Loaded with vitamins, fiber and rich fats that can actually help lower your risk for heart disease, these beautiful fruits can boost your next meal.

How do you make your diet “healthy?” Most advice you see is to cut out fats, saturated fats, sodium and added sugars. Instead try this: Start with the way you eat now and every day look for little ways to slip in foods that are high in nutrients, wherever you can.

Let’s say you make a hamburger. Try a whole wheat bun, or use spinach instead of regular lettuce, add a slice of tomato or cucumber, or use avocado slices in place of mayonnaise. The result is far more nutritious and you still get your hamburger. Avocado is a great example of how you can benefit from adding just one powerful nutrient-rich food.

You might know avocado from eating guacamole or seeing the beautiful green slices on salads. What you may not know is that avocados are a high fiber food, rich in folate, vitamins B6, C, E and K, and are high in selenium and zinc while being low in carbohydrates and sodium. Avocado is loaded with rich fats that give it a creamy, smooth texture. Unlike saturated fats, which raise your risk of heart disease, avocado fats are mono-unsaturated (MUFA), much like olive oil. These fats lower your health risks. It’s a remarkable nutrient package.

How does it work? Avocado cuts inflammation in the body. Nearly all chronic diseases do their damage through immune cells that unload their chemicals to inflame and destroy tissue — whether in blood vessels, in joints or in tissues.

Keep avocados around and use them every day in dips, salsas, salads, smoothies and sandwiches. It’s a perfect portable snack, especially for pregnant woman, young children and teens. Keep sliced avocado from browning with a little lemon or vinegar. But even if they do get too soft, don’t toss them out. Beauty experts have picked up on the avocado, too. They say to use it for your hair and scalp (conditions, shines, treats dandruff) and skin (softens, heals damage, soothes burns, and helps lessen wrinkles, puffy eyes, rough hands and feet).

So, build your own healthy diet. Look for nutrient-rich foods, like the avocado, to add to all your meals and snacks.

Deliciously healthy

Avocados deliver five types of nutrients that block inflammation in different ways:

  • Phytosterols
  • Carotenoids
  • Antioxidants
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA)
  • Polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PSAs)

Avocados may also help fight several other ailments:

  • Heart and blood vessel diseases
  • Cancers (prostate, skin and mouth cancers)
  • Metabolic problems
 (blood sugar and cholesterol control)
  • Arthritis (rheumatoid and osteoarthritis)
  • Gum disease (gingivitis)
  • Skin diseases (scleroderma and psoriasis)
  • Wound healing

Robert Murray, M.D., is a pediatrician, gastroenterologist and nutritionist. Over his career, he has worked on obesity prevention, both in primary care practices and in schools. Dr. Murray also directed a pediatric obesity treatment center for five years. Currently, he serves as a professor of Human Nutrition at The Ohio State University and is president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Ohio Chapter.