How many times have you heard: "Most of the vitamins are contained in the skin", or "The highest vitamin-content of a fruit is only the one millimetre closest to the skin"?
I would have to agree to these statements... Well, in part anyway.
If we know that antioxidants are plant natural defences, it is easy to hypothesise that some antioxidants act as natural sunblock, to protect the fruit from UV damage, and would be found in higher level in the skin or very near the skin. The same for insect repellant, it will make little sense for a plant to produce its own defences, to only protect what is the most important: its seeds, if the fruit is eaten away, exposing its seeds to bacteria, insects and animals.
Vitamins too are produced through the plant getting nutrients from the soil but also the sun, and it would be correct to imagine that the level of vitamins will be higher near the skin, yet well protected from the sun by the skin itself.
Now, let's imagine a seed.
Many of you have probably tried sprouting seeds, either to plant it and growing a plant or a tree, or to eat them as they grow in the sprouter dish.
What do you give to the seed?
Well, you should only soak them for a few hours or overnight, drain them, rinse them, and let them... Well, grow... Right? Yes, indeed... no soil needed. That's because the tiny seed contains all that it need to sprout and grow, to become as tall as a tree can be. This also explains why the nutrient-content of a sprout is greater than the seed itself. The enzymes present in the seed, release all the nutrients necessary for a plant to grow, including Cytokinins - plant hormones. Once, the seed has roots, then it will carry on growing using the nutrients present in the soil (hence, why the nutrient-content of a sprout starts declining if you keep it too long - usually after 3-4 days).
Would you say then that all seeds are good? Would you even say that all pits are good to eat?
Some fruits have pits that can be toxic, even to animals, but most in our modern kitchen may be safe. Are not apricot kernel the new craze? Although, I remember very vividly my mother telling me they were toxic... (source: FSA UK)
The new craze has to be something new. Bitter Almond and Apricot kernels are so last year, and marketing campaigns need new headlines: so avocado (Persea americana M, Persea americana M.) pits have now become the new superfood anyone can get, and quite cheaply (compared to exotic superfoods, such as Açaì, Maca, Baobab, Goji Berries, etc.).
First and foremost, Avocado pits have natural antibiotics properties "against pathogenic bacteria responsible for food poisoning and spoilage" (patent US 2550255 A), and toasted, ground avocado pit has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea in children1, and this may be due to Polyphenols2 present in the pit.
Seed have been used in Anti-inflammatory drugs and many other drugs for generations.
Avocado is also rich in mannoheptulose, which "block or inhibit certain aspects of carbohydrate metabolism and may therefore mimic the effects of caloric restriction" (patent US 20140349002 A1), by acting on glucose phosphorylation*, or more simply by suppressing the metabolic and functional responses to glucose in the pancreas.3 Avocado can therefore be used in a weight-management diet. The Essential Fatty Acids it contains, are another important tool in a weight-loss program (Remember the enemy is not fat, but sugar!), and in Diabetes.4, 5
Avocado is also rich in Iodine and Fibre.6
For Cravings and Blood sugar balance:
Fibre and Antioxidants present in Avocado pit may also be responsible for the hypocholesterolemic activity of the seed (lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure). 7, 8 Plus they both play a major role in intestinal transit and keeping a healthy gut.
For Radiant and Glowing Skin:
Avocado seed oil is also great for skin ageing. It shows significant increases in soluble collagen content in skin. 9
The University of Antioquia (Neuroscience Research Group), in Medellin, Colombia in November of 2013 found that extract of avocado seed can destroy (pro-apoptotic effect on) leukaemia cells, while keeping healthy cells untouched.10
What others say:
Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. says: “I’m a huge avocado fan. I eat them daily, and recommend them to my clients, but I have reservations about eating the seeds,” she says. “While there is some research about beneficial compounds in the seed, the safety of ingesting it hasn’t been established, so the risks versus benefits aren’t fully known.”
Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LDN, an Atlanta-based nutritionist says: “There is a body of evidence exploring potential health benefits in extracts of the avocado seed, but these potential benefits versus risks of eating the avocado seed are not well fleshed out.”
California Avocado Commission writes on its website that it does not recommend the consumption of the avocado pit: “The seed of an avocado contains elements that are not intended for human consumption.”
Now considering the large amount of research out there, and the dates on my references, some of which are dating from the 90s, it is clear that Avocado seeds have been the interest of many studies, and to date, I have not found one journal article confirming that avocado seeds are bad for human health. Plus, avocado seed oil has been on the shelves of Health Stores for many years. interesting read
Avocado pits are been used in western medicine and as a natural medicine in South America for centuries.
Research has found avocado pit supplementation in low dosage is non-toxic, but, since, every individual reacts differently to food, why not try grating or shaving a portion of an avocado pit and add it to your food and see how you feel. Better than throwing it away, right? David Wolfe also advocates the use of Avocado pits.
"All plants have natural 'toxins' that protect it from being eaten/destroyed. In large quantities these can be detrimental to humans," further explains Ciara Foy, Nutritionist, adding: "but we are talking very large amounts... In small amounts, [it's] beneficial, but should not be eaten in large quantities."
Dehydrating the seed is best done at 40˚c for 12 hours. Cut in half to accelerate the process.
Then, it can be pulverised and added to juices, or smoothies (or added to honey for a natural face mask).
Shavings from fresh seeds can be added to salad.
* Phosphorylation and its counterpart, dephosphorylation, turn many protein enzymes on and off, thereby altering their function and activity.
Nutritional value of Avocado (per 100g)
(Mantheya, J A. Crowley, D E. 1997). So, again, eating ripe locally grown avocado is the key (can they grow in the UK?).
There is a lack of evidence on the nutritional content of avocado pit.
"The results for the physico-chemical properties of the oil include: 5.7 (pH), 22.44mg/KOH/g(acid value), 1080C (flash point) and 0.9032g/cm3 (density), 0.62% (Free fatty Acid), 37.2 (Iodine value) and 219.20 (Saponification value). The oil yield was 27.12%. The results obtained for the nutritional properties are as follows: Ash content 1.52 , Moisture content 77.72%, Protein 0.94g, Fat (lipid) 12.18g, Crude fibre 6.9g and Carbohydrate 7.4g." (Orhevba, BA. Jinadu, AO. 2011)6 is so far what is available on avocado oil nutritional values
1/2 Avocado Pit
1/3 Avocado (Flesh)
1 Banana (optional)
1 Kiwi Fruit
1 Handful of Blueberries
or 1 Tsp Açaì Berry Powder
100 ml Coconut Milk (or fermented Coconut Yogurt)
Juice of Half a lime
1 pinch of Cinnamon
1. Hudelson, P. (1994). Improving the Home Management of Childhood Diarrhoea in Bolivia. International Quarterly of Community Health Education . 15 (1), pp. 91–103.
2. Gómez, FS. et al. (2014). Avocado Seeds: Extraction Optimization and Possible Use as Antioxidant in Food. Antioxidants. 3 (2), pp. 439-454. Available at: http://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/3/2/439/htm. Last accessed: June 3rd 2016.
3. Scruel, O. et al. (1998). Interference of D-mannoheptulose with D-glucose phosphorylation, metabolism and functional effects: comparison between liver, parotid cells and pancreatic islets. Molecular and cellular biochemistry. 187 (1-2), pp. 113-20.
4. Fulgoni, VL. Dreher, M. Davenport, AJ. (2013). Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nutrition Journal. 12 (1), pp. 1–6. Available at: http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/44/art%253A10.1186%252F1475-2891-12-1.pdf?originUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fnutritionj.biomedcentral.com%2Farticle%2F10.1186%2F1475-2891-12-1&token2=exp=1464917136~acl=%2Fstatic%2Fpdf%2F44%2Fart%25253A10.1186%25252F1475-2891-12-1.pdf*~hmac=a3f36a3be03618bece659e8627327234cbb1a01affe2534c494af47c31fda471. Last accessed: 3rd June 2016
5. Alhassan, AJ. et al. (2012). Effects of aqueous avocado pear (Persea americana) seed extract on alloxan induced diabetes rats . Greener Journal of Medical Sciences . 2 (1), pp. 005-011. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Adamu_Alhassan/publication/221901723_Effects_of_aqueous_avocado_pear_(Persea_americana)_seed_extract_on_alloxan_induced_diabetes_rats/links/0922b4f6c28c338c8d000000.pdf. Last accessed: 3rd June 2016
6. Orhevba, BA. Jinadu, AO. (2011). DETERMINATION OF PHYSICO-CHEMICAL PROPERTIES AND NUTRITIONAL CONTENTS OF AVOCADO PEAR (PERSEA AMERICANA M.). Academic Research International. 1 (3), pp. 372-380. Available at: http://search.proquest.com/openview/9d7f0ac53bc51df0c2dcdbd190c84c67/1?pq-origsite=gscholar. Last accessed: 3rd June 2016.
7. Pahua-Ramos, M E. et al. (2012). Hypolipidemic Effect of Avocado (Persea americana Mill) Seed in a Hypercholesterolemic Mouse Model.Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 67 (1), pp 10-16.
8. Imafidon, K E. Amaechina, F C.. (2010). Effects of Aqueous Seed Extract of Persea americana Mill. (Avocado) on Blood Pressure and Lipid Profile in Hypertensive Rats. Advances in Biological Research. 4 (2), pp. 116-121.
9. Werman, M J. et al. (1991). The Effect of Various Avocado Oils on Skin Collagen Metabolism. Connective Tissue Research. 21 (1-2), pp. 1–10.
Mantheya, J A. Crowley, D E. (1997). Leaf and root responses to iron deficiency in avocado. Journal of Plant Nutrition. 20 (6), pp. 683-693.
10. Bonilla-Porras, A R. et al. (2014). Pro-apoptotic effect of Persea americana var. Hass (avocado) on Jurkat lymphoblastic leukemia cells.Pharmaceutical biology. 52 (4), pp. 458-465.
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Olivier is a Michelin trained chef, a registered Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist, embracing fully his passion for good food and healthy eating.