Research findings published in this month's issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry indicate that nutrients in avocados can work together to improve cell health. The analysis was conducted at UCLA where researchers discovered that avocados are the richest source of lutein among commonly eaten fruits. Lutein is a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant.
According to Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, the study showed the benefits of an extract of whole avocado fruit versus pure lutein.
"What's really exciting about this study is that the results indicate that the carotenoids, vitamins, and diverse compounds in avocados might have additive or synergistic effects compared with pure lutein alone," said Heber. "Our results suggest that further studies should be done to investigate the effects of the naturally occurring combinations of thousands of different bioactive substances called phytonutrients found in avocados and other plant foods."
Traditionally, lutein has been found in green vegetables such as parsley, celery and spinach but was recently discovered in the avocado fruit. In fact, research shows that avocados are the highest fruit source of lutein among the 20 most frequently consumed fruits.
In his book What Color Is Your Diet?, Heber advises at least one serving per day of colorful fruits and vegetables from each of seven different color groups organized according to their contents of major groups of phytonutrients. These phytonutrients may help explain the association between eating a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables and improved health.
Avocados fall in the green-yellow group and contain such vital nutrients as vitamin E, which helps mop up free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease, glutathione, which functions as an antioxidant like vitamin E, beta-sitosterol, which helps lower blood cholesterol, and lutein.
California avocados are naturally cholesterol-free and contain heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats. Ounce for ounce, avocados contain more fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate than any other commonly eaten fruit.