Avocado is one of my favorite foods, so when I heard claims that it was “the perfect food,” I wondered what that meant and whether it was really true. Is avocado the perfect food? Let’s see what we can see!
What Is a Perfect Food?
Before we decide whether avocado is a perfect food, we need to define what that means.
I wasn’t able to find a formal definition of “perfect food.” Perfect is a pretty lofty claim, though. I can only assume that a perfect food is one that could sustain you on its own if no other food were available. Living on avocado all day would need to fulfill your needs for macro- and micronutrients and provide you with enough calories.
To determine whether or not avocado is the perfect food, we’ll assume that you’re eating avocado all day every day. That sounds like a delicious day to me! Let’s see if it meets all of the requirements for a 2000 calorie diet.
To hit 2000 calories, you’d need to eat about nine Haas avocados each day. Here’s a graphic showing how that would break down, nutritionally:
The amount of protein was a little bit tricky to calculate, since there is no RDA for protein. Since avocado is a plant-based food, I used the recommendation from the Vegetarian Resource Group. They suggest that vegans should get 10 percent of our calories from protein. That’s 200 calories from protein. Since protein contains four calories per gram, that’s 50 grams of protein per day.
Based on the breakdown above, it looks like you could live for a while on avocado, but it falls short on some important nutrients:
- Sodium – We tend to avoid sodium, but there’s a balance there. Too little salt can also cause health problems like insulin resistance and hyponatremia.
- Protein – There is a lot of debate about how much protein we need to maintain good health. The VRG — like I mentioned above — recommends 10 percent of calories from protein. That’s where I got the number in the chart. Other research suggests that we might need as little as five percent of our calories from protein. In that case, avocado is right on target.
- Carbohydrates – Our bodies need carbohydrates to function properly, and a long-term diet too low in carbs comes with health risks such as high cholesterol, kidney problems, and osteoporosis.
- Vitamin A – Insufficient vitamin A can cause night blindness or even total blindness.
- Calcium – Calcium is only one part of the bone health puzzle, but it is an important one. Avocados alone don’t come close to delivering enough calcium for healthy bones.
- Iron – Iron helps your body deliver oxygen to your blood. Without adequate iron, you risk developing iron deficiency anemia. It’s a common health problem, and chances are if you were living on avocados alone, you would put yourself at elevated risk.
- Vitamin D – You can get vitamin D from sunlight, but most people don’t get enough. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and even cancer.
- Vitamin B12 – We don’t need a lot of vitamin B12 to survive, but it is a nutrient critical to nervous system health. Most people have stores of B12 in our bodies, so a B12 deficiency can take years to develop. If you were living solely on avocados, however, you’d eventually deplete your body’s stores and start seeing signs of B12 deficiency.
So…Is avocado the perfect food? No. But it’s still a super healthy one.
The list above only highlights the areas where avocados fall short of delivering 100 percent of your body’s needs, though. Avocados shine when it comes to nutrients like dietary fiber and vitamins C, E, and K. While you probably couldn’t live for long solely on avocados, they’re still a healthy superfood with tons of nutritional benefits. So eat your avocados! But maybe eat other things, too. Pass the tortilla chips!