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Olive oil is well-known for its many benefits, but another oil is gaining popularity for its versatility and health benefits: avocado oil.
Avocado oil is popping up as an ingredient in many healthy foods. People love it for its mild flavor in cooking and lack of scent in beauty recipes. It is the main ingredient in brands of mayo claiming to be healthier than the rest, as cooking oil for some types of potato chips, and a host of other uses.
But does avocado oil really live up to the healthy hype?
But… (you knew there had to be one right?!)… there are some important things to understand about using and consuming avocado oil.
What Is Avocado Oil?
Avocado is a unique plant (as evidenced by its nickname, “the alligator pear”!). Most fruits are higher in carbohydrate and contain little or no fat, yet avocado is very high in beneficial fats.
Avocado is also unique because it contains more potassium than a banana and more protein and fats than any other fruit.
Its meteoric rise in popularity can be compared to coconut oil’s surge in popularity, but nutritionally it’s more similar to olive oil. Like olive oil, avocado oil comes from the flesh surrounding the seed, while most plant oils are extracted from the seed itself.
Nutrient Content of Avocado Oil
This lightly flavored oil is high in oleic acid, monounsaturated fats, and vitamins A, E, and D. It contains decent amounts of magnesium and antioxidants, which most people do not consume enough of.
Mark’s Daily Apple describes how it may also make other foods healthier:
The fats aren’t only healthy in and of themselves but make other nutrients, particularly carotenoids, in the avocado much more bioavailable. Research has shown that avocado or avocado oil increased the absorption of carotenoids in a meal anywhere from 2.6 times to 15.3 times depending on carotenoid.
Avocados are one of only a few natural sources of the potent compound beta-sitosterol. This powerful phytosterol positively impacts lipid and cholesterol levels in the body. There is even some research showing that beta-sitosterol may inhibit cell division of cancerous cells.
We’ve likely all heard about the benefits of antioxidants at this point, but studies show avocado oil has a uniquely beneficial ability to penetrate cells down to the mitochondria and actually improve the function of the cell. This makes avocado helpful in reducing aging and helping the body fortify against illness and disease.
Avocado Oil Benefits
As you may imagine, the unique properties of avocado and its oil make it beneficial in many ways. What’s more, avocado is not a typical allergen and fewer people are allergic to avocado oil than coconut or nut-based oils.
For this reason, it is becoming a popular alternative in recipes and beauty remedies. These are some of the most well-documented benefits of avocado oil:
Avocados are a good source of nutrients on their own with half of an avocado containing about:
- 26% of the RDA of vitamin K
- 1/5 of the RDA of folate
- 17% of the recommended amount of vitamin C
- About 13% of the RDA of vitamin B5 and B6
- 14 % of the RDA of potassium
- 17% of the RDA of vitamin C
This comes with 160 calories, 2 grams of protein, and 15 grams of healthy fats. Although it contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of those are fiber so there are only 2 “net” carbs, making this a low-carb friendly plant food.
On top of this, avocado and its oil may improve the absorption of other foods that we eat.
There are beneficial compounds called carotenoids in many foods, especially brightly colored vegetables and fruits. Carotenoids rely on dietary fats for absorption, but most foods high in carotenoids are naturally low in fat.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2005 showed that even low doses of avocado oil increased absorption of carotenoids but as much as 15x! This means that adding even a tiny amount of avocado oil to a salad may improve the body’s ability to increase absorption of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein.
Avocados for Gum Health
It sounds odd, but there is some pretty strong evidence that avocados and avocado oil are really good for oral health. In fact, one 2006 study found that avocado oil consumption and use had a reverse correlation with periodontal disease.
In other words, the more avocado oil a person consumed, the less likely he or she was to get gum disease. The study concluded that certain properties in this oil reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines which are present in gum disease.
We’ve known for years that eating avocados can be great for the skin, but new research shows that the oil may be even more beneficial.
Avocado oil is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin E. It contains polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols which can reduce skin damage, tighten skin, and reduce wrinkles. This makes it excellent for skin and many people find that it is a great moisturizer on its own. It can also be used as a makeup remover, in oil cleansing, and recipes like lotion.
It is an excellent alternative to coconut or almond oils, especially for those with allergies or intolerances to these oils.
A 2001 study in the Journal of Dermatology showed that a cream containing avocado oil and vitamin B12 was a helpful remedy for psoriasis. The University of Maryland Medical Center even lists this mixture as a remedy for psoriasis.
Even mainstream beauty websites are on board with the skin-boosting benefits of avocado oil! A dab of avocado oil can help ease itchy and dry skin and even bug bites!
Source of Monounsaturated Fats
Technically classified as a fruit, avocado qualifies as one of the highest-fat fruits in existence. In fact, over 3/4 of its calories are from fat!
It is important to know that the fat in avocado oil is mostly oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. There are many studies that show oleic acid’s ability to reduce inflammation and even reduce the risk of certain cancers.
This is the same fat that gives olive oil its superfood status and the Mediterranean Diet its good reputation.
Avocado to Ease Joint Pain
Avocado may have some incredible benefits for those with joint pain and arthritis.
In France, avocado was part of a special formula that was given prescription status for its ability to help with cartilage strength and repair. Combined with the natural anti-inflammatory properties of avocado, it is easy to see how this oil may be beneficial for reducing joint pain.
The effects seem to be from internal use of avocado and its oil, suggesting that the nutritive properties may have the benefit. It is interesting to note that while this formula produced reduction in pain and is marketed in Denmark for this purpose, no structural changes were noticed. In other words, avocado may be helpful in reducing joint pain but probably won’t repair the actual damage to the joint.
With all of the other benefits associated with avocado, it certainly may be beneficial to consume. Since avocado increases the absorption of nutrients in other foods, it may benefit the joints in other ways too.
Avocado Oil for Stronger Hair
Avocado’s unique essential fatty acid composition also makes it helpful for hair health. This is one reason I chose to include avocado butter (basically concentrated avocado oil) in my Wellnesse Nourishing Conditioner line.
I’ve experimented with adding avocado oil to my castor oil treatments for my hair and in my homemade eyelash serum with great results.
Try this: To thicken hair and reduce hair fall, I make an oil-based salve for my scalp at night. I combine a teaspoon each of avocado and castor oils with a few drops of rosemary, clary sage and lavender essential oils. I rub a few drops of this into my scalp each night before bed and wash out in the morning.
A Heart Healthy Oil
The debate continues on about if olive oil or coconut oil is healthier for the heart, or if butter is heart healthy or artery clogging. (Here is my take on that debate.)
Avocado oil, on the other hand, has consistently shown positive effects for heart health. In fact, large studies have shown that the monounsaturated oils in avocado are excellent for the heart. Avocado is considered a cholesterol-lowering food and may improve the balance of HDL and LDL in the body.
Avocado oil showed benefits in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing risk factors, including:
- Lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
- Improving HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- Reducing triglyceride levels
- Improving blood clotting factors and reducing the risk of dangerous clots
- Improving insulin sensitivity
A Great (and Tasty) Cooking Oil
Olive oil is controversial for use in high heat cooking and frying. Avocado oil is a great alternative with a mild flavor. It has a higher smoke point than olive oil and preserves its nutrients at higher temperatures.
Unlike extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, avocado oil blends well into mayo and sauces without much taste. This makes a closer alternative to “regular” mayo without the harmful vegetable oils.
Personally, I use it in many recipes, for stir fry, sautéing, and almost every other type of kitchen use.
Diet and Allergen Friendly
Avocado oil is great for many different diets and those with sensitivities.
It is considered an approved oil for:
The fats in avocado are considered soothing to the digestive system and are easily digested.
Use this versatile oil in place of almost any other oil in your kitchen:
- Substitute avocado oil for butter or vegetable oil in baking
- Use as the base for stir fry
- Infuse garlic or herbs into this oil for a cooking oil
- Add vinegar and spices for an easy salad dressing
- Make your own mayo with avocado (or buy this pre-made one)
- Use on grilled meats and veggies
Cautions With Avocado Oil
Many people with a latex allergy can’t tolerate avocado or its oil. Personally, I have issues with latex but can handle avocado oil. Check with a doctor to be safe. Of course, anyone with a sensitivity to avocado shouldn’t consume it or its oil, but it is not a common allergen.
Where to Buy Avocado Oil
Many local grocery stores will carry it, but I typically order it online from either Thrive Market or Amazon.
Avocado Oil: Bottom Line
No food is a miracle cure on its own, but this oil seems like a great addition to a healthy, real food diet. Many people love avocado and its oil for its health, skin and hair benefits.
Try it internally to improve the nutrients in food, since it may help absorption of other nutrients. Externally, it is great for skin and hair and is a multi-use skin remedy.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Ann Shippy, who is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and a certified Functional Medicine physician with a thriving practice in Austin, Texas. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Do you like avocado oil? How do you use it?
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