Are Avocados Good for You?

Plus, the right way to store them so they stay fresh

avocados Photo: iStock

Over the past 20 years, avocados have been on a trajectory. Americans now eat 8.5 pounds per person per year—up 278 percent since 2000. That’s pushed them into the No. 4 slot on the list of the most commonly consumed fruits in the U.S. As the appetite for these versatile fruits has grown beyond guacamole—hello, avocado toast!—creative cooks are adding them to snacks, meals, and even desserts like chocolate mousse. If they’re a regular part of your diet, you may be curious to know just how good avocados are for you nutritionally.

Very good, it turns out.

What Makes Avocados Healthy?

Part of what makes avocados so nutritious is their fat: There are 10 grams of fat (and 114 calories) in half of a medium-sized fruit. “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, MS, RD, 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 a heart attack or stroke.

And in contrast to junk foods, which supply little to no nutrition in exchange for a load of calories, “avocados have all of these wonderful nutrients, and nothing is added,” says Sasson. And the array of vitamins and minerals they contain are not often found together in one place.

In particular, they’re rich in blood-pressure-lowering potassium and fiber. (Avocados have more potassium than bananas.) Half an avocado contains almost 5 grams of fiber, about 20 percent of the amount you need in a day. The one-two punch of fat and fiber makes avocados a particularly filling food. Plus, they supply decent amounts of folic acid and vitamins B6, C, E, and K.

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They also contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are linked to eye health and help to give the fruit’s interior its color. “Research has shown that these antioxidants may play a role in preventing the progression of eye diseases such macular degeneration and cataracts by stopping oxidative damage to the retina,” says Amy Keating, a CR dietitian.

Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, other dark green vegetables such as broccoli and zucchini, and egg yolks are also sources of these two healthful compounds. But avocados have the additional perk of being rich in monounsaturated fats, which some research suggests may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

The fat in avocados helps the body absorb antioxidants better, including lutein and zeaxanthin, not just from the avocado itself but from other fruits and vegetables you may eat at the same time. So pairing guacamole with crudités or tossing avocado chunks into a smoothie, a salad, or an omelet is a good vision-saving diet strategy.

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How to Store Avocados

At the store, choose firm avocados; they should be ready to eat in three to four days. You can speed that up by storing them in a covered container or a paper bag with a banana. The banana gives off ethylene gas, which helps the avocados ripen.

If you picked up more avocados than you can eat, you can keep them from becoming overripe simply by refrigerating them when the skin is dark green to black and they feel firm with a little give when you gently squeeze them in the palm of your hand. They should keep two to three days. If you want to save half an avocado, remove the pit, brush the flesh with some lemon or lime juice or white vinegar, and store in a covered container or flat on a plate. This will keep it from turning brown.

But don’t follow the advice that’s been circulating on TikTok to submerge avocados, whole or cut, in water to make them last longer. Avocados may have bacteria, such as salmonella or listeria, on their skins, which can multiply in the water. Plus, according to the Food and Drug Administration, listeria may get into the avocado flesh through the skin when the fruit sits in water.

What to Do With Avocados

Guacamole is probably the most familiar avocado-based dish, but there are plenty of other ways to use the fruit. “People claim they don’t have time to make breakfast or lunch,” Sasson says, “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 or soups, or 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.

Smoothie Advice From CR's Experts

Think that store-bought smoothie is healthy? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, host Jack Rico learns how to whip up a more nutritious beverage right at home. And Consumer Reports’ food expert, Trisha Calvo, explains why you need a healthy dose of the right kind of fat in your diet.