With a smooth, creamy flavor, avocados are one of the few fruits that come loaded with fat and calories. And yes, they can make you fat if you eat too many of them. Don't write off these green wonders quite yet -- they're chock full of nutrients and contain the "good" kind of fat. The trick is to eat them in moderation so that they don't throw off your daily calorie count. No food will cause you to gain weight unless you consume more calories than your body needs for energy.
Bad news first: a whole avocado has 227 calories and 21 grams of fat. That's why the recommended serving size is roughly one-fifth of a fruit, or 30 grams. At this amount, you'll consume a more-reasonable 50 calories and 4.6 fat grams. The good news is that avocados are sources of potassium and niacin as well as vitamins E and B-6. Avocados are sometimes referred to as "alligator pears" and probably originated in southern Mexico. Most varieties in the U.S. come from California and Florida.
Avocado and Weight
Avocado is an energy-dense food, so portion control is key. Fats can actually help prevent weight gain by satisfying your tummy and curbing hunger. Avocados can also help you cut calories when you use them as a replacement for less-healthy fats. Spreading avocado on your sandwich instead of mayonnaise, for example, spares you more than 5 grams of fat and about 45 calories. Rather than thinking of avocado as a fruit, treat it as a fat source. About 20 to 35 percent of your diet should come from fats.
Fat in Avocado
The fat in avocado is largely monounsaturated, a healthy type of fat. While saturated fats from animal products raise "bad" LDL cholesterol and are linked to Type 2 diabetes, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help prevent these conditions. Plus, your body needs fat for energy, mental focus and to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Other sources of unsaturated fats include nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
Preventing Weight Gain
To stop the fat from piling on, focus on eating only as many calories as you burn. The exact count varies with individuals, but the average woman ages 19 to 30 needs about 2,000 calories per day if she leads a sedentary lifestyle, up to 2,200 calories if she has a moderately active lifestyle and roughly 2,400 calories per day if she engages in an active lifestyle. Women ages 31 to 50 need about 200 fewer calories per day than the younger set. A pound of fat is 3,500 calories -- so eating 250 more calories per day than you need will make you gain a pound every two weeks.
- Food and Drug Administration: Fruits -- Nutrition Facts
- The New York Times Health Guide: Vitamins
- Purdue Agriculture: Avocado
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Agriculture Library: Foods List
- FamilyDoctor.org: Nutrition -- Determine Your Calorie Needs
- HelpGuide.org: How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.