People go crazy for avocados. Blame the creaminess they add to dishes, how they serve up healthy fats, or just a good marketing campaign, but demand continues to climb for these small green fruits. In fact, consumption of avocados tripled from 2001 to 2018, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.
That’s not a bad thing, considering avocados are the real deal when it comes to packing essential nutrients for runners like potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and more.
But if you’re not sure what the hype is all about—or you eat ’em but you’re unsure about avocado’s nutrition—we spoke with a dietitian and sorted through the research to bring you all the health benefits. Plus, how you can add this fruit to your diet.
What nutrients will you get from avocados?
The nutritional value of avocados will differ slightly depending on the variation and size. Here are the nutrition facts for one full avocado grown in the United States, according to the USDA.
- 322 calories
- 4g protein
- 30g total fat
- 17g carbohydrates
- 14g fiber
- 24mg calcium
- 58mg magnesium
- 105mg phosphorous
- 975mg of potassium
- 14mg sodium
- 20mg vitamin C
Plus, traces of other nutrients your body will need to replenish after a workout like iron, sodium, and zinc.
What are the health benefits of eating avocados?
Here’s how runners can benefit from eating avocados, according to Yasi Ansari, MS, RDN, CSSD, a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as recent research.
1. You get a great source of energy
Ansari says avocados are a great for runners because they can help you fuel your workouts. “Foods that contain fats like avocado, offer an excellent source of energy. Fats can also help to fuel long-duration, low-to-moderate intensity exercise. It is key to incorporate foods like avocado into a runner’s diet to help them meet their increased energy needs and support good health and recovery,” she says.
2. They can help you maintain a healthy gut
Ansari says avocados can help improve your gut health because they contain nearly 14 grams of fiber, a nutrient that helps with GI regularity, as well as keeping you full post-meal. “Foods that increase satiety can help keep athletes feeling full and more satisfied for longer periods of time,” she says. Plus adding avocados to you diet can help you meet your daily fiber requirement of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
But remember too much fiber can lead to discomfort for some people, especially when consumed too close to a run. Try eating avocados on training days to gauge how your body responds, since everyone will respond differently. And if you eat avocados before a race, Ansari suggests allowing enough time for digestion. Depending on how your body responds that might mean having them the night before you hit the starting line, eating them a few hours beforehand, or waiting to enjoy them as a postrace meal or snack.
3. They offer up must-have magnesium
Avocados are rich in magnesium, which is an important mineral for runners because it helps regulate muscle and nerve function. “Not getting enough magnesium can impair exercise performance and can increase the effects of oxidative stress from strenuous training,” Ansari says.
4. Avocados are a great source of potassium
Surprisingly, there’s more potassium in an avocado than a banana. Potassium is a key nutrient your body needs to complete important bodily functions, like regulating heart rate and blood pressure and keeping you hydrated, Ansari says. Potassium, sodium, and chloride also work together to help regulate fluid balance. An athlete with a higher sweat rate may require more potassium and sodium from foods,” she says. Avocado offers some sodium too, so you get both electrolytes.
5. They pack antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties
Avocados contain nutrients like phytosterols, vitamin C, and vitamin E, which offer antioxidants that fight off free radicals, helping you stave off sickness and battle inflammation. “Vitamins C and E from foods can help to reduce cell damage, inflammation, and increase overall antioxidant activity that provides health-protective properties,” Ansari says.
6. They can help your body absorb vitamins
When mixed with other ingredients, like a kale salad with carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes and seeds, avocados can also help your body increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, Ansari says.
7. You get heart-healthy fats that help regulate cholesterol
Avocados are a heart-healthy fat—primarily rich in monounsaturated fatty acids—that can add flavor to any meal and snack, Ansari says. According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood which can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Are there any downsides to eating avocados?
As with any food, it’s possible to overdo it on avocados. You probably don’t want to eat multiple every day. They are also higher in calories and fat, so consider your goals when determining how much of each you need and how much you want to get from avocados alone. And make sure you’re switching up your sources of healthy fats and fiber, too, incorporating other ingredients like olive oil and a mix of fruits and veggies in your diet.
Also, keep in mind that avocados are higher in FODMAPs, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These types of carbohydrates can cause digestive discomfort in some people, so it’s worth keeping low intake if you’re aiming to follow a low-FODMAP diet.
What’s the healthiest way to add avocados to your diet?
Bottom line, anyone can gain from adding this fruit to their diet, especially runners. And adding more avocados to your diet is pretty simple. Try these tips from Ansari for a place to start getting more of the creamy fruits into your meals:
- Add it to a smoothie to make it thicker in texture
- Mix chopped avocados into a salad to get those fats that help you absorb vitamins
- Add avocado spread to a sandwich of your choice in place of mayo
- Make avocado toast with eggs and tomatoes for a balance of carbs, protein, and fat
- Add avocados to your taco, burrito, or bowl burrito for a Mexican-inspired dish
- Make ice cream by freezing avocado pulp and adding honey for a tasty frozen treat
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