Avocados are notably high in calories but are also highly regarded for their high content of monounsaturated fats and potassium thus making it one of the most beneficial foods for combating high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. The heart pumps blood into the arteries, which is the transportation highway responsible for distributing blood throughout the body. Blood pressure comprises of two numbers: Systolic, the first and higher of the two reflects pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and they are filled with blood, diastolic, the second number, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rests between beats. A normal blood pressure reading varies from 90/60 at birth to 120/80 in a healthy adult. For seniors age 6o and older a reading of 150/90 is an indication of high blood pressure (hypertension). It’s important to note that a reading slightly higher than 120/80 in young adults indicates a risk of developing pre-hypertension.
Having untreated high blood pressure makes the heart work harder and contributes to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). This in turn can lead to stroke, kidney disease, and to the development of heart disease. “Having high blood pressure puts you at risk of heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States. About 75 million American adults (32%) have high blood pressure-that’s 1 in every 3 adults. About 1 in 3 American adults has prehypertension” 1 A diet low in salt and high in vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy products can help lower blood pressure. Highly valued for its blood pressure combating properties within the fruit family is the Avocado (aka. alligator pear) a fruit of the avocado tree native to the Western hemisphere.
Avocados are reputed to be high in fats, but since they are a plant food, the fat they contain is therefore considered an oil and not a solid fat. However it’s important to note that the majority of fat (77%) in the fruit is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. There is conclusive scientific evidence which points to the fact that diets rich in monounsaturated fats are great for improving your cholesterol and reducing inflammation thereby reducing the risks of heart problems and strokes. In fact “The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of MUFAs (monounsaturated fats) to improve your blood lipid profile.” “(Lipid profile or lipid panel is a panel of blood tests that serves as an initial broad medical screening tool for abnormalities in lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides.)” 2
Along with monounsaturated fats avocados are extremely rich in potassium (more so than bananas – Half a medium avocado contains 549 mg potassium, one medium banana provides 451 mg.). A diet rich in potassium helps regulate your heart beat, eases tension in your blood vessel walls, keeps muscles and nerves functioning efficiently, and lowers blood pressure by balancing out the effects of sodium on your system. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium is lost through urination. A high potassium diet can reduce systolic blood pressure 4.4 mm Hg and diastolic pressure 2.5 mm Hg.
To those who are averse to eating the avocado fruit the oil derived from it is a reliable alternative. A study done on lab animals and published by “Journal of Ethnopharmacology.” concluded that “a diet rich in avocado oils, altered levels of essential fatty acids in kidneys, resulting in changes in the way the kidneys respond to hormones that regulate blood pressure.” A tablespoon of avocado oil contains approximately 124 calories and 14 grams of fat (21 percent of the recommended daily fat intake), 9.9 of the 14 grams are monounsaturated healthy fat which lowers LDL ((Low Density Lipoprotein) ) cholesterol, while increasing HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) and 1.9 grams are polyunsaturated fat which lowers LDL and HDL. Avocados contain no cholesterol or trans-fat and are richer in vitamin E than any other fruit. The fats of the avocado are also resistant to heat-induced oxidation thus offering an excellent substitute for vegetable, canola oils and similar saturated or trans-fat products.
While extolling the health benefits of the avocado it is important to keep in mind that the fruit is high in calories (a cup of avocado slices contain approximately 234 calories) so the quantity being consumed must be taken into consideration. Also due to its high potassium content, persons with kidney related problems need to be extra careful in its use. Consult your healthcare professional to know if a diet supplemented with avocado is good for you.
1, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics)
2, Wikipedia.org (wiki/Lipid_profile)