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Nutritional composition of avocados and their importance in maternal health

Posted:  Thursday, June 02, 2016

Nutrients in avocados to provide multiple health benefits for mothers

The consumption of avocado is associated with a myriad of health benefits. Avocados are considered Mediterranean-style foods because they are rich in antioxidants, fibre, and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Consequently, avocados confer health benefits on nutritionally deprived women of the reproductive age group. In a report published in the journal, Nutrients, the avocado’s unique nutrient profile and benefits for pregnant as well as lactating women are discussed.

The nutrient-rich avocado is preferred by expectant mothers, since it possesses greater quantity by weight of essential nutrients such as folate and potassium. Avocados also contain higher amounts of several non-essential components such as fibre, MUFA, and lipid-soluble antioxidants, which have all been linked to improvements in maternal health, birth outcomes, and/or breast milk quality.

The avocado provides nutrients most commonly required for prenatal and neonatal health. They provide a good balance of MUFA in the form of oleic acid; an ounce of avocado provides 3 g MUFA out of 4.6 g of total fat. A serving of a 30 g of avocados provides 27 µg of folate; this is superior to most fruits and vegetables. MUFAs and folates are important dietary components during pregnancy that are essential for the prevention of congenital anomalies in newborns.

Moreover, avocados contain a balanced ratio of soluble and non-soluble fibre (70 % insoluble and 30 % soluble). The fibre-rich avocado can help prevent pregnancy-related disorders, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, which have a significant adverse effect on foetal growth and development. Furthermore, a high fibre intake can also improve pregnancy and birth outcomes by ameliorating hypertension and dyslipidemia.

An ounce of avocado yields 20 µg of beta-carotene and 80 µg of lutein and zeaxanthin. Consequently, avocados may help replenish carotenoids levels, which are depleted in the mother during pregnancy. Lutein and zeaxanthin are key carotenoids for foetal development, since they are needed for in utero development of the eye. The fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids present in avocados can influence the flavour of breast milk and have also been associated with flavour preferences in infants.

Comerford et al. advocate the inclusion of avocados in the pregnancy diet, as they can play a crucial role in preventing adverse maternal and foetal (low birth weight and preterm birth) outcomes. However, further studies are needed to evaluate how avocados could be directly incorporated into the US Department of Agriculture’s dietary recommendations.

News Source: Comerford KB, et al. The Role of Avocados in Maternal Diets during the Periconceptional Period, Pregnancy, and Lactation. Nutrients. 2016 May 21;8(5):313.