Avocado Seed: Unsafe to Eat or the New Super-Seed?

This article was originally published by our friend Dr. Axe

The avocado has been all the rage lately with every type of avocado toast you can imagine being found at nearby cafes. Additionally, avocados offer the benefits of healthy fat — something keto diet fans crave. But what about the avocado seed? Before you toss that seed, you may want to tune in to what it can do for you, such as providing amazing antioxidants, possibly helping reduce the risks of Alzheimer’s and lowering pain from toothaches. It also may aid in the treatment of diabetes, constipation and diarrhea, and arthritis — not to mention its antifungal properties, collagen benefits, cholesterol-lowering effects and more — making it the latest and greatest super-seed.

There is another side to this story that you need to consider, however. Are avocado seeds edible? The California Avocado Commission specifically states that there is not enough data to know just how good the avocado seed is for you. Basically, it recommends avoiding it for now and suggests that sticking with the amazing nutrition found in the avocado flesh is a far better choice. (1)

On the other hand, research is being conducted. One study indicates that evidence leans on the side of it being a healthy alternative to consume and use with cosmetics. (2) Below I share what I have found so that you can decide for yourself, but always take precautions when trying anything new or anything that has not been supported by enough data prior to consuming. (3)


Potential Avocado Seed Benefits

1. Show Promising Antitumor Activity

According to the Leung’s Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients, the avocado seed contains biscatechin, a condensed flavanol. One study isolated biscatechin from avocado seeds and tested in mice and rats. The biscatechin was shown in vitro to have antimicrobial activity and antitumor effects on the animals. (4)

Another study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine noted catechin as a flavanol that offers various health benefits, such as neuroprotection, antioxidation, antitumor and antihepatitis characteristics. The falvanol shows that is is capable of suppresses inflammation in possible cancerous cells. (5)

2. Great Antioxidant Source

Did you know that the avocado seed is a great antioxidant? According to a study performed at the National University of Singapore, the avocado seed offers more antioxidant activity than some more commonly eaten fruit parts. In fact, the study shares that the seeds may actually contain more than 70 percent of the antioxidants found in the entire fruit. That makes the avocado seed a powerful antioxidant resource. (6)

3. May Help Patients with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain and is considered one of the most neurodegenerative diseases on the planet. Many studies have been conducted to review the phytochemical contents of the avocado seed.

An evaluation published in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology showed the evidence of saponins, alkaloids and terpenoids in the extracts of the avocado seed. According to the researchers, these phytochemicals may offer a natural approach to helping manage the affects of Alzheimer’s disease, concluding “The anti-cholinesterase and antioxidant activities of avocado leaf and seed could be linked to their phytoconstituents and might be the possible mechanisms underlying their use as a cheap and natural treatment/management of AD. However, these extracts should be further investigated in vivo.” (7)

4. Can Help Balance Cholesterol Levels

The avocado seed is one of the top high-fiber foods on the planet, and we know fiber can help balance cholesterol levels. That may be why research shows avocado seeds can lower cholesterol.

Research from Penn State University’s Department of Food Science details the benefits the avocado seed has on cardiovascular health, noting: (8)

avocado seeds may improve hypercholesterolemia, and be useful in the treatment of hypertension, inflammatory conditions and diabetes. Seeds have also been found to possess insecticidal, fungicidal, and anti-microbial activities.

5. Works as a Natural Food Dye

Since conventional food coloring and food dyes contain chemical-based ingredients, it is best to go with natural options. You may have heard of beets being used to create a reddish color, for example.

Research has discovered that when crushed and blended with water, the avocado seed develops an orange color. (9)

This is great news since so many foods, especially food for children, are loaded with toxic dyes. Specifically, the numbered colors FD&C blues #1 and #2, green #3, red #3; and yellows #5 and #6 are synthetic or artificial colors. These colors are made from coal tar or petroleum and can cause all sorts of problems for your health, such as allergies, asthma, hyperactivity and cancer. In fact, artificial food dyes have been banned in the U.K. (10)

6. May Help Eliminate Microbial Growth

The residue of the seed of the avocado is rich in polyphenols, making the seeds powerful antioxidants and antimicrobials. Among the polyphenols are catechin, epicatechin, and chlorogenic and protocatechuic acid. This residue has been applied to pork burgers in studies, showing the residue of the avocado seed to be effective in preventing oxidation and microbial growth.

Another study showed the effects that ground avocado has on meat. For a period of eight days, ground beef was observed containing 0.5 percent seed powder and 0.1 percent of lyophilized extract. Little oxidation occurred meaning the protection was higher than 90 percent. To note, the study indicates that avocado oil, added directly to the pork burgers, had a similar effect. (11)


Avocado Seeds vs. Other Seeds

While the debate is still out about whether eating ground avocado seed is a good choice, it has been compared to the extraction process of the phenolic compounds from strawberries, apple pulp and the residues of chestnuts. But you need to be cautious when it comes to seeds since not all seeds are safe to eat. Apricot seeds and peach seeds contain a cyanide called amygdalin. And while it would probably take a lot to get sick, it is best to stay on the safe side when it comes to seeds or any food if you are not sure.


How to Use Avocado Seed and Where to Find It

Avocados can be found at most grocery stores. I recommend making sure the avocado is ripe. A ripe avocado is a bit soft yet still firm. If it feels like it might be mushy, it is probably too ripe. Whether that affects the nutritional value of the seed is not clear, but to benefit from the creamy, delicious avocado too, purchase a ripe one or one that is nearing the ripening stage and allow it to sit on the counter or in the fridge until ready.

Once you have the perfect avocado, wash it, then using a chef’s knife slice lengthwise around the avocado. You should be able to gently twist the two halves apart. Remove the seed from the avocado. To do this, use the chef’s knife and gently but firmly tap the heel of the blade of the knife right into the seed. It will catch. Then, give it a little twist. The seed should come right out.

In order to eat the avocado seed, it needs to be ground up into a powder. To do this, you can smash it with a mallet. Just put it in a thick plastic bag first. Another option is to dry it out. To dry it out, put it in the oven for a couple of hours at around 250 degrees. Next, take it out of the oven and remove the outer skin. Use an oven mitt to protect you from the heat of the avocado seed.

Now that you have dried it out, press on it with the back of a thick knife blade to split the pit in two. Dice the pit halves and toss into a high-powered blender. Pulse or grind until it has reached the consistency of a powder. You can also use a cheese grater, spice grinder, or heavy mortar and pestle. Store in a sealed container in your refrigerator.

Now that you have this nutritious powder, what do you do with it? Since it is bitter due to the tannins it contains, using it with other ingredients, such as a banana, pineapple and spinach, to make a smoothie may be the best way. However, you can sprinkle it on your morning eggs or put it in soup or on a salad. Another option is to put the powder into capsules, which can be found at health food stores, and consume as a supplement.


Avocado Seed Recipe

Avocado Seed Power Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1–1¼ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ ripe avocado
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds, soaked in 3 tablespoons of water for about 10 minutes
  • ½ teaspoon ground avocado
  • 1 scoop of vanilla or chocolate bone broth protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana- small
  • ice (optional*)
  • ¼ cup water, if needed for a thinner consistency

Directions:

  1. Add contents into a high-powered blender, and blend until well-combined.

Avocado Seed History

Let’s start with learning a little about the avocado tree. The avocado tree originated in southern Mexico and Columbia around 7,000 years ago. The Aztecs and Incas presented it to the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, and by the early 1800s, the avocado tree had spread throughout southern Europe, the Hawaiian Islands, Africa and Southeast Asia.

The avocado tree made way to the United States in 1833 by Judge Henry Perrine, who had the trees sent from Mexico to Florida. It was Dr. Thomas White of the California State Agricultural Society who had the first avocado tree brought in from Nicaragua to Los Angeles in 1856. The California avocado industry was founded in the early 1870s when trees in Santa Barbara, which had been imported from Mexico, began to bear fruit. Hass is probably the most familiar name of the avocado and for good reason. It was Rudolph Hass who developed the Hass variety in 1932. By grafting seedlings onto existing trees that had previously produced the Lyon variety, he was able to create a new variety. (12)

Now, where does the avocado seed come into all this? The avocado seed seems to be a newer discovery which is why there isn’t much in the way of research. According to Purdue University, when the seed is cut in pieces, roasted and pulverized, it can be consumed to help overcome diarrhea and dysentery. The powdered form of the seed may help relieve dandruff, and a piece of the seed placed into a tooth cavity could eliminate a toothache. And because the milk of the avocado seed turns a bit red when exposed to air, it can be used as a topical ointment or rubefacient — to redden the cheeks by causing dilation of the capillaries and an increase in blood circulation. (1314)

The seed contains a milky fluid similar in odor and taste of the almond. It turns red once exposed to air due to its tannin content; however, some say the liquid is not edible. This red-brown or blackish “ink”  was used to write many documents during the Spanish Conquest — documents that are now preserved in the archives of Popayan. The ink of the avocado seed has also been used to mark cotton and linen textiles.


Precautions: Is It Safe to Eat Avocado Seed?

Is it safe to eat the avocado seed? The California Avocado Commission says eating the flesh is great, but the seed — not so much. It claims that there simply is not enough research as noted in a 2013 research study by Pennsylvania State University. The university also indicated that “the safety of the various extracts of the avocado seeds must be assessed in order to more fully estimate the usefulness of this resource.”

A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything new or lacking research, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have any health conditions. Consult with a doctor for further information. The good news is the research is coming, and early indications are it has benefits and could be promising if further studies confirm this.


Final Thoughts on Avocado Seed

Is the avocado seed the new super-seed? Maybe, but since there is not enough substantial evidence to prove this, I recommend having small amounts or avoiding altogether. Be aware of how you feel upon consumption, and check with a doctor if you have any concerns.

The good news is the avocado seed has some researched benefits, including:

  • promising antitumor activity
  • great antioxidant source
  • may help patients with Alzheimer’s
  • balancing cholesterol levels
  • natural food dye
  • antimicrobial effects


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Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine and operates one of the world's largest natural health websites: www.DrAxe.com. He is the author of the groundbreaking health book Eat Dirt, which uncovers the hidden causes and cures of leaky gut syndrome. Dr. Axe is an expert in digestive health, functional medicine, natural remedies and dietary strategies for healing. He has been featured on many television shows, including the Dr. Oz Show, CBS and NBC, and has his own Eat Dirt program running on select PBS TV stations. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has been a physician for many professional athletes. DrAxe.com is one of the most visited websites worldwide for healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, essential oils, and natural supplements.