About The Buzz: Fruit & Vegetable Headlines
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Avocados are a great source of lutein, a dietary carotenoid that has been demonstrated to improve a variety of cognitive measures in older adults.1 New research sheds light on the benefits of eating one avocado on brain health in older adults.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Lutein is a dietary carotenoid referred to as macular pigment because it absorbs more than 90% of blue light and helps to maintain optimum visual function.2 Carotenoids are a class of more than 750 pigments that give fruits and veggies their rich yellow, orange, and red colors.2 Lutein crosses the blood brain barrier and is transported into the macula of the eye by high density lipoproteins (aka HDL, or “good” cholesterol). Consuming foods that are rich in HDL cholesterol can increase macular pigment density, which is significantly related to cognitive function in both young children and older adults. Foods that contain the highest levels of lutein include green leafy veggies, squash, broccoli, eggs, and avocados, with avocados being particularly great source of lutein. Overall, the impact of lutein-containing foods on cognitive function has not been well-understood.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS
To study the affect of lutein consumption on cognitive function, researchers recruited 44 healthy, non-smoking men and women to eat one avocado, one potato, or one cup of chickpeas per day for six months. Participants were randomized into groups and able to consume the foods however they preferred – whole or prepared with other foods – as long as they consumed an entire serving each day. Dietitians checked monthly to ensure participants’ daily intake was consistent and to ensure the foods were being delivered without disruption. Baseline cognitive abilities, lutein levels, and macular pigment density were measured at the beginning of the study and collected again at months three and six to accurately reflect the impact that avocado consumption would have on the participants.
If you’re an avocado lover, you’ll be pleased with the findings from this study – at months three and six, the avocado group had significantly higher lutein concentrations and macular pigment density from baseline, with increases that were 25% higher for both time points.1 Cognitive functioning also benefited from avocado consumption – there was a significant improvement from baseline in the spatial working memory tests at three months, and the efficiency of approaching a problem. No significant or withstanding changes were observed in the chickpea or potato groups.
This study demonstrates the benefits of a healthy diet on the aging process. While aging is inevitable, there are steps you can take to benefit your mental and physical health in the present and in the future. Being physically active, filling half your plate with fruits and veggies, abstaining from smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming lutein-rich foods are all important aspects of helping your body and mind age well.
Avocados are all the rage these days, and for good a reason! They’re packed with more than 20 vitamins and minerals per serving, healthy fats, fiber, lutein, potassium, folate, and antioxidants.3 A single serving of avocado, or 1/5 of a medium avocado, contains 50 calories. It is important to note that avocados pack a powerful nutritional punch and none of the participants in this study experienced significant change in body weight during the six months they consumed an entire avocado every day. If you enjoy avocados, please enjoy them without worrying too much about calories and know that avocados contain healthy fats.
4 More Reasons to Love Avocados
- Learn more about avocado selection and storage on our Avocado: Nutrition, Selection and Storage page.
- If you’re not already convinced avocados are amazing, learn more in our 16 Reasons to Love This Fruit article.
- Check out our recipe database for delicious and nutritious avocado recipes.
- For a sweet treat, learn how to make chocolate avocado ice cream!
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