Common Name: Avocado, Alligator Pear (English); Aguacate, Palta (Spanish)
The fruit of Persea americana, commonly known as avocado, is an edible fruit from Central America which is easily adaptable in tropical regions. The avocado has an olive-green peel and thick pale yellow pulp that is rich in fatty acids such as linoleic, oleic, palmitic, stearic, linolenic, capric, and myristic acids. Avocado is normally used for human consumption, but it also known to provide many health benefits thus it is used in herbal medicine in Mexico and elsewhere in the world
The Avocado tree (Persea Americana) is an evergreen tree that is native to Central and South America. Avocado is classified as a flowering plant of Lauraceae family. Avocado can grow to heights of 40 to 80 feet and is well branched forming a broad tree.
Avocado is highly valued for its fruit and oil. Avocado is widely cultivated in southern American regions and was introduced in other countries with tropical climates.
The popular variety in the Untied States are grown in California and Florida. Other popular varieties are from Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Brazil and from west India. Avocado is commercially cultivated in Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malyasia, Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Spain, Palestine, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand,, and Hawaii.
Avocado leaves are alternate, glossy, elliptic or oval in shape, 3 to 10 inches long and dark green with paler veins. The Guatemalan and Mexican varieties are anise scented and are used for its medicinal properties, while other varieties are scentless. Avocado leaves contains high level of oil, shed its leaves every 2 to 3 years.
Avocado flowers are small, greenish, and perfect (has both male and female parts). Avocado flowers appear in January - March before the first seasonal growth. The pale-green or yellow-green flowers are borne profusely in racemes near the branch tips. They lack petals but have 2 whorls of 3 perianth lobes, more or less pubescent, and 9 stamens with 2 basal orange nectar glands.
The avocado fruit is oblong resembling a pear shape, that is about 10 to 30 cm long and about 12 to 16 cm wide. The skin of the avocado fruit may vary in texture and color. The skin may be yellow-green, deep-green, reddish-purple, purple or almost black, and sometimes speckled with tiny yellow dots.. The skin may be pliable to woody, smooth to rough, The flesh of the fruit is greenish yellow to bright yellow when ripe with buttery consistency. In some varieties of avocado the flesh may be fibrous. The avocado fruit has one large oblate, round or conical ovoid seed which constitutes 15 to 25% of the fruit weight. Avocado seed is coated with two brown thin papery layer that is lightly attached to its ivory colored core.. Avocado fruits range from 150 grams to more than a kilo in weight.
Avocado has long been used in traditional medicine by various cultures, Widely known health benefits include the following:
Health Benefit of Avocado for Osteoarthritis
In a study published in “Arthritis & Rheumatism - American College of Rheumatology, 1998”, suggests that avocado/soybean unsaponifiables treatment showed significant symptomatic efficacy over placebo in the treatment of symptomatic osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9433873
Health Benefits of Avocado In Cancer Prevention
In a study published in “The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2005”, it has been found that avocado contains bioactive subtances that include carotenoids, which has cancer preventive properties. In this study the avocado variety “California Haas (Persea americana Mill.)” was the subject of interest because it is the most common variety consumed in the United States. A unique characteristic of avocado is that it contains monounsaturated fat and has numerous bioactive carotenoids that acts synergistically with other phytochemicals that contribute to the significant cancer risk reduction associated with a diet of fruits and vegetables. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15629237
Avocado can Improve Cholesterol level in Blood
In a study published in “Archives of Medical Research, 1996”, it has been reported that an avocado enriched diet can improve the lipid profile in a healthy and especially mild hypercholesterolemic patients even if hypertriglyceridemia and hyperlipidemia is present. Avocado contains oleic acid and linoleic acid that is effective in lowering the bad LDL cholesterol level in the blood while increasing the good HDL cholesterol level thereby improving the LDL to HDL ratio. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8987188
Avocado has weight reducing, appetite depressant health benefit
In a study published in “Journal of Nutrition, 2002”, it is reported that the defatted avocado pulp is rich in dietary fiber where 75% was insoluble and the other 25% is soluble. The defatted avocado pulp has the ability to reduce the body weight. Although when the study group has been administered with high level of cholesterol, the hepatic fat or fat in the liver has been reduced while the cholesterol level in the blood remained high. This study has suggested that avocado has an appetite depressant and that it can also interfere in the liver’s ability to metabolize fat. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12097685
Avocado has Antioxidant Health Benefit
In the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry”, it has been reported that extracts of avocado peel, pulp and seed contains phenolic compounds such as catechins, procyanidins, hydroxycinnamic acid and hydroxybenzoic acid. These phenolic compounds exhibit antioxidant activity in vitro.
Their antimicrobial potential was also studied. Peels and seeds had higher amounts of phenolics and a more intense in vitro antioxidant potential than the pulp. Peels and seeds were rich in catechins, procyanidins, and hydroxycinnamic acids, whereas the pulp was particularly rich in hydroxybenzoic and hydroxycinnamic acids and procyanidins. The total phenolic content and antioxidant potential of avocado phenolics was affected by the extracting solvent and avocado variety.
Avocado has Antimicrobial Activity
The extracts from avocado peel, pulp and seed also displayed moderate antimicrobial effects against Gram-positive bacteria.
Avocados are available in most grocery stores, supermarkets and fruit stores. In buying ripe ready to eat avocado, select those that are slightly soft, have no sunken dark spots, and have no cracks. Select avocados that have a slight neck shape as these are better since they are probably tree ripened.
Avocados can also be bought unripe and can be ripened at home for later consumption. Unripe avocados are firmer and the skin has a lighter color. Unripe avocados can be stored in a basket or paper bag at room temperature. Do not refrigerate unripe avocados. As the avocado ripens the skin color will darken and the texture softer.
It is best to store ripe avocado in a refrigerator. Just like any other fruits, when an avocado is sliced open and exposed to air, the avocado flesh will soon oxidize and turn brownish in color. To store sliced avocado, sprinkle lemon juice, wrap with plastic and keep in refrigerator.
Ramos MR, Jerz G, Villanueva S, López-Dellamary F, Waibel R, Winterhalter P. Two glucosylated abscisic acid derivates from avocado seeds (Persea americana Mill. Lauraceae cv. Hass) Phytochemistry. 2004;65(7):955–962. [PubMed]
Rodríguez-Carpena J-G, Morcuende D, Andrade M-J, Kylli P, Estevez M. Avocado (Persea americana Mill.) phenolics, in vitro antioxidant and antimicrobial activities, and inhibition of lipid and protein oxidation in porcine patties. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2011;59(10):5625–5635. [PubMed]
Anaka ON, Ozolua RI, Okpo SO. Effect of the aqueous seed extract of Persea americana Mill (Lauraceae) on the blood pressure of Sprague-Dawley rats. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 2009;3(10):485–490.
Pahua-Ramos ME, Ortiz-Moreno A, Chamorro-Cevallos G, et al. Hypolipidemic effect of avocado (Persea americana Mill) seed in a hypercholesterolemic mouse model. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2012;67(1):10–16. [PubMed]