- 1 Introduction
- 2 The Nutrients Avocados Are Being Praised for, …
- 3 Additional Supposed Benefits of Avocados
- 4 Final Thoughts
In recent years, there have been more and more reports of the environmental and humanitarian cost of the world’s hunger for avocados. Despite this, production numbers continue to rise. And why wouldn’t they? Avocados are, after all, a nutrient packed super food. One of the most valuable and healthiest foods known to man! Aren’t they? Well, that’s certainly what we’ve been hearing, isn’t it?
In this article, we will not be delving any deeper into what avocado farming is doing to Central America. Instead, we will take a closer look at the nutrient content these fruits are so praised for, and whether avocados are all they’ve been hyped up to be.
The Nutrients Avocados Are Being Praised for, …
…whether the amounts avocados deliver are actually noteworthy, and alternative foods rich(er) in those nutrients. For this article, we will be using Californian avocados as a basis of comparison.
Because avocados are vegan, we will only feature other vegan options as alternative foods. In many cases, meats or animal products would be much richer in the nutrient in question, but that wouldn’t be a relevant comparison.
Note that all recommended intake figures below are based on the needs of a 31 year old non-pregnant, non-lactating woman on a 2000 kilocalorie diet. Your personal requirements may differ (wildly). One way to figure out your individual needs, including calories per day, is the FooDosage Nutrition Calculator. It’s free, by the way.
Avocados contain: 6.8 g / 100g (28% of recommended intake)
This is actually a very good value, especially for a fruit, which is why avocados are listed among the most fiber rich foods here on FooDosage. But of course, there are many alternatives. For example:
Lentils (boiled) contain: 7.9 g / 100g (32% of recommended intake)
Avocados contain: 21 µg / 100g (23% of recommended minimum intake)
Kale (boiled) contains: 882 µg / 100g (980% of recommended minimum intake)
That is exactly 42 times as much as avocados contain. If that isn’t the ultimate answer, I don’t know what is. At any rate, I wouldn’t boast the Vitamin K contents of avocados when faced with this comparison.
Kale is also rich in Vitamin A (735 µg, 105%), Vitamin C (25 mg, 34%), and Manganese (0.45 mg, 25%).Kale contains exactly 42 times as much Vitamin K as avocados contain. #UltimateAnswer. Click To Tweet
Avocados contain: 89 µg / 100g (22% of recommended minimum intake)
Spinach (boiled) contains: 146 µg / 100g (37% of recommended minimum intake)
While avocados contain a fair amount of folate, spinach contains decidedly more. Consider how light spinach is in comparison, and how much more of it, or other foods in addition to it, you could consume in one sitting. Much higher amounts of folate are found in livers.
Spinach is also rich in Vitamin K (494 µg, 548%), making it another alternative, Vitamin A (524 µg, 75%), Manganese (0.94 mg, 52%), and Magnesium (87 mg, 27%).
Avocados contain: 8.8 mg / 100g (12% of recommended minimum intake)
Broccoli (boiled) contains: 65 mg / 100g (87% of recommended minimum intake)
I don’t even understand why some sources praise the “high” amounts of Vitamin C in Avocados. If Vitamin C is what you’re after, have some broccoli (among many, many options) instead.
Broccoli is also rich in Vitamin K (141 µg, 157%), Folate (B9) (108 µg, 27%), and Vitamin B6 (0.2 mg, 15%).
Avocados contain: 507 mg / 100g (11% of recommended minimum intake)
Palm Hearts (raw) contain: 1806 mg / 100g (38% of recommended minimum intake)
To preface this, 507 mg of potassium is not actually a bad value. It’s more than bananas offer, for example. Yet palm hearts surpass those numbers by far. Cabbage is another common alternative.
Palm Hearts are also rich in Copper (0.64 mg, 72%), Zinc (3.7 mg, 47%), and Vitamin B6 (0.8 mg, 62%).
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
Avocados contain: 1.5 mg / 100g (29% of recommended minimum intake)
Shiitake Mushrooms (cooked) contain: 3.6 mg / 100g (72% of recommended minimum intake)
The B5 contents of avocados are actually really good, and surpassed mainly by mushrooms and eggs.
Shiitake mushrooms are also rich in Copper (0.9 mg, 100%) and Selenium (24.8 µg, 45%).
Avocados contain: 0.3 mg / 100g (22% of recommended minimum intake)
Palm Hearts (raw) contain: 0.8 mg / 100g (62% of recommended minimum intake)
Once again, the B6 contents of avocados are not bad at all, yet they still don’t beat out the competition. And once again, one of those competitors is the heart of palms.
Palm Hearts are also rich in Copper (0.64 mg, 72%), Zinc (3.7 mg, 47%), and Potassium (1806 mg, 38%).
Avocados contain: 2 mg / 100g (13% of recommended minimum intake)
Spinach (boiled) contains: 3.5 mg / 100g (24% of recommended minimum intake)
Another second appearance, this time by spinach. Considering in how many nutrients spinach is leading the charts, we may just have to feature it in our fittingly named category “Leading the Charts”. To be notified of that article’s release, subscribe now.
Spinach is also rich in Vitamin K (494 µg, 548%), Vitamin A (524 µg, 75%), Manganese (0.94 mg, 52%), and Folate (146 µg, 37%).
Additional Supposed Benefits of Avocados
This section is an update to the original post, and was added on May 6th, 2017.
Avocados are rich in Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
This subtitular statement is very true. Almost all of an avocado’s fat content is made up of monounsaturated fatty acids. But what are the health benefits of that type of fat? While they are associated with lowered breast cancer risks and a positive effect on cardiovascular health, their main benefit lies in being a fat that is not a saturated fat. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it, but what we really want are polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the EPA & DHA Omega 3 varieties. If unsaturated fatty acids, including Omega 6, is what you’re after, an easy alternative to avocados is olive oil.
Avocados are rich in Antioxidants
Define “rich”. Yes, they contain antioxidants, but they don’t even score that highly in terms of the partially discredited, yet often cited ORAC values. For comparison: Avocados come with an ORAC value of 1922. Blueberries, 14’000. In general, many berries, nuts, and legumes contain a much higher amount of antioxidants than avocados, as do herbs such as oregano and basil. So antioxidants as a bonus to eating avocados? I agree. As a reason to? I don’t think so.
Perhaps you’re about to comment “Hang on! Yes, avocados may not be leading in any individual nutrient, but isn’t it the combination that makes them special? The amount of nutrients of which they feature at least a decent amount?”.
Well, yes and no. If we just take the per 100 gram numbers, they certainly don’t look bad. And many of our presented alternatives are not rich in such a diverse offering of nutrients. BUT: You have to consider how satiating those 100 grams are. For me personally, one avocado (of about 150-200 grams) constitutes a meal. I won’t be eating anything else for a few hours. A lot of our alternatives, however, are very light in comparison. If I have 200 grams of spinach, it’s usually as a side with an equal amount of fish and potatoes, for example. These additional foods per meal more than compensate for the imbalance in nutritional diversity between avocados and lighter alternatives.
In the end, avocados are certainly not a bad food. They are also delicious. But I would not classify them as a super food, and you have to ask yourself: Are they worth the environmental and humanitarian cost?
I would recommend buying only both organic and fair trade avocados, or striking them from our diets.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below 🙂