats, avocados have been villianized as “fattening” in recent history (most fat storage issues have to do with an over-consumption of carbs, not fats!).  While it’s true that they are 85% fat, the fats provide many health benefits.  They are heart healthy, anti-inflammatory, and they promote healthy blood sugars.
  • Anti-inflammatory Factors: First, the phytosterols that account for a major portion of avocado fats (including beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol), are key supporters of our inflammatory system that helps keep inflammation under control. The anti-inflammatory benefits of these avocado fats are particularly well-documented with problems involving arthritis.
  • Fiber: Fiber is one key to overall wellness and discourages most all chronic diseases.  One-half cup of avocado provides 3-4 grams of fiber (and only 1 grams of sugar).
  • Lower weight and BMI: In broad food intake studies, participants that routinely eat avocados have been determined to be lower in weight and lower in body mass index than non-consumers. Of course, this can be due to a variety of factors (maybe avocado-eater are overall healthier eaters or more active).  No matter the reason, let’s eat some guac!
  • Cancer prevention: Avocados (specifically avocado extract) have been studied and determined to help prevent the occurrence of cancers in the mouth, skin, breast and prostate gland.  These results are likely due to the unusual mix of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. Since cancer risk factors almost always include excessive inflammation (related to lack of anti-inflammatory nutrients) and oxidative stress (related to lack of antioxidants), it makes perfect sense that avocados reduce risk.  But, here is where the avocado story gets especially interesting. In animal and lab studies of healthy cells, avocado works to improve inflammatory and oxidative stress levels. But in cancer cells, avocado works to increase oxidative stress and shift the cancer cells over into a programmed cell death cycle (apoptosis), lessening the cancer cell numbers. Wow.
  • Glutathione: Remember our friend glutathione – the super antioxidant that healthy cells produce when they’re given the right nutrients (see link http://lovingthebike.com/nutrition-tips/nutrition-tip-february-5-2011).   Avocados happen to be a good source of this wonder-nutrient.
  • Vitamin E: Avocados are the best fruit source of vitamin E, an essential vitamin that protects against many diseases and helps maintains overall health.  Specifically, it is an antioxidant that supports brain, cardiovascular, and respiratory health.

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