Add an avocado to a salad and your body will thank you many times over. In two studies, researchers at Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, Germany studied the effects of adding avocado to the meals of 12 healthy men and women to see how it affected carotenoid absorption, in particular, beta carotene and alpha carotene. One meal was served with avocado and a second meal without avocado. Blood samples were taken over 12 hours to assess the level of carotenoids. In the first study, which used tomato sauce as a source of carotenoids, avocado inclusion in the meal more than doubled beta carotene absorption and more than quadrupled the conversion of beta carotene to the active form of vitamin A. In the second study, which used raw carrots as a source of carotenoids, avocado increased beta carotene absorption 6.6-fold, quadrupled alpha carotene absorption, and increased the conversion of beta carotene to the active vitamin A 12.6-fold.
In Perspective: Paring foods is more than just about taste. Some food combinations help with absorption and utilization of nutrients. This study is an example of how important it is to pair a small amount of healthy fat (in this case, monounsaturates from avocado) with fat-free, nutrient-packed produce, such as tomatoes, carrots, watermelon, and other fruits and vegetables.
Kopec R, Cooperstone J, Schweiggert R, et al: Avocado consumption enhances human postprandial provitamin A absorption and conversion from a novel high-beta-carotene tomato sauce and from carrots. Journal of Nutrition 2014;144:1158-1166.