There’s more to dark green, lumpy avocado than meets the eye. Anyone who enjoys guacamole or avocado on toast will attest to this. Well-known to the Ancients, avocado offers nutrition, health and beauty benefits all wrapped up in one neat package.
Avocado (Persea americana or gratissima), also known as alligator pear, is believed to have originated in southern Mexico,1 although fossil evidence suggests similar species were widespread millions of years ago.2 According to Wikipedia, the oldest discovery of an avocado pit was reported in the Coxcatlan Cave, in the Tehuacán Valley of Puebla, Mexico, dating some 9,000 to 10,000 years ago.
The word avocado comes from the Spanish aguacate, whose English rendering was avogato, then avogato pear. The latter led to the corrupted translation of alligator pear.
The fruit is a popular food and a good source of potassium and healthy fats.3 According to a report in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition,4 raw avocado flesh is 73% water, 15% fat, 9% carbohydrates and 2% protein. It is a rich source of B vitamins such as pantothenic acid, vitamin K, and moderate amounts of vitamin C and E and potassium. Avocados also contain phytosterols and carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, polyphenols, tocopherols and other lipid-soluble bioactives;5 although their levels may vary.6
Avocado fruit, leaves, seeds and oil have traditionally been used to make medicine and for cooking.3 Reported applications include treating high cholesterol, arthritis, sexual desire, obesity and other conditions; although WebMD notes there is little evidence to support these claims.3 In relation, a review of avocado oil in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety states the effects of avocado oil on cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases have been demonstrated in vitro and in animal models, but not in humans.6