Avocados: They're not just for guacamole anymore.
While everyone is familiar with olive oil and its role in a healthy diet, not many people are well-versed about avocado oil. Yet oil for oil, avocado has about the same nutritional blueprint as olive, only tastier and healthier.
First, about 70 percent of avocado oil is oleic acid, a monosaturated pale yellow omega 9 fatty acid with a lard-like odor. Aside from the excellent work it does in the body — like improving glucose levels for diabetics — the acid is less susceptible to spoiling than other fats.
The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of avocado oil is about 13:1. These essential fatty acids play an important role in blood clotting and inflammation. Most nutrition experts agree that the omega 6:3 ratio should range from 1:1 to 5:1.
"However the extracted avocado oil is richer in oleic acid compared to extra-virgin olive oil with close to a similar level of polyphenols,” says Dr. Barry Sears, author of "The Mediterranean Zone." Polyphenols are micronutrients in our diet that prevent degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
"The green color of avocado is indicative of its polyphenol content that’s similar to the same volume as kale but obviously much better tasting."
What's more, avocado is also cholesterol-free and contains no trans fats. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found the oil very beneficial, suggesting that adding it to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach and carrots would increase absorption of key carotenoid antioxidants (lycopene and beta-carotene) more than the salad alone would. That boost can have eye health benefits.
Another study in the Journal of Periodontology discovered that avocado oil decreases inflammation in the gums, which helps prevent periodontal disease.
"The primary fatty acid in the avocado fat is oleic acid, which helps reduce both inflammation and appetite," says Sears.
We also know avocado oil is an ally for heart health. In a 90-day study conducted by the Journal of Periodontology, animals fed avocado oil had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (the good form of cholesterol) than animals fed coconut, olive and corn oils.
Because avocado oil is pressed from the pulp of the fruit rather than the seed and has such a pleasing fat ratio, extra virgin avocado oil has a high smoke point of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it perfect for cooking — from sautéing to stir-frying to baking — as well as atop salads. Avocado oil has a mild smell, a creamy texture and rich, nutty, buttery flavor.
Unlike coconut oil, which is a partial solid, avocado oil is a stable liquid that looks a lot like olive but it can be harder to locate at regular groceries. You'll more likely see it in specialty grocers and online.
What else can you do with avocado oil?
Externally, avocado oil is hailed as an excellent source for skin and haircare and is already an ingredient in many products, including baby products. It may have some properties in helping fight UV-induced damage as well as be useful for improving symptoms of psoriasis.
You can use avocado oil to remove makeup, by swiping a cotton ball dipped in oil across cheeks and eyelids. It's also effective for moisturizing skin and repairing cracked heels and dry cuticles. It's readily absorbed without being too greasy feeling. You can diminish fine lines by massaging a few drops of oil into crow’s feet as you would with an expensive skin oil.
It's also a wonderful hair conditioner or leave-in treatment for the scalp or split ends. Simply cover the scalp or split ends with a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the oil and leave it wrapped in a towel for 20 minutes before shampooing as usual.
Plus, avocado oil's vitamin E can help strengthen the skin and the immune system when you ingest it, says Keri Gans, R.D., author of "The Small Change Diet." "Serving a healthy fat with each meal is important," says Gans. Go for nuts, olive oil or the gaining popularity of avocado oil, which may beautify from the inside.