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Can an avo a day keep the doctor at bay?

Did you know that avocados contain some of the immune-supporting nutrients?

19 August 2021 - 06:00
Avocados are rich in vitamins and nutrients that support our immune system.
Avocados are rich in vitamins and nutrients that support our immune system.
Image: Supplied/Saaga

With sanitising, social distancing and wearing masks our new norm, the world continues to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. As we do all that we can to manage our risk of illness and disease, it’s good to know there’s a lot we can do to strengthen our body’s natural defence: the immune system.

What is the immune system?

The immune system works 24/7 to protect the body from invading viruses, bacteria and other germs which can cause illnesses and infections. Think of the immune system as an army of soldiers always ready to defend the battlefield. And just as soldiers have a range of protective equipment and tools such as rifles, tanks and grenades, so does your immune system, which uses white blood cells, proteins, tissues and the skin to attack any unwanted intruders.

How good nutrition can support my immunity?

For optimal immune support, our body relies on a variety of vitamins and minerals. The nutrients known to support our immunity include the vitamins A, C, D, E, some B vitamins [B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), B12 (cobalamin)], and the minerals zinc, iron, copper, selenium and magnesium1. A healthy and balanced diet is rich in a variety of foods with the nutrients needed for good immunity.

Can an avo a day keep the doctor at bay?

Avocados contain some of the immune-supporting nutrients. They are high in copper, with one serving of avocado offering up one-third of our daily copper needs. Copper plays a role in the functioning of special immune cells such as macrophages, neutrophils and monocytes. It also enhances the activity of natural killer cells, which help limit the spread of infections in the body.

Avocados are also high in biotin, a B-vitamin which contributes to the normal function of our skin. Our skin is the first line of defence against bacteria and viruses that enter the body. They also contain a substantial amount of bioactive compound with nutritional properties, Beta-sitosterol, which has been shown to have a special effect on immunity. 

And while the skin plays an important role in immunity, so does the gut. A whopping 65% of our immune system is found in the gut3. This makes a healthy gut vital for immune support, and avos are a great source of fibre, essential for good gut health. 

Avocados also have other immune-supporting nutrients. Vitamin C, folate, B6, magnesium and zinc are found in small amounts in avocados, which also help reinforce support of our immunity. 

What’s not to love about a food that’s a source of nutrients and can be enjoyed with almost every meal?

Try adding an avo on toast for a quick snack, dice into roast vegetables at dinnertime, or add to leafy greens for a healthy side salad. Ever tried avocado on potatoes? It’s delicious and a healthy alternative to other topping options.

Simply slice or mash an avo onto a steaming hot potato, add seasoning, a dash of lemon juice and a drizzle of avocado or olive oil. 

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  1. Gombart et al; A review of micronutrients and the immune system working in harmony to reduce the risk of infection. Nutrients, 2020;12:236. 
  2. Gupta A. Beta-sitosterol: Predominant Phytosterol of Therapeutic Potential. Innovations in Food Technology. 2020;465-477.
  3. Mayer EA, Tillisch K, Gupta A. Gut/brain axis and the microbiota. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2015;125(3):926—38.

This article was paid for by the South African Avocado Growers’ Association.