For decades, the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of “healthy” has been synonymous with low fat, which avocados decidedly are not. But the FDA is currently re-evaluating the term’s meaning on packaged food labels. Right now, a food can be labeled healthy if its fat content is predominately mono- or polyunsaturated. That’s because the most recent scientific evidence suggests that eating more of those types of fat and less of artery-clogging saturated and trans fats can help your health.

Avocados aren't packaged foods, but whether high-fat food can be called healthy is still something many people are confused about.

Are avocados good for you? The short answer is yes, and there are many reasons why.  

Health Perks

Half of a medium avocado has 114 calories and 10 grams of fat. “That’s a lot of fat for a fruit or vegetable, but it is the type of fat we want people to eat,” says Lisa Sasson, M.S., R.D., a clinical associate professor of nutrition at New York University.

About 64 percent of the fat in avocados is monounsaturated, which lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

And contrary to junk foods, which supply little to no nutrition in exchange for a load of calories, says Sasson, avocados give you a healthy array of vitamins and minerals not often found together in one place. These include folic acid and vitamins B6, C, E, and K.

Avocados are particularly rich in blood pressure lowering potassium (avocados have more potassium than bananas) and fiber, containing almost 5 grams of fiber in half an avocado, about 20 percent of the amount you need in a day.

Avocados are also one of the best sources of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants important for eye health. They protect against macular degeneration by filtering out ultraviolet light, which can damage the cells in the retina.

Thanks to avocados’ fat content, their lutein and zeaxanthin is readily available to the body (fat boosts carotenoid absorption). Pairing avocados with other fruits and vegetables, such as in a salad, helps with the uptake of the carotenoids in those foods, too. 

How to Eat an Avocado

Avocados’ one-two punch of fat and fiber makes them a particularly filling food. Guacamole is probably the most familiar avocado-based dish, but there are plenty of other ways to use them. “People claim they don’t have time to make breakfast or lunch,” says Sasson, “but all you have to do is cut and mash an avocado with a little salt and pepper, spread it on toast, and top with slices of tomato. In 3 minutes or less you can have a delicious, healthy meal.”

Other ideas: Whip avocados into smoothies, blend into dressings, work into egg dishes, add to salads, use to top a burger or in place of butter or mayonnaise on a sandwich, fill halved avocados with chopped veggies and serve as a side, or drizzle slices with a little balsamic vinegar for a snack. 

Shopping and Storage Tips

Although California avocados are most abundant in the summer when they’re in season, avocados are usually available in grocery stores year-round, thanks to imports from warm areas like Mexico. (Consumer Reports’ food-safety experts say that avocados from Chile, Mexico, and Peru have very low levels of pesticides.) Sasson says to pick avocados that are firm. Hasten the three- to four-day ripening process by storing them out of the sun in a paper bag with a banana.

That long ripening time means you have to plan your avocado eating. But Sasson notes that it’s a small price to pay for near-perfection in the food world. “Nowadays everybody is eating supplemented and fortified foods,” she says. “Avocados have all of these wonderful nutrients and nothing is added; this is the way we should be eating.”